It has now been three years since the worst day of my life, three years since I lost my mom to a liver Leyomiosarcoma in an uphill battle with everything stacked against her, including the country itself.

Time has healed some of the grief and mental wounds, but not the memories of all that happened. The metaphorical scars remain and they make me relapse every now and then, especially during the otherwise quiet and lonely nights, when it coalesces with everything else that’s going on with my life.

These mental scars will perhaps stop bothering me one day like the small physical one I have on the back of my head, but I will be carrying them for the rest of my life. I still see her in my dreams, sometimes I talk to her as if she had been merely absent for some time, catching up on a myriad of topics. Sometimes my mind plays crueler games and I dream that the three of us are in fact together once again, in a place different and distant from this one.

Before her Leiomyosarcoma diagnosis in 2015, our goal was to start a new life away from this country, and I still carry that goal with me. It is one part of the promise that I made my mother exactly three years ago to the date. Circumstances beyond my control have kept me in this place for the past three years, and not for the lack of trying. I am still in the same room, in the same house, with the same clothes, and sleeping on the same bed—all succumbing to natural entropy but otherwise safe and sound. The country, though, has changed so much for the worse.

I’ve tried different approaches and methods to legally get my brother out of here with me, only to have stumbled and failed over and over, be it due to lack of financial resources, insufficient paperwork, and lack of foresight and due diligence by my dad. That is something that, I must confess, has made me feel like a failure, even when they are circumstances that were far beyond my control.

The pandemic made me lose an entire year of escape progress, and I try not to be so hard on myself, because there was nothing I could do to prevent or stop that from happening, it’s not like I have the authority to reopen Venezuela’s borders or unsuspend air traffic to and from the country—but the lost time does incur a heavy burden upon an already burdened mind, I’m not getting any younger, you know.

But at last, after so many attempts and failed plans, there is a possibility, a light at the end of the tunnel. After three years a solution to this puzzle is almost within my grasp. This month has been most fruitful in my efforts, and between our new passport extensions and a conversation that I’m not in the liberty to publicly talk about, I have begun to infect myself with something rare to find in this country: hope and optimism.

The future has taken root in the present, and it seems like I will finally be able to fulfil that part of the promise I made to my mother: I will get my brother outta here and start a new life with him.

I’m very pumped and excited, and also justifiably afraid of the future and what it will bring—damned Imposter Syndrome and all that. That ray of hope stemmed from the good news I got this month, as nascent as it is, has helped me not fall in a deep depression on this day unlike the past two years.

The lockdowns continue to keep churches closed down here, so I cannot go to church on this day to pray like I had been doing every month since she passed away. Just like last year, a candle and prayers at home will have to do.

In a way, I still hate myself for having failed to save her, if only I had gotten my shit together as a teenager and studied properly, then I would’ve had the means to have gotten her outta here way before she was initially misdiagnosed. If only I had been smarter, faster, better, then perhaps…

That’s probably why I tend to self-sabotage my efforts to improve my own health, even when I’m aware that I shouldn’t. I need to stop doing this, a new journey awaits me soon, and I need to be healthier and in better shape than ever before if I want to succeed. I still need to find help about myself, someone to talk about all these burdens and mental woes that still shackle me away, so that I can begin shedding away the lack of self-worth that shackles me so much—I love helping others, but never am I able to help myself.

Just like in the past two years, I still kept her room and her belongings as-is, but once things get rolling with regards to our travels and visa applications, I will have to start bringing closure. It’s been too long, I need to start seeing what clothes I can give away to charity, which ones I can pass down to my younger cousin, and see what books and things I can give to aspiring med students, in the hopes that it all helps them become that which I should’ve probably studied to become: a doctor.

I am still in a continuous journey that’s not just about starting a new life in a new country alongside my brother, it is also a journey towards becoming the good son she deserved to have, a force of good, just like her, who helped everyone no matter who they were—and no amount of lockdowns or quarantines will prevent me from achieving that.

As I said last year: The good deeds I’ve done, the mistakes I’ve made in the past, my vices, my virtues, my sins, my shortcomings, my peculiarities, my regrets, my extols, all that I am—I’ll embrace it all so that I can carve a great future for my brother and myself.

I won’t be carrying much with me once we board a plane besides my worn out old clothes, this banged up and damaged laptop that only boots when overheated, and our shared video game console—I will be also carrying all of the pictures that I have of her, even if it’s in digital form. I want to remember her as she was in those pictures, smiling, happy, joyful, hard-working, and not ravaged by cancer, unable to exercise her medical talents that saved and improved the lives of so many.

My mother didn’t leave me with money nor any wealthy possessions, and for that she has been unjustly judged by her remaining family with quotes I rather not type here. What they don’t get is that she did leave me with something more invaluable than money: education, morals, and a set of values that I will be bringing with me alongside our journey towards a new life.

I’m not a very studied person, I don’t joke when I say I am a social pariah, and there’s still so much that I don’t understand—heck, I don’t even have good looks either, but none of that will stop me from finding my own place in this world, from becoming a force of good like my mother, Sabina, and I will find ways to help others achieve their dreams, just like I’ve been helped over the past years of my life.

I will keep my promise to her and I will take care of my brother Christopher until I draw my last breath (and even from beyond the grave if I can), because he is the best treasure that she gave me.

If I ever earn a place in Heaven, I know she will be there, waiting for me.

I love her, and I will always love her. I hope she continues lending me some of her strength so that I can be the son she deserved to have.