Evenings at Grandma’s

Grandma’s house lovingly comes to mind now that the beginning of the spring/summer change is here.

The air is mild at sunset with a subtle breeze. The air and soon darkness of these evenings remind me of many memories I had at my Grandma Rosa’s house in Tucson, Arizona.

Family or friends who would visit, joined my Grandma who loved to sit in the front yard under her huge eucalyptus tree. Hours and hours of conversation over drinks of beer and laughter. I was too young to know what they were talking about since I would go off and play, because I knew this always meant I could be outside until possibly midnight.

Other times, Grandma would hose down her plants around the perimeter of her house, which wasn’t very big. The smell of wet dirt , even in my home backyard, reminds me of times with her during these desert nights. It’s a fragrance that stirs up home, safekeeping, peace.

I’m often thankful for memories that come with multiple senses. Now in my fifties, I choose to spend time in them, not letting them slip away so fast. Allows me to still feel the life of the moment and thank God for the remembrance.

A Thank You to my Aunts and Uncles

Recently, I’ve been thinking more on the lives of my aunts and uncles. I am blessed in that I share wonderful relationships with my remaining family. At this time, they are all in their late 70s or early 80s. Unfortunately, dealing with physical challenges, which for most of them did not have for the majority of their lives. And because of Covid, the ability to visit has not been possible. But our phone conversations have carried us along.

When recalling each of them, it takes me to times spent and how great those memories are because of how they were and are.

My sister and I were blessed with large families on both sides of our family.  My Mom came from a family of twelve.  My Dad came from a family of seven.  Both of my parents were raised in close knit families.  Family occasions were bountiful and there was always something to look forward to.

From a young age, my Mom always made sure I had a birthday party. There could never be a small party because our family wouldn’t allow that.  The size of your house didn’t matter either.  You gathered because you were family and that was the only concern.  Aunts and Uncles would always show up with their big families.  It was a given that everyone would attend.  It wasn’t a question because then life wasn’t so complicated with other schedules affecting decisions.

My Dad would take my Mom, sister, and I to California every Thanksgiving. Dad’s side of the family lived in different parts of the State allowing us to see many sites such as the beach, Disneyland, etc.  Those family trips opened up my awareness on how both sides of the family were equally important. It was always something I would look forward to.  To see my cousins who I would only get to have fun with at this time of year. The playful times running around, sweet treats, game playing, and laughing.  The sharing and the spoiling I would receive from my aunts and uncles topped off with a gift. 

As I speak to my aunts and uncles more so these days, I can’t help recall who they were in their younger age. Memories pop up. The vibrancy they all had. Being at this stage in their elderly lives, their bodies can no longer keep up with their minds. But even so, knowing their physical challenges, most don’t “sound” like they’re suffering. Their minds are as sharp as can be. Just how I’ve always known them. It always amazes me after each call.

Each of them inspired me with a personality trait that I think I’ve adapted into my own way of thinking. Ways about them that made me take notice and love them for being that person in my upbringing.  I have not always noticed that all these years, but playfully at times, my sister points out to me that I have them. Good or bad, I accept.

Majority of them were and still are quick witted. Some were highly educated. Some never worked. Some traveled the world. Some went through difficult marriages, some never married, or had kids. Some endured illness, some reaped financial success, and some lived in humble ways. Some were not always present when I was young, but have completely been present as an adult.

My Mom always stressed to me the importance of family, but regretfully as a young teen and young adult, I did not always feel this way. For a period of time, the celebrations in our family took a different direction that caused a stain in how I viewed the gatherings, specifically at the time my parents divorced. I was too immature to separate the love for them from their actions. This wasn’t the overall case, but some instances drew me to distance myself some. Thankfully, now in my marriage, importance of family developed by God’s design in numerous ways He gave us, has strengthened it in a way fitting now.

Now after losing both of my parents and observing their relationships with their siblings, I have a new profound respect and appreciation for my aunts and uncles.

Both of my parents loved their families greatly. They truly treasured each of them in their hearts and you could feel that in them in their final days.

In closing, I know I am fortunately blessed that I had aunts and uncles who I had strong relationships with. Their impact in how they were there for me in the troubled times throughout my life is something I now pass on and show to my nephews and niece. Dignity and honor, fortitude, unconditional love, are all seeds they showed that I want to carry on.

Thank you Tios for the treasured presence you brought to the family, memories, the legacy of your representation, I will always keep close in my heart and soul.

A Time for Love

These last weeks I’ve been going through my Mom’s things. Mom passed away on April 12th. My sister and I have been sifting through, deciding on who will possess her things, donate, etc. And even though we went a solid week doing this, individually we are still going through Mom’s items. Being that Mom lived with my husband and I, I keep coming across treasures that are adding more to her memory.

