In Memory of my Mother- The Gift of Time.

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Commute in Silence…where are you?

The ten days that followed my father’s passing were hard. Christmas was approaching, an emotional time of year for many. A Holiday I had planned to spend with him and my Mom. During the day there were many things to take care of: banking, legal matters, contracts; while those things helped me be distracted and busy they also served as a dam to hold in all  my feelings that were strong and fresh and building up, so the nights became even harder.

Once I was out of my Mom’s sight, I let go. The anger and the pain. Because of our crazy sleeping arrangements those days at my parents’ house in Mexico , the only one at night with me was my daughter. The same one that was next to me when I heard the news that my father had passed; she was the same one to hold me at night, and say “It is OK Mom, we will get through this together”. Only 10 years old and yet she was the little person that comforted me as much as my husband did those days. Children can be amazingly sensitive to our needs sometimes.

Having my mother here, back home with us  for two weeks after the holidays, helped us both have each other for company, for comfort, for support, as a crying shoulder. Even though she was very much in control of her emotions and surprisingly calm, she broke down crying when someone close sent her a message, an email, or would pay respects.

Me? I worked hard to be busy, to be distracted, to be watching TV or listening to the radio.  January is the busiest time of year for me at work. Being part of an Accounting department, I knew what was coming, and I welcomed the work almost thankfully.

My commute to work is an 80 – 90 minute drive,  twice a week. This is the time when I either make calls with leisure, listen to relaxing music, mostly classical or listen to the news.

It is during this commute that I always called my Dad, once or twice a week and we would chat for a good 45 minutes. He would tell me which movies and series him and my mom were into, he complained about the weather, about his arthritis and  his aching back. He would ask many questions about my children, about our new home, about work. He always wanted to know -and make sure-  that everything was ok.

We laughed a lot during those calls, making jokes about most anything. At times he would be a bit sad, lonely I could tell, on the verge of a depression. He missed his children, and the joys of having a full house, with kids or grand kids, but him and my mom had nothing ; the three of us left our hometown years ago.  Rarely he cried and vented, but sometimes he did and it broke my heart not to be able to help, to be there, to give him the love and company he yearned for.

As of today, my commute is silent. Loud, fast music annoys me. News overwhelm me, I can’t play classical music – yet. It makes me cry still.

Every now and then I will call a close friend and say hello. Now I am the one that feels lonely during those 90 minutes.

It is down time; time to reflect, to relax, to collect one’s thoughts and put them in some logical order. Yet, it is also time to accept, to process, to remember.

I find myself talking to him in my mind, asking…are you there? Can you hear me? Can you see I miss you so?

Maybe silence is what I need, to take further steps towards  the road of healing.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Breakfast with my Dad

On December 14th 2016 I woke up at 6 30 am,  looked outside my bedroom window and saw one of the most spectacular morning skies I have ever seen. My daughter had just walked into my room and we were both mesmerized; we  went to fetch our cell phones to capture a little bit of what the lens could get. The sky was peach and pink, and there was still a big  full moon floating  above the hills.

I took a photo that did not do justice to what my eyes saw, but it was good enough to remember it. We both stood there, looking as the earth slowly moved making the moon disappear behind the hills.

12/14/16
Sunrise on December 14th 2016

 

Little did I know that at that same moment, my father’s heart was failing, and he was being rushed to the  hospital.  I went about my usual school day routine: breakfast, preparing lunches, getting dressed to take the kids down to school.

An hour later I found out that my Dad was struggling for his life in the hospital and my mind started going 100 Miles per hour. Should I fly out that same day? Or was it just a scare? Would he be OK? I had just spoken with him 2 days before and heard his many voice recordings on Whatssapp telling me he was so excited that I was going down to Mexico to spend Christmas.

This couldn’t be…

Fourty-five minutes later, while I sat with my daughter in the car waiting for her school to open its gates, I got the call from my brother. My Dad had passed. I reacted with screams, loud, hysterical, pained, I could not breathe , I started sweating and shaking. And then sobbing came, endless, out of breath, and it hurt. My chest hurt so much I felt I could collapse. My brother stayed silent, and waited for me to collect myself. It look me several minutes to realize that my daughter had been sitting there, on the passenger seat the whole time. I turned to see her, my face a mess; she sat there looking tiny, not her 10 years old and her regal 5 feet, but a little tiny girl that was terrified, not quite understanding what just happened, since my conversation had taken place in Spanish.

