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StoryCorps is an independent nonprofit organization whose mission is to provide Americans of all backgrounds and beliefs with the opportunity to record, share, and preserve the stories of our lives.

'I Only Knew Her As Mom': A Daughter Learns More From Her Late Mother's Best Friend

Sada Jackson (right) finds out more about her late mother from her mom's best friend, Angela Morehead-Mugita, at StoryCorps in Kansas City, Mo., in August 2018.
Savannah Winchester for StoryCorps
Sada Jackson (right) finds out more about her late mother from her mom's best friend, Angela Morehead-Mugita, at StoryCorps in Kansas City, Mo., in August 2018.

Sada Jackson lost her mother, Ileana Watson, to breast cancer in 2016.

There are many things Sada, now a mother herself, wonders about her late mom. So at StoryCorps, she sat with Ileana's best friend, Angela Morehead-Mugita, to learn more. "I want to know more about my mom, as a woman, because I only knew her as Mom," says Sada, 35.

Angela, 55, says she and Ileana were each other's emotional support during vulnerable moments. When Ileana was facing cancer for the second time – when Sada was pregnant — she broke down to her friend, saying, "I may not see my grandbaby."

And Angela remembers turning to Ileana the day she came home from the hospital with her newborn, Christopher. She'd been doubting herself as a mother.

"I sat on my couch and I had all of these beautiful things from my baby shower, and I'm just bawling. I said 'Ileana, what am I supposed to do now?' " Angela says. "And she was so clear. She's like, 'You're gonna hold your baby; all that stuff in the living room is gonna stay right there until you get yourself together.'

"That was the one thing about Ileana, she would never let me lose it."

Sada got emotional hearing that story — she didn't have her mother there after she gave birth to her son, Kendrix, who is 2 ½. "Losing my mom to breast cancer when I was entering my eighth month of pregnancy and not having that chance to call her when I got home [from the hospital] ... it still bothers me."

"But at the same time," she says, laughing, "I heard her say, 'Don't you be no sad Mama for my grandbaby.' "

It was important to Ileana for her daughter to learn to be strong, Angela says. Even with her gone now, Sada can sense her mother's support.

"I'm feeling her encouraging me saying 'Now you're the mother. You're a woman,' " she says.

She sings some of the same lullabies to her baby that her mom would sing to her. "I'll do like a little [vocal] run and I'll be like, 'That was a Mom run,' " she says.

And Angela sees so much of Ileana in Sada.

"I'm watching every seed that your mother sowed in life manifest in you, in your son, in your marriage," she tells Sada.

Angela remembers how when her own mother died, Ileana propped her up at the funeral.

"She hugged me, she whispered in my ear, and she said, 'You got this. You will not break down. You will walk in there and be the legacy that your mother left you,' " Angela says.

"And so I say that to you," Angela tells Sada. "You will not lose it. You will not break down. And you will walk in the legacy that your mother left for you."

Audio produced forMorning Edition by Aisha Turner.

StoryCorps is a national nonprofit that gives people the chance to interview friends and loved ones about their lives. These conversations are archived at the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress, allowing participants to leave a legacy for future generations. Learn more, including how to interview someone in your life, at StoryCorps.org .

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Aisha Turner
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