There is something about life as a family when you lose your parents that my sister and I are now just appreciating or maybe it’s a whole new appreciation. Not that we didn’t appreciate our parents before, but I guess with maturity comes different perspectives. In the shuffle of time as a child, speaking for myself, I did much comparing my parents to others. Looking at how my friend’s parents spent time with them, gave attention, cared for, etc. That was my gauge. I grew up with that mentality and captured it against my parents, blocking me from seeing them individually and who they were.

It had much to do with feeling abandoned, which led to insecurity. Frustrations that turned me into being angry with my parents. There was never conversation or intimate talks on what had happened or where things were going. It was living through each day only to be disappointed.

To be clear, it’s not that my parents did not provide for me or celebrate me with birthday parties or Christmas gifts, but the relationship between parent and child and the respect needed was absent. I didn’t feel valued and neither did they. They were facing their own demons that only became stronger obstacles as life went by. Seeing them crutched my soul and paralyzed my lens towards them. Mom never explained to me her life situation, what she was facing, what she was battling when she made the decision to divorce my Dad. I only viewed it as her making the mistake. All my teen years was a lash out for that decision and a heart that at times was bitter towards her. I don’t know why she never shared. Instead she just let me be. Her life too became a result of broken love.

I recently found documentation from my Mom’s annulment process. This has forever changed my view on my Mom to which I regret not knowing about her struggles or her point of view at the time of her decision to divorce my Dad. Life was very different back then. No one butt into others business. Mom pushed through decision out of fear on both sides. Dad was spiraling in his life of addiction and had no grip on reality.

I can only speak for myself, but I feel if I would’ve taken the time to know my Mom as “Barbara” and not just Mom, my relationship with her could have been richer. I say this not to beat myself up, but with an appreciation and awareness to share that with my nephews and niece so they can find that fortune.

Mom was a very reserved person. She wasn’t one to share her frustrations or make her issues your issues. There was much to her life before she was married and while she was married that I did not know. While she lived with me, I did spend time asking her questions on her life. Those conversations were informative, but still didn’t reveal what I recently found.

The point I’m getting here is how much more profound it is to me the phrase “everyone is on a journey”. Dad and Mom battled their family circumstances/upbringing in their marriage. They were equipped with the knowledge they had. It was difficult and inconsistent. Any hurt my sister and I received was the side effect. It wasn’t that they didn’t love us, but they struggled to make it our strength.

Looking back at their lives, I am even more grateful to know what they overcame from all their trials, sufferings, disappointments, battles, by the redemption from Our Lord Jesus Christ. They found Him!

For whatever was absent in my childhood, I received a hundred fold when they both gave their lives to Christ. That is why their presence is greatly missed. Because the love that Christ wanted them to pour out onto our family broke through when they gave their lives to Him. My family and I all received that token of grace. Their lives were not their own. We experienced their love in endless ways that will live in our souls forever.

A Time for Everything

There is a time for everything,
    and a season for every activity under the heavens:

    a time to be born and a time to die,
    a time to plant and a time to uproot,
    a time to kill and a time to heal,
    a time to tear down and a time to build,
    a time to weep and a time to laugh,
    a time to mourn and a time to dance,
    a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
    a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,
    a time to search and a time to give up,
    a time to keep and a time to throw away,
    a time to tear and a time to mend,
    a time to be silent and a time to speak,
    a time to love and a time to hate,
    a time for war and a time for peace.

Ache

Death can be cruel.

The mourning and grieving is the soft blade that strikes your soul out of nowhere in your day .

Given reality that reminds you of heartache and shame.

Heartache that doesn’t go away.

Heartache that everyday feels like a big empty void caught up in the air which is relieved by inhaling peace.

Peace that comes after the graces and then you do it again next day.

Shame often likes to appear.

From the many thoughts of things you wished you would’ve said while she was still here.

So much pent up appreciation with no air to go.

No other chance to say what you really wanted to say.

Death can be cruel.

Because all what you realize after never gets to be.

You at times feel incomplete.

But you know you can’t keep there but to run to the Father who will help.

That this cruel thing He can only transform into love for someone else.

 

Mama’s Day

Mom passed away on April 12th.  I feel like my whole being is frozen. Living, moving, but frozen. I feel a sense of me is no longer. 

It was not that we did not know she was not well.  It was not because there were lack of signs making it evident that her end was near.

But the speed in which it came is something I am still coping with.

I’ve often written about my childhood and my parents’ selfishness in my upbringing. How the effects of their decisions impacted my sinful choices.

