Tomorrow is Mother’s Day. It is the one day a year that the most phone calls are made. If you rarely speak to your mother because you are too busy or you just don’t have a very close relationship, tomorrow is the one day you will definitely call. If you can. I can’t. My mother died four years ago. It was the worst day of my life, even worse than the day my father died, eighteen years ago, today.
My mother (Mami) was an amazing woman. She was strong-willed, caring, and loved us, her daughters, and grandchildren. When I was growing up she was not a “hugs and kisses” mom. She did not have an affectionate mother, so I believe it rubbed off on her. Later, as she was getting older and we had children, she became affectionate. I suppose the babies brought that out in her. She hugged me and held my hand, and I loved it! I asked her one day why she was not like that when I was younger, and she said because she did not know any better and it was one of her biggest regrets. I believed her. I could see it in her eyes that she wished I was a little girl again so that she could be a different kind of mom. Although as a teenager, I often told her I wished she were a different kind of mom, less strict, more affectionate, less Dominican, and more American. I am glad she was not different.
A large part of me is who I am, because of how Mami was with me. I learned to be more affectionate with my sons because I know it is what they needed and what I craved. I wanted to love them and know they were loved all the time, even when they were naughty. I tell them now, I will love them no matter what they say or do. I love them completely. They made me a mother. They gave me the greatest joy the day I gave birth to them and heard their cries for the first time. I was a mom! What an amazing gift!
Motherhood may be challenging at times and stressful, knowing you are responsible for the lives of little people and how they will turn out as big people. Will they be good and kind adults? Will they be patient, dedicated, affectionate parents? Mothers carry a lot of worry and guilt about what they do or didn’t do right for their children. Personally, I question my decisions and how they affect my sons every day. It is my job to make sure they turn into good men, like their father and my father. Thanks to my mother, I know that they will be good men. She taught me everything I know. She taught me loyalty, faith, humility, kindness, and strength.
I was holding her hand when she died. It was almost a role reversal, as I (and my younger sister) were there for her as she had always been for us… when we were sick, when we were scared, or when we needed guidance. I watched her exhale for the last time and leave us. But she has not truly left us, she remains in our hearts, in our thoughts, in our memories, and most importantly, in the mothering of our own children.
Beauty is inspiring. When I lived in Oklahoma, I looked forward to the crocus flowers poking up out of the frosty ground, saluting the coming of spring. It was something to look forward to when I was down on my knees doing something many people love, that I hate.. having my hands in the dirt, planting bulbs, and pulling weeds. I am not a gardener! But I knew that I would relish in my work many months later when those flowers bloomed. It always amazed me that something so beautiful could pop-out of an ugly bulb, or that a thorny bush could produce such precious, delicate petals as those of a rose.
Several weeks ago, my husband was working on the landscaping of a house he is flipping, and there were these long, dried sticks popping out of the ground, and I said, “just yank that ugly thing!’ Leo looked at it and then at me and said, “I think these things produce flowers. I’m gonna leave if for now.” Well, he was right. You can see the “stick” produced.
If you look around, if you are patient, you will see beauty all around you. I, personally, experience beauty every single day. Today, it was in the form of a conversation I had with our oldest son, Jake. It was a philosophical conversation about a subject that he has been struggling with and he has been consuming all the literature he can on the issue. We talked for two hours. I was really busy and wanting to get back to the article I was writing, but it hit me… “My son is twenty and he wants to spend time talking to his mom, and he is so handsome,” and I smiled at him. He kept talking and I wanted to pick him up and spin him in a circle like I did when he was a baby. I love him so much I almost had to restrain myself. But I told him that I love him and that I am happy because I have him to love. I have so many people I love. I am so blessed.
Beauty can fade. Petals fall. Plants go dormant, but love— love gives me wings, feeds my soul, gives me true purpose. What would life be without love? I am inspired by love.
Not to sound cliché, but out of bad things, good things are born. In my case, the worst thing to ever happen to me was the death of mi madre- my beautiful mother. When she passed away, I thought I would die too. My grief was so profound that I could not look in a mirror without seeing her in my dark eyes. I picked up the phone to call her, constantly! But I could not call her. She was gone and I was lost. I was orphaned. I was an adult but I felt like I had been abandoned and nothing, absolutely nothing could soothe the aching and longing in my soul.
Then something happened. I heard her voice in my head. "Muchacha! No, té dejes apagar!" I got up off the sofa, grabbed my laptop, and started to write. I first wrote her a letter. I was so broken, so lonely, so consumed by loss, that I was angry at her. The next day I began to write my memoir. I wrote the dedication first because I knew what I was going to write and to whom... Mami y Papi. So, my lifelong dream of writing and publishing a book happened almost overnight. Three books later, I released the second edition of that memoir. Only this time, I hired an editor! My mother died and my dream of being a published author became true.
No. It did not come true. I cried as I wrote. As I unraveled, I began to deal with my grief and the result was a beautiful homage to my parents. The bravest souls I will have ever known... Rolando y Francia Paz.
Use life, the good and the bad, as a springboard to make something beautiful, to help someone else, and to live on as best you can.