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When I was growing up, my mother was always around, but I didn't really notice her. I don't think I ever asked her about her family, or what she liked and disliked, or any of the things you're supposed to ask to get to know people better.

The only time I started caring was when she started using too many essential oils.

It started when she joined an essential oil multi-level marketing scheme. My parents had divorced, and when my mom was trying to get a job, these essential oil hacks convinced her that she was actually better off buying and selling their products.

I had moved out permanently by that time, so I only heard about this after she had already donated her pound of flesh to the oil cult. She talked to me about putting droplets of the oils around the house, and when I told her that it was a scam, she tried unsuccessfully arguing with me about it for ten minutes before hanging up.

If you had told me I should have dropped my job, my entire life, and rushed to stop my mother, I'd have refused vehemently. But I guess hindsight is 20-20.

Over time, she started sounding more haggard, like the oil was sucking the life out of her. She kept asking me to come back, but I was too clueless to see what was going on. I didn't come back.

One day, she called me and she said she had given up trying to sell the oils, and had cut ties with all of the people in the multi-level marketing scheme. I was happy. She said she had to get rid of all of the essential oils, and asked if I wanted to buy any of them. I refused, because I didn't want to spend any money on those essential oils, and I wasn't entirely sure if she was just messing with me to try and sell me essential oils.

I guess everyone else refused too, because at some point, she told me that she started eating them. She'd buy cheap flavorless food and put drops of the oil on them. She told me about it, point-blank, and all I told her was "Don't do that!" She persisted, and I still didn't come to check on her.

She called me one day saying that she had gotten a nasty cut, and she'd made the executive decision to pour oil on that, too. I told her she was going to go to the hospital, and she paused.

"If I go to the hospital, will you come to see me?"

I said no, said I would pay for her hospital bills and leave. But when she actually ended up in the hospital, I cancelled everything and rushed to where she was being kept.

There were ulcers in her mouth, and her teeth were partially worn away. I could finally see the "cut" on her arm. It looked like she had stabbed herself with a kitchen knife. The doctor said the problem was a combination of eating the essential oils and sepsis from the cut. Her cut had gotten infected because all she had put on it was the essential oil, and bacteria had managed to get into her blood.

While I stood there in shock, the doctor slipped out. I sat there next to her, and I asked her, "What happened?"

She told me everything. She said how she couldn't find any jobs, and had thought that the essential oil scheme could allow her to earn money until she got one. She didn't feel comfortable asking for money, so she suffered in silence, trying to get me to check up on her. As she still couldn't find a job, she deluded herself into not asking for help. She thought that if I felt the situation was bad, I would have tried to help her. She didn't feel comfortable saying how bad the gash in her arm was, so she called me, hoping I would pay more attention than just saying "Stop using essential oils."

But she told me a lot more than just that. She told me she was an atheist, that she had been to Guam, that she had never had many friends, that all of her "friends" were really my dad's friends. I learned more about my mom in the two hours that I was there than I had for the twenty years I had lived with her. I left the hospital vowing to come back tomorrow.

The next day, they told me that she was dead.

It was because the doctors had messed up the surgery needed for the gash. My mother's condition had already been fragile, and the mistake had pushed her over the edge. I got the money from the malpractice insurance, but I'll never get my mother back.

The only way I can remember her now is by buying those cheap essential oils. It makes sense anyways. For a short time, the multi-level marketing scheme gave her companionship, a goal, a job, and even money, sort of. I could have given her all of that, but instead, I gave her none of it.

Cc-zero Squidmanescape has released this story under the CC0 license. This text has had its copyright protection revoked and can be freely distributed and modified by anyone who wishes to use it, depending on the laws and restrictions of their jurisdiction.