I have also written about the dynamics of how taking care of my mom in her elderly years, reverse roles, was designed by God’s providence to teach us both area of our lives that needed healing.

But there was a lesson given right after Mom died that I had no idea would exist.  I’m pushing through and learning from it.

It is something I feel as though I need to make known to other daughters who care for their mom or don’t even know they too will be put into a situation to care for them.  Sometimes the pace of caregiving can make you lose sight of many things. If I knew those last months, days were my mom’s last, I would have changed how I did things. Some families are blessed where they know their loved one is at the end of their life. Much of my mom’s end felt quick and out of control. I know I can’t beat myself up, but wish I had paid less attention to the tasks and more of the sacred time with her.

My mom’s decline started to happen in December 2020. Out of nowhere she started to experience extreme pain in her upper arms. Thanks to God, mom never had debilitating pain ever in her life. This was new to her which caused her to stay in bed. And with Covid still lingering above our heads, a heavier cross was given to her overall mental health. Since she was already working at being patient in what her frail mind allowed her. Through January we were seeking answers to her pain. Then her blood pressure became an issue and even though her liver issue had seemed to be normal, at the start of March evident physical signs emerged.

I have always done good by mom when it came to her care. If I saw something, I would contact her doctor or research for a home remedy. When I noticed her repeating things, I had her see her neurologist. He said it was Alzheimer’s, but I felt there was something more to it. In the days after, her physical ability started to change. Sleeping more, eating less. I could not get her in with her hepatologist because he was booked, he instructed I take her to his hospital ER to evaluate her. That sequence of events turned out to be her final days.

During the last six months, I was so caught up in the tasks, I would lose the preciousness of the moments.  But there were times we discussed our faith and readiness for death. How on one afternoon I pushed myself to have the discussion with mom on what to pray for in those conversations with Our Lord. Her convicted response was she does pray for a “happy death” and how she prays “for God’s mercy on her sins”. Other times, we talked about memories of her childhood, her love for her grandchildren, and her two marriages.

But there is something more that I am reconciling with Our Lord about “time” at the end of my mom’s life despite all these conversations. Something I feel was missed. And this is what I feel I must make known in some cautionary way.

So often in our relationships with our mom’s we don’t take hold of the sacred time. We don’t ever think of life without her. I have known many women including my mom who lost their mother at a young age. I have seen their tears.  I have counseled and expressed my prayers to them. But there is something I missed or did not understand from them in their mourning. No fault of their own.  Not easy to express what it feels like to lose your mother.  Even now, me trying to put into words how much life drastically changes when your mom’s life is taken, isn’t fully explaining it.

This “feeling” of your mother’s soul not existing on earth is like a deep hole in your heart that extends to the clouds. It’s a hard, anxious exhale. A deep wound looking to be comforted from the one who no longer physically can. It is not like any other deceased loved one in your life. I can’t say I have experienced losing my husband or sister.  But I have lost my father, family, and friend.

Your mother brought you in the world. God’s great gifts are bestowed in a Mother. The fruits of the spirit are the definition of a mother – charity, generosity, joy, gentleness, peace, faithfulness, patience, kindness, self-control, goodness…

In God’s great design, all that I felt I didn’t have in my Mom in my adolescence, she took on His will to allow her to live these great fruits in her later life once she became a grandmother.  Her focus, time, and attention were elevated in what she always had possessed, but didn’t let shine until God helped her recognize.

There are moments I think, did mom know how much I appreciated her? Did she know how much I loved her as she loved me? Did I communicate to her these same fruits she showed me?  All these thoughts are normal in the grieving process.  To question but not stay asking.

When you’re living your life you don’t often think of the moment. We can get caught up in the family gatherings, holidays, etc., but not necessarily pay attention to the person.

I can say my family and I had many great memories.  Mom lived for 78 years.  Birthday celebrations, mother’s days, trips to California.  Shopping sprees at Walmart, her favorite place. Driving down to Tucson, visiting family. Learning her recipes – creole chicken, salsas, chile con carne. Her teaching the grandchildren how to play poker where she learned from Camp Pendleton marines in the early 1960s.  We also had many conversations on her life.  Her childhood. Father dying at age two.  Mother dying at age 38. Never having a father figure. No male ever to show her how she should be valued. Her marriage to my Dad. How much she loved him and the shatter of her dreams when he chose addiction over their marriage. Later, how strong a blessing it was to her that in dad’s recovery, he asked her for forgiveness. Her seeking to find value and love after but never finding it. I value every time we spoke and thank God for all those random discussions that helped me to see her.

