Here are some pictures of her birthday party which was just a few weeks before she went in the hospital
It was a Cinco de Mayo theme party and we all wore mustaches.
Below is a picture of my parents that night.
I am so glad that we got to make a good memory that night. Almost the entire family was there and we all acted our usual goofy selves. My parents always loved being with their grandkids even though we are loud and crazy (an understatement) and I was able to use a lot of pictures from that party at her memorial.
It is hard for me to characterize my mother. She was only 20 when I was born-- though she had been married for 2 years at that point. She was a home maker all her life. She struggled with anxiety and depression and I don't think she got the help she (and everyone around her) really needed. Be it learned or genetic I struggle with those things too. Everything made her, as she said, Sa Nervous. The house being dirty made her Sa Nervous. Travel made her Sa Nervous. Being alone made her Sa Nervous. Sometimes it seemed like everything in life made her Sa Nervous so I grew up young and became one of those hyper-responsible teenagers. Looking back now we realize that much of what she told us is suspiciously far fetched so we question a lot of what we thought we knew in younger years. For example she told me many times that people were always stopping her in the store to ask her if my daughter was adopted and/or Mexican. No one has ever asked me that. Once she had gotten dentures we discovered that there was a magical connection between her dentures and a part of her brain that controlled IQ: As soon as she took them out her IQ would drop a good 50 points. Once several years ago someone asked me how many years my mom had Alzheimer's. I told her that she didn't--- she was just really odd.
When my sister called to tell me that it looked as though our mother was going to pass away soon I came to the hospital. If you had asked me the day before I would have said I couldn't be there. I surprised myself, but when it came down to it I found that I could be there for my mom and for my sister. As it turned out, the movies are way off on what that experience is like. When they took her off the machines nothing happened. She didn't rouse and make an impassioned speech about her life and how she loved us. When she did open her eyes she looked frightened and couldn't be comforted which was heartbreaking. For awhile I sang to her and as time played out we spent some time talking about our grandmother and how we wondered if she would be waiting for mom. A a lovely thought, if ambiguous from a doctrinal standpoint. Most certainly she would see the heavens and God and have a perfect body and mind and soul. Eventually her oxygen level dropped to 70 and then to 65 and held for a long time. Finally it dropped to 50 and 40 and 30.... and then we knew that time was close. When finally her breathing stopped and moments later her heart it was quiet and peaceful since the nurses had turned off the alarms. It felt almost anti-climatic. I didn't feel her presence leave. I didn't hear any angels or feel any spiritual guide. I looked at her and didn't really feel any of the things I expected to feel. Not fear. Not grief. A kind of relief for her that she wouldn't have to exist that way any longer. I hope that she wasn't scared in those last moments. My Faith assures me that she truly was in a better place.
I think that many people spend a portion of their lives wishing their parents were more what they imagine a better parent would be instead of accepting them for who and what they are. I am no exception. I would have liked to have a mom who was a Best Friend. Who took me shopping in the mall (she never drove on the freeway in her whole life) or taught me how to cook and sew. Maybe the mom that showed me how to to my makeup or told me about becoming a woman (she always called tampons Candy Bars and told me not to use them until after I were married or I wouldn't be a virgin and this was as close as she ever got to talking to me about The 'S' word). I would have liked a mom who held me when I cried or prayed with me when I needed spiritual support. But the one I got was a little off. And maybe learning compassion for people who struggle with mental issues has made me both stronger and more compassionate. These things might sound shocking to you. Maybe hearing someone be really honest is a relief. I think we all figure that everyone else has it better than we or are more mature-- but mostly that isn't the case. I wonder if there aren't so many of us ashamed to feel differently than we think we are supposed to feel that we are hiding ourselves away--- even from ourselves. We are all flawed and we all fall short of what we would really like to be. For me, being aware of the truth helps me deal better with the emotions. Being 'real' helps me relax and use my energy for things other than putting up a good facade. I feel compelled to confess these things to you and I don't really even know why. Experiencing a loss it is confusing and unpredictable. I felt like I should paint a pretty picture of my mom that left out the parts that weren't all that terrific. But I knew that everyone who knew her would catch on to that. I mean if you left out the parts about measuring the magnets on the fridge or the bowl of graham crackers by her bed some of you would know that the Real Truth was still out there somewhere.
So I went on a hunt for this picture that I knew was in her house somewhere and I found it. And I imagined what it was like to know her at 18 years old before she was sick and when she was feisty and popular and beautiful. And I thought about this woman. She was more than just my mom. And I tried to imagine what she was like. What dreams she had for her life. And I started to think about her in a more compassionate way as someone who was just a person doing the best they could. I remembered that I needed to forgive her for not being the Supermom I wished I could have an all the while hoping that my kids will have that same compassion for me.
So this is Emily
Isn't she beautiful?