My 22nd birthday without my mom

It’s 2am the day before my 34th birthday.

My last birthday with my mom I was 11.

My mom died when she was 34 years old and that’s been on my mind a lot.

I don’t think I’m going to die or anything like that.

I just can’t imagine not being alive tomorrow.

I know that sounds bleak but that’s where my thoughts have been.

My mom dealt with a lot in her young life.

She battled juvenile diabetes, lupus, hyperthyroidism, and back in the day they called it “Manic depression” but know I know that bipolar.

Sprinkle a little drug abuse on top and you have the recipe for leaving the earth way before your time.

My mom was my best friend. The way Brooke and I are inseparable.

I learned that from my mom. I only had a mom for 11 years.

Brooklyn has had a mom almost teens that’s something I didn’t have.

That’s something I couldn’t relate to my own child with.

I document my life with Brooke honestly because after 11.. I didn’t know what to do.

I didn’t have any more mom and me stories to share.

My stories ended with my mom March 21st 1996. 2 months and 8 days after I turned 11. She just 34.

When I was 11 I used to think 34 was so old.

I burned that number into my brain. 34.

How can someone die that young. It doesn’t feel right. I’ve spent weeks just thinking about the parallels between my mom and I.

I’ve been losing sleep trying to remember every last detail.

It’s been 23 years since I’ve felt my mother’s touch so I couldn’t tell what that feels like.

If you really make me laugh you can hear my mother.

I remember all her favorite songs, I remember her favorite foods. Sometimes if I close my eyes real tight I can remember her voice.

Not that well it’s been 23 years since I’ve heard it but I’ll never fully forget.

I try to forget her sometimes. It’s hard to want to remember someone you love so much.

My mom was a single mom. My parents divorced officially when I was 8 but they had problems soon after I was born. I was all she ever wanted.

Being a single mom is hard. Add on a health issues, mental illness and a broken heart.. sometimes I don’t see how she lasted as long as she did.

She loved me. My mom made everyday like Disneyland. To the point I would rather be at home than at school. I loved her so much.

I over heard my mom on the phone tell some she wanted a bird.

I lived in apartments in spring valley California. There was a ditch near the apartments I sat in a ditch for hours a stalked a sick pigeon until I caught it.

I ran inside and told my mama

“I got you a bird so you won’t be sad anymore. I heard you say you wanted a bird on the phone, now you have a bird.”

She cried. She called my nana and said “That baby loves me so much she caught a bird to make me smile.”

I’d catch all the birds if I could. She didn’t know though.

My mom was my whole world. That’s why I don’t talk about her, that why I try to forget. I lost everything that meant something to me in one day.

There’s really no words that can prepare you for losing your mom.

At 11 you’re not thinking about your prom, your first kiss, the first boy that’s going to make you cry, you wedding, your first child, your second child. Those are just not your thoughts.

At 11 I knew about dialysis machines, shunts and medications.

I knew how to call a dial a ride to get to Dr’a appointments.

I knew how to tell the paramedics not place a blood pressure cuff on the arm with shunt when she would pass out on me and slip into diabetic comas.

I knew to mix orange juice with 2 tablespoons of sugar to get my mom to talk normal again.

I been a nurse longer than I’ve had a license to actually be one.

My mother was very sick. Very young and raising a child alone.

I didn’t know how hard that was until I had to do the same thing myself.

10 years after my mom died. I became a mom.

The only thing I wanted to was to live longer than my mom did so this baby would not be so lonely.

I didn’t know how to be a good mom at first.

I only had a mom for 11 years. It’s hard to be a mom based on memories you’re trying to repress.

I knew how to be a “good time mom” how to watch movies, build blanket forts.

I knew how to shop, how to go to the movies. The hard stuff I didn’t know. The nitty gritty of motherhood.

Working, providing a home, wiping snotty noses and well with my child open heart surgeries.

I felt like God hated me because he’d taken both my parents by the time I was 13 and then gave me a child with severe heart defects.

Why give me something so beautiful to only threaten to take it away and leave me alone again.

I was angry with God for a long time.

It didn’t seem fair to me that I had to go through so damn much.

I remember the first time they put Brooke to sleep for her surgery. They made me watch my baby go limp.

I lost it. The way the moved her arm reminded me of how I moved my moms arm and she didn’t respond.

I went back to being 11 and alone. I couldn’t imagine a life without my child. I also could never imagine my child’s life without me.

When Brooke turned 12. I was so happy but again so scared. I didn’t have a mom after 11.