After ending my call I turned to her and told her “He just died”.  Soft sobbing came, I hugged her and we held each other for a while.

This is how December 14th started for me, the day of my sister’s birthday, which will now be marked with the end of my  father’s life but also with the joy of always remembering him as a loving, hard working, admirable and hilarious father.

Because both my Mom and Dad have had several health problems, more so lately, I have  -reluctantly- given some thought to visualizing the day they are not with me any longer.  When would the last day be?  When will the last good bye?  Will they go gently or will they suffer?  Could I stand the tremendous pain of the loss? As tears always filled my eyes when reflecting upon death, I put those thoughts away and decided to move on and enjoy them while I had them both. Email, calls, messages and as many trips as I could afford to see them. To share my family stories, my worries, my joys. To say “thank you”, I miss you”, ” I love  you”- over and over, because one can never get tired of these words.

That morning I stood in my closet with an empty suitcase, refusing to proceed pulling out my black pants and blouses. I wanted to scream, to curl up in a ball and disappear, to make it be yesterday so I could call him and say I LOVE  YOU DAD.

A couple of hours later I was on a plane feeling numb, empty and full of sorrow. I wrote then, the letter that would be my fathers eulogy. He loved my writing so the least I could do was honor him in the presence of his family and closest friends with a letter that would attempt to describe one of the most wonderful man I will ever know.

Thoughts in Motion…and then words poured relentlessly; my fingers typed with care and tenderness. Warm tears came , non stop. I was grateful not to have any passengers on either side.  Halfway between Dallas, Texas and Monterrey I finished my letter. I remember looking out the window, to the skies, the clouds, the immense space and wondering…where are you Daddy?

The next morning my father’s body would be ready for viewing. I needed to see him, to say good bye. Both my sister and I drove to the funeral home together.  I saw his face and felt out of breath again, my Dad, whom I had just spoken to a couple of days earlier to gossip and chat about anything, was in the casket, handsome as ever, wearing his one black suit and a bright yellow tie. Perfectly groomed, with a peace in his expression I do not recall ever seeing. Sobbing took over me again, I wanted to  hug him, to feel his soft hands, to talk to him. The glass that covered him was soon wet. I wanted to break it and reach in to be in my fathers arms again. But he was gone. I talked to him, kneeling by his side. Thanking him for being such a loving father, for giving me so much, and assuring him I looked my best for this day, clean shoes and all, as he taught me as a little girl.

My sister and I shared this very intimate moment that will forever be sealed in my heart. We cried together and held each other. Soon  dozens of people would arrive and this moment would end. The thought was sickening.

My husband and children joined me the day after. We had a small intimate ceremony at home in which we spread some of  his ashes in one of his gardens and I was very happy to have them by my side those days.

My Dad had been growing and caring for some fruit trees in the back yard for years now.  He often bragged about all they fruit he got every year from them. He really enjoyed this as a hobby and often sent pictures of him sitting or standing by his trees.

After the ashes were spread , we had a party, -as he had requested in written form in a document we found from 2008- His family came from Chihuahua to the services, so we invited them all to our house to celebrate my Dad’s life, to share stories, mostly funny ones and moving ones. We played his favorite music (Zarzuelas and Spanish Opera).  I barely remember any of it, I feel like I wasn’t really there. It was over before I knew it.  Then everyone said good bye, they have lives to go back to, families, jobs…and the house felt empty again. My Dad’s absence became a presence.

The next morning I woke very early. The house felt very still, quiet, and everyone was still sleeping. I made myself a cup of coffee, black. I went outside in my pajamas  still, and sat in one of the tables we rented for the party.

The wind was blowing very gently; all the leaves in his fruit trees were moving softly. I looked at all of them, and felt so calm. As my brain started waking up and awareness of the events registered, a sudden pain  in my chest came with a deep sadness and realization. He was gone. And I missed him- a lot. I stood up and walked over to a tree that had some tangerine oranges begging to be picked. I took one, peeled it and took it back to the table. I ate it all, enjoying the sweet and tangy flavor, as he would. “You did good Daddy”- I thought.

I finished my coffee and sat there crying freely, no one to stare at me, to try to make my stop crying. It was me and my Dad there and then. Me and his trees. Me and his messy garden. I felt him there with me , at our last breakfast together.

I love you Daddy, always will. Rest in Peace.

Last photo of my Dad 12/7/2016
Last photo of my Dad 12/7/2016