“When someone we love becomes a memory, the memory becomes a treasure”
Dedicated to Zenaida Figueroa Carricarte, my Mama, on the 9th anniversary of laying her to rest 10-6-2008
As the last leg of Mama’s journey began on her 84th birthday on June 5, 2008, I asked God, Guardian Angels, Powerful and Divine Beings for the following: that Mama go peacefully; for me to be there by her side; for lots of PATIENCE, compassion and under standing. I will forever be grateful for God’s grace and the way the Universal and Divine Plan unfolded.
I remember it was around mid-morning, and I decided to take a half day from work, bring a birthday party to her, and go to to the hospital to see Mama. After all, I just knew this was Mama’s last birthday on earth. Work was just not that important once I put things in perspective. Upon leaving work, I went to the store and got party hats, balloons, snacks, party decorations and headed over to the Argentinian bakery for the decadent cake they are known for making. When I got to the hospital, I really thought that we were going to lose her that day and was thankful for having the presence of mind to put Mama before work. You see, at another time in my life, work came first, second and third! That was quite a day with a bunch of her admirers coming to see her, staff from the nursing home popping in, and doctors, nurses and aides she had gotten to know at the hospital over the years dropped by as well. I just kept taking pictures. I took pictures of everything and everyone! She was discharged back to the nursing home a few days later, and the party continued there. I decided not to go away for the month of July as I was accustomed to doing and just spend it with her….a stay-cation of sorts. I kept taking pictures….of everyone and everything!
I will be forever grateful for the honor of being able to play “Mother” and do things with her that kept me fully present in the beauty of the moment and the awareness to treat each day with her as if it were her last. I will be forever grateful for the simple things that brought Mama joy and for the opportunity to spoil her, plan her last birthday party, feed her, massage her legs and arms, scratch her back, play dress up, do her makeup and even cut her hair. I will be forever grateful for wheeling her along the river, taking her to the cemetery to visit Papi’s grave, visit the Our Lady of Fatima statue that was at Lourdes’ and Jorge’s house, buy her all the foods she craved (even though she only ate 2 bites at best), and spend time reading the dozens of cards and letters my Robert Waters Panthers and Pantherettes wrote to her. And I kept taking pictures… of everything and everyone!
Mama had a couple of good months, but once September rolled along you could tell that she was done. October 2nd, her last day with us, was filled with an on-going stream of visitors coming to say their goodbyes, so I was glad to just have it be the two of us once the last of the visitors left. I still remember the awesome wine Sara brought and the delicious home-made Italian food Francine brought to the nursing home that night. We talked, laughed, ate and drank wine because I had decided to spend the night by Mama’s side. It was obvious that Mama was leaving us any moment. As I lay in bed with her, a couple of hours before she crossed over, I caressed her, chanted and sang to her, talked to her about my lifetime of memories, and named all the spirit family members who were waiting for her. Their light and energy could be felt around us. I told her how God, the Angels and other family needed her now. My dharma, or purpose, in my mother’s life became crystal clear to me at that precise moment. Upon coming into this lifetime, I chose her so I could play “Mother” to her (she was left motherless at the tender age of three). And that loss was something she never got over. Mama referenced her mother “Mamaita” almost daily as well as how much she missed her. Mama had only one tattered picture of her in her possession…how sad. She guarded that picture with her life! As I sit here typing, a memory of Mama asking me if I “would take care of her” came to mind. She took to asking me this over the years as her health declined more and more. She wanted to be taken care of “like a little girl.” She even had a few stuffed animals by her side.
I will be forever grateful for the alone time I had with her that last night. I will be forever grateful for all the pictures I took of everyone who came to see her, pictures from her party, our field trips in July, activities in August, pictures from her last day and even pictures from the day of her burial and repast. Lastly, I will be forever grateful for the gift of being able to do her make-up once she was dressed and coiffed in her casket. That was the BEST 50th birthday gift!! You see, Mama died 2 weeks before my 50th. What an honor to spend that sacred and alone time with her and make sure she looked like her fashionista self. It took a lot of perseverance, negotiation and ultimately releasing it into the universe, but my wish was fulfilled! And, yes, I kept taking pictures….. of everyone and everything! I was creating memories….cherished memories that became my treasure.
Mama passed peacefully. I was by her side. And boy did I walk away with a lot of patience, compassion and understanding. “Ask and you shall receive!”
I encourage all of you to live each day with intention and purpose and as if it were the last day. When we do so, we have more fulfilling days. We are able to really see who and what matter. We are more present, Alive and in tune to the precious gift of life we have received.
If you are interested in the dying process, and what the body goes through emotionally, physically mentally and spiritually as it prepares to cross over, I recommend you download Crossing the Creek by Michael Holmes. My mom’s Hospice social worker gave me a hardcopy years ago, and I have since shared it with numerous people. This book is no longer in print, but the author has made it available for free download. It is an absolutely wonderful and valuable resource. In addition, the Zen Hospice Project always puts out wonderful articles too. If you go on their website, you see the beautiful ways they honor palliative and end of life care. Remember darlings, we are all terminal….some of us are just lucky enough to know it!
It is my belief that death, like any other rite of passage, is something that can, and should be celebrated. It does not have to be all doom and gloom; after all, we are celebrating someone’s life and the contribution they made while on this earth. It’s also a meaningful, memorable and sacred act to send our loved ones off with much love, intention, appreciation, respect, honor, integrity and dignity (and bubbly, fun, laughter and even a dance party). It’s equally important for us to express OUR wishes to our family, friends and loved ones as well. When you think of it, there’s always a reason or opportunity to Celebrate Life! Ask and you shall receive…Just remember to take pictures…of everyone and everything!
Inhale love…Exhale Gratitude, JTC