I didn’t know a thing about that. I wanted to so bad.

That’s why I relish every moment and every conversation because I didn’t have that with my mom.

I’d give anything to tell my mom about my 1st crush. I’m blessed to be here in my child’s life and I know that.

I look at Brooke and see much of my mom. They have the same humor and they are the most beautiful humans I’ve ever seen.

When I had Brooke I felt like I had a small piece of my mom back.

As she grew I knew it was true. She obsessed with makeup and drag queens just like my mom. She loves fashion and music, just like my mom. I’d do anything for her.. just like mom.

My mom lost 8 babies trying to have me.

I lost 5 trying to have Christy.

The thing about me and my mom. More than anything we wanted to be moms.

My mother being diabetic had a hard time carrying children. So I was it for her. I remember some of the loses of babies growing.

Specifically a set of twins she lost that has to be surgically removed. It was right before her 30th bday.

I remember she was depressed about that and turning 30.

I called a taxi and took her to Chuck. e. Cheese because I wanted to make her happy and feel special and when you’re 7, That’s Chuck. e. Cheese. She had fun with me.

We had fun till she tuned 34. I’ve been racking my brain trying to remember my moms 34th year.

It’s hard. My brain doesn’t like to go back. Imagine the person you love the most in the world, just gone one day.

We had plans that day. I wasn’t going to go to school but I remembered they had a field trip. (I only showed up for field trips) I told my mom..

“I think I’m going to go to school today they’re having a field trip”

She said “wake me up before you go and put the tv on the channel Murray comes on before you go, I’m going back to sleep.”

We had stayed up all night watching movies. That night we watched “Murder in the first” with Kevin Bacon and then walked up the hill to the mobil gas station to get some “Now and laters” and she wanted a pack of cigarettes.

We had got home back 6am and she went to bed. I started to get ready for school about 8. I was leaving at 0830.

We had a waterbed. Normally when I would jump on the waterbed she would wake up and yell at me. I jumped on the waterbed and my mom didn’t move.

I shook the waterbed. My mom didn’t mom. I shook her. I shouted. I wasn’t scared yet she had slipped into comas before. This was different though she wasn’t moving at all.

I called 911 and stayed with my mom till they came.

I still remember I told the EMT not to put the blood pressure on her arm with the shunt

He didn’t listen to me so I spoke up again. He finally did it. They tried to get me to leave my mom’s side. I wouldn’t.

I called my nana and grandad who were working.

I called my 5th grade teacher to see if she would come pick me up.

My 5th grade teacher is still very close to me. We talk on FB often.She was the first person to tell me I was smart.

She knew I didn’t have the best home life. She gave me her number and I would call her when I was lonely, when my mom would fall asleep on the couch.

I’d call Mrs Roberts and talk about books I had read to myself. If I didn’t call miss Roberts I would write in my journal. I created whole worlds because I was alone.

I didn’t know that ambulance ride was going to be so different.

When we got to the hospital. They didn’t let me go with my mom like normal.

They hooked her to the ventilator and explained to me and my nana and granddad that the machines were breathing for her.

The Dr demonstrated this by turning the machine off and showing us my mom did not have the brain function to breathe on her own.

I went crazy on that Dr. why did he flip that switch! That machine was keeping my mom alive!

I was 11.. now that I’m grown and a nurse myself. I know my mom died in our apartment and those Dr’s were just doing what they could to let me have my mom for a few more moments.

My mom was on a ventilator for about a week. I read to her a book called “Shoebag” it was a book about a cockroach that made her laugh.

I remember I went to the waiting room to watch Conan O’Brien at 0108 Wednesday March 21st 1996. I heard them call a code blue. I knew it was my mom.

I had just told those nurses “I’m going to get some juice, don’t let my mom die.”

Being a nurse now. I know those words probably haunted those poor nurses.

She was only 34.

I turn 34 tomorrow. I have the life my mom dreamed of. (Minus the working 🤣🤣 my mom was not about that life!)

I have TWO beautiful daughters and a wonderful man who adores me. Sometimes my life is so beautiful to me I’m overwhelmed with happiness and I cry. God didn’t hate me, he loved me. He gave me the family I always wanted when it was time for me to have it. When I was right to enjoy it.

I don’t tell people about my past of my mom because I don’t want anyone to look at me and feel sorry.

I’ve cried enough about my life that I don’t want anyone to cry for me.

I want people to be happy because I’m really happy now. If you know what I’ve been through. When I say I’m happy. I’m so happy. I’m not lonely. I have love and I love myself.

