When do I write?
When she is still so fresh in my mind? When it still hurts so deeply to remember her smile, her laugh, her touch?
Or when the pain subsides a little bit and I won’t cry a river with every sentence that reminds me of her?
I am afraid, I have been afraid of writing this very blog entry for months; when I knew my mother’s health has deteriorating faster as the months passed by. For the past two years she had been the biggest fan of my blog. She not only read every single piece, but commented, congratulated me and passed the link on to dozens of friends and relatives who would otherwise never had read me.
Today I feel like I am writing to a silent audience, writing a blog entry that will lack my mom’s watchful eye and appreciation. But I want to believe that she can hear my inner voice and almost listen to my words as I type them.
On September 16th 2017, my mother Olga Victoria Lozano passed away. One month ago, today.
For those of you reading this blog for the first time, I will say this much. My mother had a stroke at age 27. She was married to my father and had 3 children, all under age 5, me being the middle one.
After a very pessimistic diagnose and almost dying, she proved how strong willed she was, and took on her paralysis and all the limitations that came with the stroke, with her head held up high and a dignified and optimistic attitude towards life that became my motivation and still is, even now that she has left this world.
For years she did physical therapy, speech therapy and went through at least half a dozen surgeries. She regained strength on her right side. Her left side never recovered and she was never again able to move her left arm or leg.
Many health problems surfaced during the 43 years that followed. She was bound to a wheelchair and her sedentary lifestyle lead to more complications.
After several years of having problems with kidney stones, these became more serious during the last 3: kidney infections, severe pain, stones blocking the flow, etc.
On the morning of September 15th, she was undergoing a laser procedure to dissolve several kidney stones. At that time, I was visiting Portland, Oregon on an anniversary trip with my husband.
My brother, the youngest of us 3 was there with her; he was supposed to call me and my sister letting us know how it all went, once she was in the recovery room.
But 3 hours after my mom had gone into the OR, I still had not heard from him and I knew something had not gone well.
He finally called and told me there had been complications and my mom was not well. It was serious.
All I could imagine was my mom laying in a hospital bed, fading, and me, thousands of miles away, as was my sister, who was also travelling. I was so desperate and broken up inside in small tiny pieces. My husband and I managed to cancel all that we had booked and flew back home that same afternoon.
We got home on the 15th at night, and explained to our kids why we were back so early. They were both worried about their grandma. During the flight I had recorded a voice message for my brother to play for my mom. I wanted her to hear my voice, even if she was sedated. And he did play it, 3 times he later said. In it, I told her I was on my way to be with her, and take care of her.
The next day, on the 16th, I took a direct flight to Chihuahua. I was picked up and transferred to the hospital immediately. Upon my arrival, my brother, surrounded then by family and friends, pulled me aside to a private room and told me so tenderly and lovingly that we needed to remember that my mother had always instructed us to never ever authorize any form of artificial life support on her, such as a tracheotomy, feeding tubes, etc. I did not understand why he was telling me this. My mom was still breathing and her heart was beating, so why this seriousness?
I asked him directly between sobs “Isn’t she going to make it?” He shook his head and calmly said “No”.
I wanted to scream and run somewhere, but all I did was cried as loud I have ever cried in my life. And he held me and I could tell seeing me like that was hurting him. He had known my mom’s condition for the last 24 hrs. but had not wanted to tell me over the phone, so he had some time to process the facts and prepare.
I didn’t. I felt like it was all a dream and I was only half awake. I couldn’t stop shaking and I was having a hard time breathing. A lady from the staff came in told us we could go in to see her.
I walked in her little room with my brother, feeling with every step so much pain and desperation I thought I wouldn’t make it to her bed. Then I saw her; I couldn’t believe only 2 months before I had visited her, on the same stupid hospital, and said goodbye to her with a big smile and warm hug, assuming we would see each other in October- when she had planned to visit me.
She laid there, aided by a respirator, monitors and IVs all over, sedated, pale. I immediately laid right next to her and hugged her tight. And sobbed, cried so much I felt bad to bring so much sadness and pain to her. But how could I to bring strength with me if I was supposed to say a last good bye to my mother? To the woman I have loved the most in my life? To the woman who gave me life and had adored me unconditionally for 46 years. Who taught me life lessons like no one ever had? I could not say good bye to her. I wanted to feel her warm hand stroke my head like she used to do. Hear her low soft voice. I wanted to breathe her motherly scent and fill my lungs with it. And all I could smell was the horrible bleached gowns and bed sheets. My brother broke down as well, just looking at the sad picture, looking at his sister completely falling apart and losing all reason and strength.
