May 2014

I Miss Her Most on Mother’s Day

Created by:

Nyaka Mwanza



Mother’s Day is a bittersweet holiday for me. A celebration of the best thing that ever happened to me (a cliché, I know) having my daughter; a painful reminder of the worst: losing my mother, Juliet, to AIDS.

This Mother’s Day, May 11th, would have been her 50th birthday

In 1988, my mom and I left our home in Zambia to start our life with her new husband in America. Two peas in a pod, our Taurus birthdays four days apart, we reveled in the excitement of a new country and were overjoyed when she found out she was pregnant with my baby brother!

Mumbi (Moo for short), with his radiant grin and contagious giggle, really brought our young, blended family together.

But then around Moo’s first birthday he got really sick. Endless doctors’ visits and tests later, we learned that Moo was HIV-positive. My mom, unaware that she too harbored the virus, had passed it on to him.

With limited treatment options and resources available for children, Moo died just before his second birthday. My mom, heartbroken, lost her battle with AIDS just a few years later.

It’s been 20 years and I feel her absence every day. Never more than the day I gave birth to my soul mate, Nzali Juliet, and my heart broke all over again, knowing they’d never get to meet. But missing my mom is what fuels my passion for my work at the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation (EGPAF).

She lives on through me: my work, my passion, my daughter. Every day I try to embody the compassion my mom is remembered for and share with my daughter the kernels of life wisdom she imparted during my too-short time with her. I’m lucky to say that I’m doing my life’s work. If one child doesn’t have to miss their mommy like I did (and still do), then I’ve done my job.

What’s your favorite memory of your mother? Honor her and help others by sharing your #Momentos with EGPAF today! This Mother’s Day, I’m sharing my #MOMentos with you to let you know that together, we can change the outcome for a mother, like mine (like ours), and her child. We’ve come a long way in the last two decades. Today, we have the tools to protect unborn babies from HIV and to give HIV-positive mothers many healthy years to enjoy with their families.

We’re closer than ever to eliminating mother-to-child transmission of HIV. But we can’t do it alone.

It’s too late for my mom, and far too many other families like mine who’ve lost loved ones to AIDS. But it’s not too late for the 500 moms-to-be EGPAF could reach if we reached—or exceeded–our Mother’s Day goal in celebration of global motherhood.

I’d give anything to be celebrating Mother’s Day (and birthdays) over brunch with my daughter, my mother, and my brother. I’ll always miss them. But becoming a mother helped fill the void that losing mine left in her wake, and is a huge source of joy and laughter in my life. I love being a mother. I take solace in the pieces of my mom I get to see in my daughter (who bears her name) and in myself, as I strive to be even half the mother she was to me.

Together, we can ensure that Mother’s Day is a day of joy and celebration for moms around the world, no matter their HIV status.

Nyaka Mwanza is a devoted mother, proud daughter, and is passionate about helping create an AIDS-free future in her role as EGPAF’s Manager of Digital and Interactive Communications