I will be turning 28 years old in exactly 3 days. Turning 28 has always held a heavier significance for me than turning 25 or even 30 ever had: that’s because of my mother.
As the youngest of 5 children, most of my mother’s 20’s were spent taking care of her ailing mother, who was rapidly deteriorating due to brain cancer. The week after my mom turned 28, my grandma finally lost the battle and passed away in my own mother’s arms. That same year, my mom decided to leave Egypt for good and immigrate all on her own to California to be with her older sister. Just two months after her mother’s passing, my mom found herself in a country with a foreign culture, a language she barely understood, and a whole new way of life. The week she landed in America, my mom met my dad, and the two were married 6 months later.
And then I was born the week before my mom turned 30, and two weeks before her mother’s two-year memorial.
As someone who comes from a family of storytellers, I grew up knowing all of this. My mom loves to tell me stories about my grandmother’s humility, generosity, propensity for loving the unlovable, and piety. It wasn’t hard imagining my grandma; afterall, my mother has all of the same qualities as her.
We grew up with stories of my grandma, but we never thought twice about my mom’s own journey. My mom’s life was just the setting; she was an extra, an observer of people whose existence gave a context and shape to the story, not the story itself.
It wasn’t until I got older- actually- it wasn’t until I started approaching the same age where my mother’s life changed so drastically- that I started to realize the heaviness, the tragedy, and the grace of my mom’s life. In a few days, I am going to be the same age as my grandma when she lost her own mother. In comparison, my life has been a sail in the breeze. While I have lived a privileged life up to this point, my mom went through a parent’s death, a marriage, and a birth all within the span of two years.
In truth, my cozy life has spoiled me. I often find myself wondering: how in the world did my mother do all of it? How did she bear it? Mental health is something my mother is more acquainted with now, but there was no such thing at the time.
What trauma she must have faced to have her mom pass away like that! How scared she must have been to have a child! Surely, she must have still been grieving for her mother while pregnant with me.
And yet when I ask my mom about those days, when I try to understand how she must have felt, she tells me, “yes, I was scared, but then I prayed. And God’s peace washed over me and I was never scared again.”
I am now the same age as my mom when her world turned upside down. And I can’t imagine going through half of what she went through. Even the decision of having a child is a decision that I agonize over, even though I would be having a child in a country that is my home with a man I’ve been married to for years, and hopefully, God willing, with a full set of four parents to support me. My mother had none of that.
However, although I am fearful, I am never too overwhelmed. Because when I get scared, I can call my mom, and she reminds me that all of those traits I love about my mother and my grandmother are in my blood too. Like them, I am resilient enough to handle anything, because I have faith in that mysterious Grace He grants for the most downtrodden amongst us.
Marianne Boules is the owner and CEO of Boules Consulting, a nonprofit consulting agency that provides grant writing, project management, and program reporting services. She is also the founder of Coptic Voice, a nonprofit organization dedicated to providing a platform the Coptic diaspora. When not working, Marianne enjoys gardening, reading, and running after birds.