The day the Surgeon informed us that the mass causing the blockage was indeed attached to the Pancreas, and that it was advanced stage Cancer, I decided to set up a group on Facebook to keep family and friends informed rather than having to speak individually with everyone. My parents were so loved, my dad had been on the phone most of the time up to that point updating the concerned friends. I asked my mom for permission to post photos and details because I wanted to respect her privacy. Her response stunned me a little. She said, “Post everything.” She didn’t care about her privacy. She said she had nothing to hide. She wanted her life to be a testimony even in her darkest hour. She was willing to show people what it meant to do “real life” while trusting in God. She didn't shy away from letting people see her condition. Her courage was both inspiring and empowering.
One day at the hospital I mentioned I was going to take a break from singing on stage so that I could free myself to be available to her. Immediately, she scolded me. “You can’t stop singing! You have to show people that we are a family that can’t be stopped. People need to see you up there praising the Lord in the middle of the hard times, not just when things are good.” Everything concerning her journey was about others. She didn’t think about herself nor indulge in her pain or wallow in self-pity. She boldly accepted her place and used it to be a light. She wanted to encourage people to run their race well no matter what came. To her, her life was about something much bigger than herself. It didn’t matter if she lived or died as long as she brought glory to God in whatever she did.
My mom’s final days are living proof that a grateful heart is a happy heart. In her death, she proved that to die with dignity, all you need is a grateful heart. She was pale, emaciated, weak, and in horrific pain, yet she never uttered a mean word. While she could speak well, she made jokes non-stop. Hospital staff escaped to her room when they needed a break because she was so peaceful. She was concerned about the nurses who served her for over a month at the hospital and made sure I brought them treats and a card after she was discharged. When she became too weak to speak for long, she mustered up the strength to utter a few phrases of gratitude. No matter what I was doing for her, whether I was adjusting her pillows, rubbing lotion on her legs, bathing her, getting her dressed, bringing her medicine, etc., she always whispered a raspy, “Thank you. Thank you SOOOOO much.”
Even after the worst was confirmed, Mami was full of joy. She continued to make the staff laugh with her occurrences and even preached to anyone who came in her room. One night a nurse told me, “Your mom is not like the others. Most people in her situation are bitter, miserable, and depressed.” That was my Mami. She hated when people whispered quietly or spoke softly around her. She wanted everyone around her to be full of life, even if hers was running out. She didn't want her pain to bring everyone down; she wanted everyone's life and joy to lift her up.
While she was healthy, my mom used to occasionally send random group texts to our family with encouraging quotes, verses, or personal notes. During her final weeks, she mentioned that she missed doing it so I offered to type up a message for her and send it out. This is what she said before she was too tired to continue and asked me to forget about it:
“I’m sorry I haven’t written or communicated anything for a while, but I have felt really bad and I know you’re praying for me. Quisiera que nos unieramos. (I would like for us to unite.) Because when we unite, mas recibimos del Senor. (we receive more from the Lord.) Yo los quiero much mucho mucho mucho. (I love you a lot a lot a lot a lot.) You’ve always been of great help to me.” – Mami 3/15/14 6:03PM
Starting on the Saturday before she died, my mom began to say the same greeting each night before I left. After telling me what a great mom she thought I was and what a wonderful job I was doing with the kids, she would say, “I love you SO much, Hijita. Thank you for everything. Take care of your dad.” Those were her last words to me every night for the last week of her life.
On her deathbed, Mami still wanted to honor her mother. She planned my grandma’s visit early on because as a nurse, she knew she was going to get weak and she didn’t want my grandmother to suffer seeing her that way. She actually died the night before my grandmother insisted on coming for a second visit.
The night Mami died, my family had been at her house most of the afternoon. My oldest sister was there too. I spent the afternoon cleaning the grout in the kitchen tile while the kids and my sister played near her. Then my husband came, picked up the kids and took them home and I stayed behind to sit with Mami before heading out myself. When I sat with her she asked me, “Did Zia see me today?” I told her Zia had been there and had danced her ballet recital piece for her and that Joa had performed for her as well. I still had Miles with me and my other sister had just arrived with her daughter. Mami went down the list and seemed relieved to know she had seen everyone. She was trying to say something to me but I couldn’t understand her so I prayed with her, “God, I don’t understand, but you know all of her needs, you are her avenger. You will fight for her and make all things right.” That is the last thing I did with my mom before I left that night. As I arrived at my neighborhood, I got the call that she was being revived by the paramedics and I needed to come meet them at the hospital. The fact that she asked me about Zia is something that left an impression. She was dying, but she was thinking about my babies.
Thank you for reading about my beautiful Mami. It means so much to me that you would indulge me by remembering such an amazing woman. I certainly will never forget her.