May 4, 1999. The air was warm and the moon was full. Our house wasn't much to look at, but it was home. Kassity and Kaede, my sisters, sat out on the confined, rickety front porch. The Cosby Show was playing on the old floor model television as Kassity sat chatting on the phone with her latest crush, and Kaede lay on the floor combing through her generic baby dolls hair. Next door, the Miles' Rottweiler barked loudly at his own enormous shadow, though we eventually learned to block him out.

Me? I was hiding just inside the screen door underneath the coffee table crammed with books on religion and TV Guides, catching small pieces of newspaper on fire, as my mother slept peacefully on the old floral print couch- dying of cervical cancer. I guess I was something like a pyro. The smell of burning paper soothed me.

"Kooper!", my sisters yelled simultaneously. It startled me, causing me to burn myself with the enflamed paper. I quickly blew it out and fled from under the table.

"What," I yelled back.

"Never mind," one of them muttered.

Our loud mouths woke Mama. I apologized but she didn't seem to notice. All of the pain medication she was forced to take multiple times a day left her with very little energy. She slowly lifted herself to a sitting position and lit up a Newport. Her long wavy red hair swept across her pale defeated face. Even at her worst, she was the most beautiful woman I've ever known. She took a few puffs and tapped the rest out in a heavy glass ash tray. The room reeked of cigarette smoke and lavender incense. Pulling herself from the couch, she groaned an excruciating noise.

"Stay in here, mommy's goin' to use the potty," she mumbled to me as she moseyed into the next room. She wasn't strong enough to make it to the second story bathroom, so she kept a porta-potty in the un-used dining room, next to a cherry stained curio cabinet filled with dozens of knick knack angels. I never understood why she needed to use one of those anyhow, my sisters and I were always told that's what the two plastic bags attached to her stomach were for; maybe they only acted as a bladder.

Even though Mama instructed me to keep out until she was finished, I never listened. She said I had a hard head. I was more or less her shadow. She moved, I moved. My grandma used to kid that if my mom stopped too quick, I was headed straight up her ass. As I trailed behind her into the cluttered dining room, she asked me to go grab her a pair of shorts from the living room. I hesitated and then shuffled into the other room as quickly as possible. As I rummaged through the flimsy blue laundry basket, I heard a loud thud come from the dining room.

"Mom?!", I paused.

No response.

I threw the basket to the floor and raced back to my mother. Reaching the doorway, I came to an abrupt halt. The startling noise was Mama. She was lying face down in what seemed like an ocean of blood pouring steadily from her stomach…motionless. "What do I do, what do I do?" I cried to myself.

"Kassity!", I screamed out at the top of my lungs, "come in here now!"

She came running to my side, her face suddenly blank. She was just as in shock as I. Mom, what do we do? This could not be happening, could it? Yes, we knew how sick she was, and we knew she didn't have long to live, yet this seemed impossible!

"Call Gran, hurry up!", I snapped at Kass.

As she grabbed the cordless phone, dialing for help, I struggled to keep Kaede from witnessing this horrendous nightmare.

"Just let me see, Kooper," she grumbled persistently - having no idea what was on the other side of the wall. I refused. Since my dad's parents lived only two houses down the road, it was only moments before my grandfather arrived. He said he'd already called 911 and that we needed to come outside, but we didn't want to leave our mom. I was crying so hysterically I eventually blacked out. By the time he finally got us out of the house, the ambulance had arrived, sirens blaring, and the paramedics hurrying past us to my mother's aide. As we walked slowly down to my grandparents, we saw our dad come strolling up the road. He was drunk or high on crack- more than likely both. He's been on a binge for going-on five days. It wasn't uncommon to not see him for weeks at a time. Noticing the commotion, his stride quickly turned to a sprint right past us. He said nothing. My last recollection of that night is lying down on the floor, on a soft pile of cotton sheets and blankets, covered with two large comforters. My sisters and I snuggled closely together watching Nick- -Nite, as Gran watched over us from her blue corduroy recliner.

The next morning we awoke to a house full of close relatives. Everyone quiet, once they noticed us stirring. The three of us hopped up off the floor and onto the empty couch, oblivious as to what all the company was about. Just then, my dad entered the room, his face covered by his dry, dirty, cracked hands. He sat down next to us, sniffling. Everyone watching on intently like it was some type of show and then he said it...the most heart-breaking words I had ever heard in my entire eight years of life.

"She's gone," he said, "Your mom passed in the hospital last night."

Kassity's screams and Kaede's cries pierced my ears as I darted out of the living room and straight to the back bathroom, slamming the door shut behind me. I slid slowly down the cracked wooden door onto the floor. I'm not sure how long I sat there on the cold vinyl floor crying, but I knew that my life was going to be hell for the next ten years without her- and it was, more than I'd ever imagined.