I often say to family and friends that God had us come together under the same roof again for healing. Even though mom’s move in with my husband and I was due to her health.  For almost seven years, we learned things about each other.  I learned there was still pent-up anger towards her for not giving me the attention I needed as a child. There were often challenges with that in that moments would hit me where I’m splitting time of my married life to care for her. How I would often have to decline invites because I was caring for my mom. Canceling trips, events, etc. because I couldn’t leave my mom alone. Battling with these reminders on how easily I sacrificed, at times, crippled me because I would remember how mom would set herself first.

Then God did what He could only do.  He flourished in her soul so that I, my sister, family, those in her life, could feel her love in the way He always meant it to be.

For all those daughters who have similar experiences, for the daughters who maybe too busy to see the preciousness of time, to the daughters who are getting fatigued with the care of their mother, for the daughter who thinks there is all this time ahead, for the daughter who doesn’t take the time to forgive – please stop and turn your heart.  The moment Our Lord takes your Mom – nothing – will ever matter so much more than to just have another moment with her.

 I’m living with thankfulness that out does any other experience I may ever have.  I will miss hugging her and kissing her every night. I will miss her sitting at her desk.  I will miss seeing her in my passenger’s seat driving around. I will miss arguing with her about going to the casino. Her telling me my dinners were “so good”.  Overhearing her conversations to my aunts on what my day consisted of instead of her own.  I will miss her asking me “what do you think” when she’s trying to decide to buy something.

Last, I came to realization that in all my time of seeking the Lord, reading countless books, attending church events, mass attendance, confession, podcasts, bible study that there is something strongly missed that could not be gained until your Mother passes away. The mother was designed to give life. Children born is to glorify God and to fulfill His will. The mother in her fiat to do God’s will passes onto the child in continuing to glorify God. Not all mothers know what their role truly is in those initial moments or years. It is faith and belief in Jesus that turns the cycle of life in what it is meant to be. No matter what time in life that becomes known. The love that pours out of the Son to the mother is the greatest source of living. Everything comes to be in right order. The understanding of heaven is ever more real to me now. Because how great the void of your mother’s love to just cease makes no sense. It’s as if to say, that’s it. You had it, now it’ s gone. You’ll never find that again. You’ll never know it again. But that’s not the case. We know a greater love and that is Jesus. That ounce of love that is your Mother’s love is a drop in the ocean compared to Jesus’ love for us. Knowing His promise, communion of saints, the chance to see our loved ones again…sustains me. Ever more real. Ever more grateful.

This way of life now with my husband at my side has forever changed. It’s awkward, strange, doesn’t seem real. But everyday, I ask God to have mercy on my wretchedness. To help me move forward with His plans. And with what I have learned may be shared and be a heart opening in their relationship with their mother so that God’s peace may be full.

I’ll never get another moment with Mom, but I know she knows how much I love her and need her prayers to grow and be ready too when it’s my time to go Home.

Happy Mother’s Day Mama! I love you.

COVID19

This post has been transpiring since March 3rd, but only now I sit and write.

The world has been struck a virus.  A deadly virus that was born in China and spread rapidly throughout the world (even though that’s under investigation of its origin). Each country receiving devastating results.  Hospitals past capacity, treating patients in tents outside as well. In the United States, it hit the State of Washington first.  Initially, this virus, called COVID19 (Corona virus), was informed as attacking the elderly and those who are immune suppressed.  As the world was showing, as days passed, the information started changing by the minute.  It now is known as attacking anyone.  No clear rule or definition. People surviving on ventilators.  Becoming very sick, near death without any underlying health issues. At this point, after almost 3 months, the world seems to be calming down from this virus.

Because of the rapid spread, the world was on quarantine, which happen to begin when Lent was still in effect.  Quarantine, by the way, is a Latin word meaning forty days of isolation.  Countries began to follow suit and forbid people to go out, only if medical attention or to buy food. The phrase “shelter in place” or “stay home” commonly used so that people understood staying home meant less spread of the virus.  This only drew up fear in some that the shopping frenzies began. People stormed to the grocery stores, big box stores, and bought out all the toilet paper, hand sanitizer, etc.  For weeks, people would crowd and stockpile items that didn’t have to be taken since the quarantine never meant you couldn’t go out to buy things when needed.

During the initial weeks, my husband and I were home, while Mom whom we care for, was with my sister.

The daily news fed stories on hospital workers, grocery workers, Amazon (on-line store) workers, “essential workers”, that were working around the clock trying to keep up with the demand. Everyday around three o’clock, the President would give a press conference with some medical professionals and scientists on what is being monitored, done to help, and future impact.

