For now and forever.
“Baby,” Momma whispered like it hurt her to speak.
I sat on the edge of her hospital bed and grabbed her hand,
holding it as tight as I could. My warmth comforting her cold, clammy skin just
like I knew it would. She loved when I did that, giving her a little squeeze so
she’d know I was there. So she’d know she wasn’t alone.
Momma didn’t like being alone.
“I love you so much, Aiden. Do you have any idea how much
Momma loves you?”
I smiled, laying my head on her tummy. Cuddling closer,
listening to the soft thumps of her heartbeat. “I know, Momma. I know,” I
calmed her, knowing she loved hearing that too.
She looked so tired. She always looked so tired now.
Spending more time sleeping than awake every day. Sometimes she had good days
where she’d laugh and ask how my day was, but I couldn’t remember the last time
she was awake enough to say anything to me. Making me super sad and lonely.
I really missed those days and couldn’t wait for them to
come back again. To have my momma back like she used to be before she got sick.
I hated seeing her sick, I hated it so much. Every night and sometimes during
the day, when the sun was shining bright, I would pray to God to help her feel
better, so I could have my momma back. Playing with me, talking to me, paying attention
to me like she always had.
“Momma! Momma! Momma!
You have to chase me!” I shouted, trying to get her to run after me faster.
“I am chasing you,
Aiden! And as soon as I get you, you’re done for, Little Man!”
I laughed, throwing my
head back. Almost tripping over my own two feet.
“Gotcha!” She giggled,
tackling me to the ground.
I threw my body around
as soon as her fingers started tickling under my chin. I hated getting tickled
there the most.
“Who’s your favorite
“Good, remember that
when girls start coming around.”
She stopped tickling
me, smiling and laughing. Finally letting me catch my breath.
“Well, baby, girls are
going to love you, and I’m not ready for any of that. You can never leave me,
okay? You stay Momma’s Little Man for life, alright?”
I nodded, sitting up.
“I won’t leave you, ever. I swear with my whole heart. But you won’t leave me
either, right, Momma?”
“Mommas don’t leave,
Aiden. Mommas never leave,” she replied, brushing the hair away from my eyes
with a sad smile on her face.
“So then only dads
“Oh, Little Man … dads
aren’t supposed to leave either.”
“But you said my daddy
We never really talked
about him. I never met him, she said he left before I was born.
The troubled look on
her face made my chest hurt. It was one of the reasons we didn’t talk about the
man that much.
“I’m sorry, Momma, I
don’t want to make you sad.” I gave her a hug, wanting to make her feel better.
She always said my hugs were the best and the cure to anything in this world.
“I don’t need a daddy,
Momma. I have you. You’re all I need, I promise.”
“I’m sorry you don’t
have a daddy, Aiden. I never wanted you not to have a daddy. But don’t you
worry, Little Man, moms don’t leave. They never leave. I promise you, I’ll be
with you forever, Aiden. It’s you and me against the world,” she repeated for
what felt like the hundredth time. “Just me and you against the world, Little
The words played out in my head again and again, remembering
the last happy memory I had of her before she got sick. I didn’t mind taking
care of her, though. It’s what you did for the people you loved. You took care
“Momma, when are you going to feel better, so we can play?
Do you think you’ll feel better next week? Joey, Felix, and Tyler’s parents
won’t let them play with me anymore, cause you’re never around to watch us.
They won’t even let me play with them at their houses where their parents can
watch us. Something about me not thinking or acting like a seven-year-old boy
should, cause I’m always taking care of myself. And you’re making me grow up
too fast.” I rolled my eyes. “Whatever that means.”
“It’s okay, Momma.” I shrugged. “I didn’t want to tell you,
but I’m really missing my friends. So do you think you might feel better by
“Oh, Aiden…” she repeated, looking up at the ceiling with
tears in her eyes.
“Please don’t cry. I don’t like it when you cry.”
It was what I hated the most about telling her what people
were saying. My teachers at school were always asking me questions about my
home life. All sorts of questions that had nothing to do with them. Most of the
time I just lied to keep them from asking me again, but it never worked.
Sometimes the principal would even call me into his office with the guidance
counselor, and that always made me really nervous.
They said everyone was just looking out for me because they
were concerned. I guess all eyes were on me since they found out I was walking
to and from the bus stop by myself. The walk wasn’t even that far, not as far
as the small grocery store on Rubles Road.
