Written by: Keesha Chung
Edited by: Anna Akoto & Jazmin Batey
Special Thanks to: Lloyd Richards & Alice Ustinova
Three women have shaped my understanding of love, trust, and kindness. My mother, my aunt (her sister), and my maternal grandmother.
I am very close to my mother. For many years it was me and her against the world. We did everything together. To this day, she is my world.
“Your Mom always wanted children,” my aunt told me. “She knew she was having a girl, and I knew she was having a girl. She put everything beautiful and everything positive into you. When she had you, it became her whole purpose. There was lots of love for you for when you were born”.
Growing up there is not a moment I did not feel that love from every direction.
My mother is a fierce woman. She is honest, intelligent, and the most sensitive person I know. Grandma used to say to her “you’ll be okay, but just make sure you safeguard your heart”. My mother’s moral compass rules her, and her compassion and love for others are inspiring. It blows me away to think that she can embody all these things despite experiencing such a significant loss at a young age. When she was 16 years old, her eldest brother died suddenly. When she was 22, her mother died from breast cancer. She was the second oldest of five, and now was the oldest of four children. Grief shaped her spirit from a young age and I never understood the gravity of this until recently.
I recently sat down with my mom and aunt to speak about my grandmother. “It’s challenging to put a full lifetime, cut in half, and to wrap it into one thought,” my aunt said. “But your Grandmother was authentic. She was always optimistic. My siblings and I are lucky that we didn’t have a parent with a lot of faults. When she died, we didn’t have to heal from a bad relationship. She was a really good person. She made people happy, and people wanted to be around her.”
“I remember when I was in high school,” My mom said. “I had a friend named Mary and she got pregnant. After your Grandma died, Mary told me that she would come to our house on her spare.” I asked why. “Because she liked hanging out with your Grandmother. And when she decided to terminate the pregnancy, your Grandma was the one who took her.” “And Grandma never told you any of this?” I asked. She shook her head no.
In her short life, my grandma built connections with people that made a lasting impact. My mom emphasized that she put a lot of importance on family, and taking care of family. My aunt is still moved by my grandma’s great friendships. “She could talk to anybody” My aunt said. “The people that she became close with, the kinship, was very sisterly. It was very loving. The way that they spoke together, the vibe, it was genuine.”
After my parents divorced when I was two, I lived with my mom and aunt for four years. When I was growing up, my mom was the only one of her friends that had a child. Many of my adolescent years were spent around adults. “My goal was to make sure you always felt loved, supported, safe, and wanted. You were my priority”. I had an abundance of support growing up. And not just from my mother but from the people she kept around me. Her friends were our chosen family.
When I was seven years old, I went on a trip to Barbados with my mom and her friends. We went to celebrate the 1999 – 2000 millennium.
Typically my memory is terrible, but I still have vivid recollections of this trip. Going to the oceanside vendor to get fish fritters, playing on the beach and making sand mermaids, watching the last sunset of 1999. This trip was a testament to my mother’s trust in the people she kept close to us. I was the kid at middle school graduation with an entire row of family and friends cheering my name as I walked up to accept my diploma. I always had people in my corner. As an adult, the gravity of that blessing is not lost on me. Memories like Barbados defined my childhood. I watched as my mother and her friends supported and lifted each other in moments of heartache and celebrated each other in moments of triumph. I was a sponge absorbing the relationships around me. I was taught love through the way she treated me and in the way our chosen family treated one another. I was given front row seats to authentic, healthy, and loving relationships from a very young age.
Everything my mother did when it came to me was intentional, from the people around me to the words she used. When I was younger, she would rarely make promises. She would say, “I am not going to promise you unless I know I can do it, Keesha. What I can do is try my best”. As a child, this was unbearably frustrating because 90% of the time she would do what she would try her best to accomplish. In hindsight, this practice set the bar very high when it came to trust. It taught me to be wary of people who do not follow through on their word. My mother taught me that integrity is something you can only learn through action. And I can’t help but see my grandmother in these lessons.
I always wanted a sister. I think that’s why I loved watching my mom and my aunt’s relationship. I have always been included in their relationship and I never felt like I was imposing. Instead, I was a part of their connection. My aunt is like a second mother to me. She never treated me like I was too young to understand things. She always trusted me and respected me as a person regardless of how old I was.
When I was growing up, my Mom would do my hair every second Sunday. And I had A LOT of hair. As a child, I hated these sessions. My head would hurt, it would take literal hours, and I couldn’t move much. Sometimes my aunt would help, or even do my hair instead of my mom. Looking back now, these were some of my favourite memories with my mom and my aunt. I would get to watch movies with them and listen to them gossip and chat with their friends. I got to be a part of the group. I was treated like the little sister who everyone looked out for.
Like me, my mom always wanted a sister. Between her and my aunt, they have two brothers. “I wanted a sister so badly that when your youngest uncle was born, I wanted nothing to do with him.” My mom told me. “When your Aunt was born, she was my baby. I would bathe her, feed her, take her everywhere with me. She was mine”. Thinking about them as children makes my heart smile. “Your Mother was always very maternal.” My aunt said. “She treated me as her equal. Like her sister, her little lady,” my aunt said. I couldn’t help but see my relationship with my aunt in those sentiments.
For the past year, I have been actively practicing gratitude. Honouring what it means to acknowledge all that I have, especially the people in my life. The ones who have left and the ones who have always been there. Practicing gratitude has allowed me to reflect on moments from my childhood with more grace and understanding.
For me Mother’s day is not just a day to celebrate my mother. It is a time to acknowledge the loving energy that has coloured my childhood and adulthood. The way kindness, stability, and wisdom have been passed down to me. It is a day to acknowledge the different types of relationships that I have had the pleasure of witnessing and the blessing of knowing. All of these things would not have been possible without my grandmother and the lessons she taught my mother and my aunt.
Although I never met my grandmother, I know her. I see her in my mother, my aunt, in the kindness and guidance they have brought into my life. I see her in the way they interact with me. In the laughs I share with them and the memories we’ve made. I know she is with us. Her essence is etched in every fibre of our bond.