My husband who works for healthcare, was non stop busy from March 3 for a month.  There would be days that he didn’t leave the face of his computer. He was working around the clock along with his staff and the entire hospital.  All that they were working on came to a screeching halt because the focus turned to COVID19 and how the hospitals were responding. Extra facilities were being opened up to house the not so critical patients so that the hospital could deal with the high number of COVID19 patients.  Weeks of intense issues popping up everyday.  There was a moment in the late evening, husband still on a conference call, where I heard him say “hold on, my head is spinning.”  I felt helpless.

All I did while my husband worked away was prepare him meals and pray.  I prayed and prayed.  Along with all my family and friends. The world.  Out of our control.  And from my experiences due to my health, that was somewhat normal.

Then, we received news that we could no longer attend Church.  That due to the virus spread, we couldn’t by law be in a congregation setting.  Rules starting to dictate no more than 10 can be together. Keep six feet apart.  Wear a mask.  The virus was airborne and so everything that brought people together, could no longer. Sports, concerts, movie theaters, etc.

Initially, Ruben did all the shopping.  Due to my immune and not having a supply of masks, he would go and buy us what we need.  We bought food that we felt could last us some weeks.  Good in that, we don’t normally eat much on our own.

In the beginning of the quarantine, it felt like okay, this is what we have to do.  We’ll handle it!  So did our neighborhood and community.  We all felt like we will be at peace and have patience.  Tons of neighbors walking about.  For the most part, people were working from home too so you would see them out all hours of the day.

Then more orders from the government came.  Adding more weeks to the quarantine because states like New York and California were hitting devastating numbers of patients and deaths.

In the midst of monitoring the United States and the our impact, I was also seeing China and Italy.  They too had devastating cases, but then you saw that the virus had touched the whole world except for Antarctica.  India was and is still being hit harshly and it appears their government is only making it worse.

The month of March happened in a second.

April started to feel less strained and with holy week approaching, it felt like no other holy week. Again, none could attend Church and out of all weeks of the year, this is the week most attend. Not even explaining the loss of the Eucharist and how odd on so many levels it was, still is, not to receive.

Pope Francis called for prayer many times throughout.  The impact of his prayer and focus for all to watch on TV or live stream, I know for me, meant so much. There was a moment during a special prayer, where he upheld the monstrance outside of St Peter’s in a way that through the TV, struck my soul.  Tears abound.

Throughout April until now, our family dealt with trials in the midst of the pandemic.  Thanks to God not due to financial needs, but physical and mental health.  I felt like the need and call for prayer has intensified each week.  I’m sure we are not the only ones feeling this.

Easter brought hope!  Renewed faith.  The extra weeks of quarantine were coming to an end.  Stores were now showing a normal supply of stock.  Some exhale was beginning.

May 15th,  the date the State of Arizona ended quarantine. Restaurants, salons, shopping centers, all were allowed to open up but only with strict rules.  Wear a mask at some and others, your choice.  Stay 6 feet apart. Only so many allowed in a store at a time. Enter in one way, exit another. But hey, it’s better than nothing.

Then there became talk about wearing a mask.  Mask shows weakness.  Liberal agenda insisting on wearing a mask.  The most hilarious conversation on the use of a mask.  Yes, I wear my mask.  I still do. Did before and do now. Lupus will teach you that!

Three weeks out now, but now our world is addressing another virus. On May 26th, a police officer made a decision that has affected our focus once again. Look up George Floyd.  I will use another blog to address this event because it has caused me to unpack so many thoughts and feelings.

Don’t know if we will ever get back to normalcy. These last weeks all feel like one month.  My husband and I haven’t visited our families.  We miss them.  We miss doing ordinary things, but know we have a purpose and call to prayer to get us through. All that is happening is requiring us not to just think of ourselves, our country, but the world.  How much we are in need of each other.   It doesn’t end.  The reminders in various ways.  And throughout it all, the deep rooted biblical messages.  That too, I would like to dive into in another blog.

The chant in the beginning of the pandemic, “We’re all in this together!” I hope so.

 

Instrument of Your Hands

Lord, make me an instrument of your hands to care for my mother in her now final season of life.

When she’s impatient, help me to be patient.

When she’s anxious, help me to be peace.

When she worries, help me to show faithfulness.

When she is angry, help me with self-control and gentleness.

Lord, help me to not be overcome by the weight of this journey you have us on.

For through it, it is not only to tend to her needs, but lessons in selflessness and trusting your will where I am to learn.

Thank you for the graces you give us each day and the tender love you allow us to have knowing one day, it will always be with me to carry on.

Leticia Ochoa Adams

Just trying to figure out this thing called life

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