Now that was a very long walk, and the lady behind the
counter always had the saddest eyes when she saw me. Kind of like Momma’s right
now. I didn’t like it when anyone was sad, especially when I was the cause.
It was the worst feeling in the world.
Maybe I did grow up faster than the other kids in my class,
but who wanted to be a little boy anyway?
I was Momma’s Little Man, and I took my job of being the man
of the house very seriously. Besides, it wasn’t that bad. I didn’t have a
bedtime, I ate when and what I wanted, and I didn’t have to answer to anyone
like my friends did with their moms and dads. Sure, sometimes it sucked having
to take care of myself, but Momma needed me, and that was just the way things
had to be.
But it was being alone that got to me the most, especially
now that my friends were taken away from me too.
“Momma, it’s not a big deal. I’m sorry I made it sound
bigger than it was. I guess … I just miss you, that’s all. I don’t like not
having anyone to talk to or to play with. It’s not fair I’m being pushed away
for having to take care of us. Ya know?”
“I know, baby. You’re such a good boy. You’ve always been my
good boy. You know that too, right? Please, tell me you know that, Aiden.”
I nodded, hating the sound of her voice when she was sad.
“Of course, I know, Momma. I’m your Little Man. I’ll always take care of you.
So please don’t cry anymore. You know how much I hate it.”
“That’s why you’re here at the hospital,” I reminded,
smiling big and wide for her. “To get better. The doctors and nurses are gonna
make you all better, so you can be my momma again. As soon as you are out, we
have to go to our favorite ice cream shop. Go for walks in the park, watch
movies in your bed with the popcorn you love just like we used to. Do you
remember, Momma? All the fun things we used to do before you got sick? I can’t
wait.” I nodded, smiling even wider. “I’ve been praying really hard too.
Really, really hard, just like you showed me.”
As soon as I finished talking, she jerked back and shut her
eyes. More tears fell down the sides of her face, only making the pain in my
chest worse. I wanted that feeling to end, to finally be gone and never come
I reached up and wiped away her tears, careful not to move
any of the tubes coming out of her nose like the doctors said. Except she
wouldn’t stop crying. She’d never cried this much before, and my heart had
never hurt this bad before. It wasn’t easy seeing and feeling her this upset,
unable to do anything for her. Unable to stop the pain that always took her
away from me.
“Momma, don’t cry. Please … everything is going to be
alright, you’ll see. I promise. I’ll protect you. I won’t let anything happen
to you. Your Little Man is here with you.”
I spent day and night by her side these past few days, even
though I wasn’t allowed to sleep at the hospital. The nurses knew I had nowhere
else to go, so they let me stay.
“Baby, more often than not when people get sick, it’s
because God has other plans for them.”
“Plans you won’t understand because you’re just a little
“I’m a Little Man, Momma. I’m your Little Man.”
“I know, baby, I know.” She slowly placed her arm around me,
and I snuggled closer to her cold body. Her skin felt frozen like ice, not like
the warm, soft heat I was used to every night.
With a huge, deep breath that I felt in my tummy, she added,
“But even my Little Man won’t understand this. Because, Aiden, I barely
understand it, and I’m not seven-years-old.”
“I’m almost eight,” I reminded, smiling through the pain.
“My birthday is coming up, and all I want is for you to get better. That’s all
I’m wishing for, Momma. Nothing else.”
“Aiden … I need you to listen to me. I need to have faith
that you’ll be okay without me. Because this is all I have left to give you,
“Without you?” I frowned, looking up at her. “Where you
“I’m going to Heaven, baby. And one day we’ll be reunited. I
promise, Aiden. I promise you’ll see me again. I swear it.”
My heart sank. Tears started forming in my eyes. “But I
don’t want you to go to Heaven. Stay with me, Momma. Just stay with me. I don’t
care if you’re sick. I’ll take care of you like always,” I cried right along
with her, unable to control the feelings I’d never felt before. My whole body
hurt so bad.
“I love you so much, baby. Don’t ever forget that. Not for
Why did it feel like
she was saying goodbye?
“Then I’ll come with you to Heaven. If that’s where you’re
going, then that’s where I’m going too. We’ll go to Heaven together.”
“Baby, as much as I love you … you can’t come with me.”
“Why not? I wanna go to Heaven with you, Momma. Just take me
with you … please…” I bawled, feeling like my heart was exploding in my body
like the fireworks on the Fourth of July. Except this wasn’t fun.
I couldn’t control my tears, and I didn’t want to. She had
to understand I needed to go with her.
