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.

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.

On Mom’s time

My Mom has a rare condition where she has a naturally grown shunt in her liver. The doctor said she was born with it. But over time and at her senior age, her body is beginning to work against it. This means her ammonia levels are always high. Now after, four years of pretty much the same treatment, the medicine (at times) is not enough.

This year, my sister and I, see her struggling more. There is a fine line on whether her behavior is all due to the ammonia or could be mental issues like a decline in her cognitive skills.

On a recent trip, my mom, sister, and I shared, she showed signs that concerned us. Signs that we were thinking could be dementia. Thanks to God on our return from trip, Mom had an appointment lined up with her neurologist. At this time, after an MRI, it has been ruled out.

Now that we know her condition is all due to the ammonia, we’ve been told to keep an eye on her different than before. When she hits those high levels, she’s unaware it’s happening. Life has changed once again. My sister and I no longer feel comfortable in leaving her alone. We also know the control we somewhat had in our day with her has taken another twist. Days, like I’m about to describe, made time stop.

First let me rewind a bit and describe our typical day. We would do some routine errands like going to Walmart. What typically would take 30 minutes would run into an hour or so. Trying to get her to do what she needed quicker time was my aim. I would lose my patience since it would take a while for her to decide what she was looking for or her physical movement would slow her. It wasn’t that I didn’t care about helping her do what she wanted or needed to do, it’s just that I wasn’t seeing the bigger picture.

Now turning to this more recent outing, we had already been in the store for some time. Her focus was off as she would drift in thought of why she was there. We were coming down a main aisle and approached a display of artificial flowers. These were no where on her list, but she wanted to suddenly get some for her room. As I see her reaching to grab some, it just hit me. The distance from me to her changed. I felt a pull in my heart. The conviction came in strong. That I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else. That these flowers were the only thing that mattered. And my whole vision by the grace of God showed me its importance.

I don’t care anymore. I don’t care how long it takes to do routine things with my mom. I don’t care that she asks me the same questions every time we go there or anywhere. “Should I buy this?” “Should I take my sweater?” “Do you think it’s cold in there?” “Have you checked the mail?”

I’m grateful too my sister and I are honest with her with this all. Explaining what the doctor found and what we’re seeing in her. She acknowledged she’s glad too even though we know she may not fully comprehend what it means.

My prayer now to Our Lord is that He will grace her with better health and that her condition does not get worse. That my family and I can be attentive to make her live the rest of her life with comfort and peace. And if my life, my sister’s life, family’s life is just to respond to her – that we push ours aside for her well being, then we do. I know we just want her to be cared for and safe.

I thank my husband and thank God a million times more because He knew how much I would need Ruben. Not just for the sake of my soul, but for this time in my life. My mom too.

Amen, amen, I say to you, when you were younger, you used to dress yourself and go where you wanted; but when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go.” – John 21:18

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Help us Lord! Help us draw nearer to you. +++

Leticia Ochoa Adams

Just trying to figure out this thing called life

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