lunes, 27 de febrero de 2017

How I introduced my Mami to my grief group


My mother was born in 1947, the youngest of 5, in San Juan PR. Her dad was never around much and he died of alcohol-related problems by the time she was 11. She was mostly raised by a single mom who was very commited to her kids, but didn’t have much time for things like love and nurturing. Raised among siblings with very dominant personalities, my mom was frequently the butt of jokes and the target of pranks. Despite a very poor upbringing, she managed to put herself through college, by working since graduating high school at 16. She initially considered becoming a pediatrician, because she always had a soft spot for children, but she couldn’t afford such a long career and chose to study education. She practiced as a teacher for a brief period of time, but her job (same she got at age 16) allowed her some growth opportunities in human resources, so she stayed there. With her own effort, she bought a car, built a house, traveled for the first time outside of PR…to Europe! For a month! And then to many other places. She dumped a fiancé over the phone because she realized she didn’t love him like she envisioned love to be. At age 30, she was won over by the love of a country-guy who has eternally late…. She was his boss, and he was my dad. After a 10-month courtship they married and remained together until she died. My mother was shy, introverted, ever insecure about herself… but at the same time, she was brave, assertive, and ferocious in her love of her family. We (my siblings, my dad and me) were her loves. She didn’t have much friends, wasn’t especially close to her family, and never really expanded her social circle much beyond us. We were everything to her and she was everything to us. My mom was meticulous to a fault. The cords in our house are wrapped in a special way that looks like they just came from the store, and only she can do that. She was never much of a cook, but she had an eye for decoration and organization. Our house always felt like you could breath in it, not stuffy. She made sure everything was always clean and organized (Things I appreciate more now that I live on my own). She was detailed in her writing and her gift giving. I still hear from people showing me things she wrote for them a long time ago, on a computer, alternating fonts, adding cliparts, etc. Her spelling and grammar were impeccable. She felt shy speaking in English, but boy, she could write in English sooo well. Her taste in fashion was well known among my cousins and also my friends. She had an eye for clothes, and as she got older, always looked classy and beautiful. Even as she struggled with depression over the last couple of years, when she got dressed up, she was breathtaking.. at least to my eyes. She was my first love. When I was a kid, I was pretty well-behaved until it got time to separate from her. I would kick and scream… well into the 3rd grade. I adored being with her. And not just me, but after she died, I keep hearing from my friends the impact she made on their life, just by listening to them during sleepovers, offering coffee. She was the one my cousins called when their babies were born. She knew how to hold a newborn, how to give him or her a bath, and all those things. Her love for others, especially those in vulnerability, has inspired my life choices so much. My dad’s a doc but her love of people inspired in me a passion for service that still lives to this day. (1998, Huracán George). The last year was really tough for her, and she struggled with different health issues that culminated in her diagnosis of cancer in July. She was gone so quickly, but I thank God for his mercy on her. In her hospital room, despair was on this level but then God’s peace was all around that. And I’m sure that was God’s gift and maybe her gift to us too… The culmination of a lifetime of faith and devotion to God, and of complete dedication to the people she loved around her. She was not a movie star, or anyone famous, and I struggle with the thought of this world continuing in her absence, like I wanna make her mark bigger. So that’s why even though Im not yet sure I can define all the emotions I feel now that she’s gone, I wanted to share these things with you all today, in the hopes that her life will inspire you as well, as it continues to teach and inspire me.  
It’s like I’ve been holding my breath
This is my room
This is my car
This is my furniture
And yet, below the surface
I’m always acutely aware that I am not fully here.
My mind stayed with the bright colors, with the breeze.
And every time the plane touches the ground, I exhale.
This is home.
In spite of everything, this is home.

I wanted wings, I wanted more,
And it’s been fun to play house
And chase these dreams
And spent countless hours trying to belong
In this place of handshakes and polite smiles
And personal space and pastel colors
And soft voices and soft whispers
(where you never really know
what anyone is trying to say)

And I yearn for the sound of honking cars
In the blistering heat
And my sister’s voice yelling at the kids
And the sun that was thunder five minutes ago

I move as fast as I can towards you.
I stop only to catch my breath.
I lie awake at night thinking about you,
Wondering if I will ever make it back to you.
If the dream-turned-sour-turned-reality
Will keep me in an endless loop of ever-moving targets
And I will never touch you.

I miss your smile, your smell, your warmth,
And all that within you is contained:
My nephew’s emerald eyes
My niece’s sideways smile
My father’s embrace
And my sweet sister’s ever-expanding heart.

Can you light a candle for me?
Hold on for me, do not give up on me.
You are everything I have ever wanted,

Please wait.