It took me till I was my moms age to see she went through a lot. I can’t imagine being that ill that long.

I can’t imagine being that ill alone. She had no real support system but me. I mean I could catch a pigeon but my mom needed more than me.

I’m so thankful to be alive. I’m so grateful to be in good health. I’m a grateful to be in my right mind this morning.

The reality is someone isn’t going to live to see 34.

I still may not that tomorrow. Tomorrow isn’t promised to any of us.

We have to be grateful for the time we have. I cringe when my friends complain about turning 30, or getting older. I wish my mom could have turned 35,45,55.. but she will always be 34 years old.

I can’t for the life of me comprehend death in my 30’s leaving behind children.

I spent a few days just thinking about that. Those girls would be just devastated without me.

I think growing up and being alone a lot I didn’t want that for Brooke and Christy so I’m there for them all the time. I’m kind of flying blind at the motherhood thing.

I do what I would have wanted in mom. I cling on to whatever memories I have of my mom. I stopped trying to eraser a few years ago and really started to try to remember. It used to hurt so bad because I miss my mom.

If you’ve never lost a parent. I can’t explain to you what it’s like to really miss your mom. I would get so mad at my friends when I was growing up when they would say “I hate my mom”

I’d be like “you’re so lucky to have a mom.”

I just wanted a mom. I had my nana she did her best. No one can replace your mom. My mom was my best friend and I’ve spent 22 birthdays without her. It never gets easier. In fact I always get a little weird around my birthday because that’s always on my mind.

You really never know how much time you’ve got.

If I would have know that was the last time I was going to see my mom. I would have said so much more…but I was 11.

God, 34 seems so old when you’re 11.

It’s really not. I feel like I’ve just begun living. I feel like I’ve finally started to figure out what really matters in life.

My seemingly morbid reflection of 34 has honestly lead me to be grateful for any time on the earth.

My mom was 34 with so much turmoil and pain, it’s almost selfish to have kept her on that ventilator 8 days. I know that now 2 decades later but we just wanted her for a little bit longer.

I don’t know what 34 will bring. I just know it’s the age I’ve been dreading since I was 11. I plan to do everything I wish my mom could have with me.

I’m just going to be there for my girls. Brooke has a mom going into her teens.

Oh man, If I had that.. I’d be a different person and there probably wouldn’t be a Brooke 🤷🏾‍♀️ so I mean everything happens for a reason.

It’s hard to find the reason in being an orphan. Having your parent die in your formative years of life is mentally devastating to say the least.

A lot of the mistakes I’ve made in life are simply because I raised myself and didn’t know any better. I know that NOW but it’s taken me almost 34 years to realize that.

You really do blink and time passes. I remember the last time I saw my mom like it was yesterday.

But it was 23 years ago.. it’s 22 birthdays since I’ve seen my mom but I know she’s looking down and she’s proud of me.

I’m just like her. All the one liners, the sass, the petty, the fashion, the flare. I get it from my mama and I’m so proud of that.

There’s not a day that goes by that I don’t think of my mom. She’s on my mind heavy just because of my age.

34 isn’t any different from any other age I just have to train myself to not fear this number.

I have an irrational fear of dying at 34 for obvious reasons but I have to get passed that.

I really didn’t think I was going to live this long.

That feels weird to even type but it’s true. It’s like my brains is saying “well shit, what do we do now we didn’t plan for this!”

I guess I just stop being scared of a damn number and realize just because it happened to my mom doesn’t mean it’s going to happen to me. I’m healthy, I have a loving supportive family and I’m not my mom.

The faster my brain learns that the better off I’ll be.


  1. Happy Birthday Shayla!
    I read your whole blog on your relationship with your beautiful mom. I understand you and very proud of you for what you have been able to achieve. Keep reading, writing and applying to create your own path and enjoy the journey with your daughters in every possible moment.
    All the best to you and your family!
    Angie Truong

    Liked by 1 person

  2. This is the most beautiful thing you’ve ever written. You are beautiful in so many different ways.
    I’m grateful I know you and I’m grateful that, through you, I know your mother.
    And now I know where you get those mad eyeliner skills from.
    Love you xx

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Your mom would be so proud of the woman you’ve become. I can imagine how different this Birthday feels for you. 💕 love you girl!!


  4. What a beautiful and tragic story. Your mom would be proud of the person you became. Glad you choose to remember every little thing about her. She will always be with you.

    Liked by 1 person

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