I talked to my mother then, I said thank you to her, for all she had been, for all she gave us, for being so generous during her life. I told her to fly away to all those cities she dreamed of visiting, to be free at last. Free of her crippled body, of her damned wheelchairs. I told her everything would be alright. I saw the tiniest movement in one of her eyelids.
My brother stood there next to the bed, and helped me wrap my mom’s arms around me, as if she was hugging me, because I needed one last motherly hug. I don’t know if 10 or 15 minutes passed, but I heard a nurse come in and my brother asked her if her heartbeat was slowing fading. I don’t remember her answering. She just adjusted the monitors and muted them, and quietly left the room.
My brother then told me “She is leaving now”. I panicked at the thought of not feeling her warmth any more. I stood up and kissed her feet, her hands, her head, as much as I could. My brother then laid next to her and sobbed and hugged her.
I kept holding her hands, being as close as I could to her. I felt her forehead getting colder, then her neck, then her hands and I felt as though the life in me was draining as well.
This was not supposed to be! She was already planning to come visit me in California in 2 weeks. We were going to spend Christmas with her in only 3 months. I had just ordered her some sandals online for her. This was all wrong.
But there she was, peacefully lying there, letting go of this life, letting go of her tired and sick body that for so many years kept her from being the free spirit and the adventurous soul she always was. I want to believe she had been waiting for me, just to give me the precious gift of some minutes with her, still warm, heart still beating and listening to my voice one last time. A gift of time, that’s what she gave me.
My brother left the room and gave me some more time with her. I kept trying to find warm spots on her body. I wrapped my hands around her back and found that it was still very warm.
I leaned in and hugged her, feeling her warm back, and cried softly, finding it impossible to let go.
The same lady that had led us in came again and took my shoulders. She pulled me back; as I refused, I begged for more time. She gently said, “You will never be ready, you need to let her go”. She hugged me tight and let me cry all over again.
Breaking the horrible news to my sister -who was desperate, flying back home from Europe- was extremely hard too. I refused to lie to her the dozen times she called or texted asking how she was, so I decided to tell her the truth. I have never heard her cry as that morning. It broke my heart to be the bearer of the bad news, but we are very, very close and I felt I was the one who should.
September 16, 2017 has been, as of today, the saddest day of my life. When my father died, it was hard yes, because it was sudden, totally unexpected, a heart attack. Just like that.
The painful part was getting used to the idea, processing the absence and accepting it. But there was no painful goodbye. No horrible hospital experience (for me anyway) with total strangers among you in your worst moments.
It has been a month now, and I am afraid of thinking too much of her. Of smelling her perfume -Boucheron-on someone else. Of looking at her pictures for too long, because it hurts.
In my head I have plans of dedicating one of the walls in our home to pictures of my Mom, my Dad, and my siblings, and yet, I can’t find myself ready to get started.
When I think of those days where I had to take anti-anxiety pills during the day and sleeping pills at night, I think of my close friends that have lost a husband or even worse, a child, and can’t even imagine how they do it.
“Time heals” they say- I sure hope it does.
Just some days before my trip to Portland, I had started to read a book that my mother gave me: Dying to be me, by Anita Moorjani. She never read it, but had given me and my sister a copy each.
The book is written by a woman who had a Near Death Experience. What she felt, what she saw, what she heard. How she decided to give life a second chance in her cancer-invaded body, turn it into a healthy one and share her experience with the world.
Even though I am not done reading it, the book has helped me tremendously; not only with the comforting concept of the peace, love and liberation that comes as you leave your body, but it has encouraged me to be in a good, stable and almost happy state of mind when I think of my mother, because I believe she can sense it, feel it, and I do not want her to see me in a state of depression or deep sadness.
Now that my mother is gone, I feel a sense of responsibility as a mother, to fight as hard as she did, to enjoy life every day as much as she did, regardless of any circumstance. Responsibility as a mother to pass on these values to my own children. To be humble and charitable, as she was. To focus on the Yes, instead of the No. To be strong and yet to cry when I need to. To mind my own business; to be careful when stating opinions or giving advice.
My Mom and Dad are together now, and I know it will give them peace to see us – my siblings and I- happy, very happy with our lives, our spouses, our children.
The gift of time is what we all have today, time to live, to appreciate, to give, to love, but specially to share it with others. Sharing our time is in a way sharing our life. In this hurried world and even more hurried lifestyles one would think time is is sometimes unattainable.
I know that even though their absence will always hurt, time will help me remember my parents with a smile on my face, with pride, with a lot of love.
Guera and Chofin, rest in peace forever.