She couldn’t leave me behind.
I’d be all by myself with no one to love me.
“I promise I’ll take care of you in Heaven, Momma. I’ll be
your Little Man anywhere we go. As long as we stick together, everything will
be fine. You and me against the world, remember?”
She caressed my cheek. “You can’t come with me, baby.”
I pulled away suddenly angry, snapping, “You can’t leave me,
Momma! That’s not what mommas do! You said that at the park! You said mommas
don’t leave like dads do! That’s what you said! Remember? That’s what you told
“Aiden, please calm down.”
“No! You can’t leave me! It’s you and me against the world!
That’s what you’ve always said to me! Remember?! That’s what you’ve always
“I will never leave you,” she choked out, coughing over and
I threw my arms around her neck, holding onto her as tight
as I could. Showing her, she wasn’t leaving me. I wouldn’t let her, she’d just
have to take me with her.
Momma, you’re all I
You’re all I’ve ever
Her breathing came out in quick, short puffs, like she
couldn’t catch her breath. Whispering, “I will always…” she gasped for air. “Be
here for you… Just because.” She started coughing, gasping for more and more
air. “You can’t … see me, doesn’t mean … I’m not here.”
“It’s not fair. It’s not fair that this is happening,” I
rasped, fresh tears soaking her green hospital gown.
Struggling for my next breath, I asked,
“Who’s going to tell you everything is going to be okay, Momma? Who’s going to
tell me? Who’s going to cover my eyes during the scary parts of movies? Who’s
going to tell me they love me? I don’t have a daddy! Or an aunt or a grandma! I
don’t have anyone but you! Who’s going to help me back to sleep when I have a
bad dream? Who’s going to be there for me when I get home from school? Who,
Momma, who if not you? Don’t you see? Don’t you get it? You’re all I have!
You’re all I’ve ever had! There’s no one else but you! So either you take me
with you, or you stay with me! You stay with me, Momma, because that’s what you
said, that’s what you promised! Mommas don’t leave! You have to remember!
Please, you have to stay with me!”
My body fell onto hers. Crying for what seemed like hours,
just lying there. She tried everything to calm me down. Weakly humming “Smile”,
like she had since the day I was born.
Smile, though your
heart is aching.
Nothing could make me smile, laugh, or be happy. I’d be
nothing without her.
“Everything is going to be okay, baby.” She rubbed my back,
holding me close, as close as possible. “I love you more than anything in this
world. I have loved you since before I even met you, my beautiful boy. With
those bright blue eyes that have always been able to see inside my soul. What
we share, the love, the bond, the connection between us … it can never be
broken, Aiden. No matter where I am, no matter who you’re with, we’re together
in here.” She placed her hand over my fast-beating heart. “You’ll find someone
who will always be there for you.”
“Because, Aiden. I’ll personally send her your way. I
All I could do was nod because I couldn’t find the words to
tell her how much I loved her.
How sad and alone I would be without her.
What’s going to happen
It wasn’t until she placed her hands on the sides of my face
that it felt like I was dying too. “Listen to me, Aiden Hazel Pierce, because I
will only be able to say this once. I need you to remember you can be anything
you want to be. Do you hear me? You do not let what happens next in your life
define who you are. Do you understand me? You make your own path, baby. Your
own path and bright future that I know you’re capable of. I need you to promise
me you will do something amazing in this world. You will make something of
yourself that will have me so damn proud of the man you’ve become. Because I’ll
be right here, baby.” She nodded to my heart. “Watching, listening, cheering
for you until the day we can be reunited again. I’ll be waiting for you with
open arms, my beautiful boy. Now prom—”
“Momma.” I tried to pull my face away,
but she held me as tight as she could.
Even though I didn’t want to, I nodded. My eyes dropping to
the ground as I did.
“Let me hear you say the words.”
“I need you to mean it, Aiden. Please, for me. Mean it for
“Okay.” I looked up at her. “I’ll do it for you, Momma. I
promise, I’ll do it for you.”
She smiled through the tears, and before I knew what was
happening, the machines around her started going off. “I. Love. You, babyyyy—”
I shouted, “Somebody help! Somebody please help her! Don’t
leave me, Momma! Please don’t leave me!”
“Get him out of here!” one of the nurses ordered, rushing
into the room.
“No!” Hands immediately touched me everywhere, carrying me
out into the hallway. “Take me with you, Momma! Please just take me with you!”
I screamed as loud as I could.
Fighting for mine too.
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