I thought I heard mom call out my name. I stopped to listen intently. But I didn’t hear anything except her hasty footsteps. So I turned on the music again, grabbed my tools, and continued to fix the faucet in the laundry room. Not long afterward, within seconds actually, I heard “Sammy” again. Mom’s voice was so faint, so foreign—it frightened me. I dropped my wrench, hurried up the stairs, and found mom choking to death.

I rushed to mom and wrapped my arms tightly around her. She could barely stand. She could barely talk. She could barely look at me. She was losing consciousness, and I was afraid I was losing mom. I pressed on her stomach four, maybe five times until she breathed again. I stayed with her for the rest of the day, grieving she might not stay with me for the rest of my life.

I’ve always said I don’t miss my father; I can’t miss something I never had. But I’ve always had mom. When I was a boy, I didn’t know I was supposed to have a father until kids made fun of me for it. I didn’t think I needed one. I didn’t know what the word “father” meant. Whatever a father was, I thought mom was that too. I thought she was mom and dad. And in a sense, she was. She worked two jobs and raised four kids on her own. She was the breadwinner and the breadmaker. She disciplined me and she listened to me. She spanked me and made me cry; she tickled me and made me laugh. She is mom and more. If I ever needed my father, I don’t remember when. Mom was always there.

But one day she might not be here. One day she might not be with me. One day we might not laugh together. One day I might not get the opportunity to wrap my arms around her. One day I might not get to protect her and love her. One day I might not hear her voice. One day she might not be here. I thought that day had arrived when I found mom choking to death. And I can’t stop thinking about it.

Mom suffered in Ghana. She lost her parents when she was a little girl. And she lost her home after that. She hasn’t said much to me about the time between then and the time she married my father. She says it is too depressing for me to know. Maybe she would tell me if I pressed her more, but I am afraid to know. I can’t imagine anything more depressing than what I already know. My father hurt her with his hands. He hurt mom with other women. And when she was pregnant with me, my father fled to another country. When I was a toddler, mom wrapped me around her back and traveled near the Sambisa Forest, where Boko Haram is at today, to beg my father to come home. He refused. Mom carried me back to Ghana alone. I can’t remember the trip; mom can’t forget it.

Mom and I moved to a better country in the nineties. Canada has given her a good career. It’s given her a good house. It’s given her a better life. But she’s suffered in Canada too. My step-father also hurt her with his hands. And I was too young at the time to protect her. Mom carried me and my little siblings, and traveled to another city to protect us. Mom had lost her home again. We lived in a shelter for months. She made home-cooked meals for us in that shelter. She made us feel at home in that shelter. Mom suffered, but we didn’t know it.

I know that now. Mom has a good home. She’s persevered. But she’s suffered. Mom taught me all I know about sacrifice. She taught me that because Jesus suffered, she must suffer too. She taught me that because she sacrificed everything for me, I must also sacrifice everything for others. When I was a boy, mom worked in the morning and at night, it was my responsibility to wake up early in the morning and prepare myself and my little siblings for school. It was my responsibility to give up whatever after-school activities I wanted to participate in. I had to pick up my little siblings from their babysitter and bring them home to take care of them. I couldn’t do many things. I couldn’t have many friends. And I couldn’t complain, because mom never did.

Canada is a better country than Ghana, but mom couldn’t imagine she would suffer so much in a better country. But there is a country better than Canada. There is a country better than every country in this world. There, mom won’t suffer anymore. I don’t want to think about mom not being here. But I want to think about mom being there.

One day mom won’t laugh with me here. But she won’t weep there, in that better country. She won’t need to call for me here, she will have Jesus there, in that better country. She will have a home, a home she can never lose in that better country. There she will be with a good man, a man who will never betray her. In that better country, mom will be with her bride-groom forever. I don’t want her to leave me here, but one day, she will be with Jesus there. And in that New Jerusalem, one day, we will laugh together with Jesus forever.