I’m four years old and don’t have a care in the world. I tear through the house on my tricycle to meet her outside. She’s set up my tee-ball in our backyard. I take my little bat and make a big swing before my lab tries to steal the ball. It soars over our little house and she couldn’t be more proud.

I’m eight years old now and we’re waiting in the UCLA medical center’s parking lot. My step-dad walks toward us after having talked to the third doctor. It’s the first time I’ve ever seen him cry. “Get her affairs in order,” they say, “she’s only got two or three more weeks.”

I’m double-digits years old now. She wakes me up as the sun is barely rising. The crisp leafs make it challenging to sneak out of the house before anyone else gets up, but we manage. We walk a couple miles in the cold for our reward: a good, albeit cheap, cup of hot cocoa. It wasn’t often that we had quiet time alone together.

It’s my eighteenth birthday. Her kidneys have failed but she’s as determined as ever to live. I’m holding her hand just after she had surgery. Tears start to roll down my face as she faintly grasps my hand. She’s not gonna leave me.

I’m twenty-three and she’s sitting proudly in the crowd. I’m thankful and proud of her too. She did it—she managed to stay long enough to see me graduate from her alma mater.

I’m twenty-six and making dinner for my step-dad and myself. I wish she was here. I wish she could enjoy one more home-cooked meal. I wish she could see us loving each other like she loved us.