On May 28, 2011, my mother was dying. I had flown to Panama 5 days earlier, when I’d heard over the phone, “Rosita, your mother is not going to make it much longer, you need to come now.” It wasn’t just the sorrow of traveling to walk with my mother through those last days of her life. It was that I had to leave just as I was finishing up all the planning and preparation I had started months earlier to celebrate Maria’s Quinces–the Latino equivalent of Sweet Sixteen, a rite of passage into adulthood. There is so much my girl will not get to experience of a ‘regular’ life that it is incredibly important to me to find the ways for her to experience every bit as much of the lovely parts of life as she possibly can.
We had settled on a tea-dance for her at the parish hall of the small parish where I served as priest-in-charge. It would be grown up enough for a DJ and dancing, a beautiful cake, and manageable even for a woman-child who, despite all her strength, is fragile, and needs buffers and breathing spaces from everything that functioning in our society and culture requires of us.
I’d been having a ball with the planning–there was so much I could do to make it both magical and real for this person entrusted to my care whose first name is Luz, Light. I was so close to putting the finishing details in place, and then, I couldn’t. Some amazing friends picked up where I had to leave off. The parish hall was packed with folks who loved our girl so much. That night, after I had helped settle my mother for the night, as I had prayed, as I did every night, “please God, not yet”, I logged into Facebook and started seeing the pictures. From so far away, I got to see glimpses of how beautiful my girl had been, how special the afternoon turned out, and especially, what a stunning toast her Dad had given. I think you can see a video of that toast by clicking here.
All these years later, having just celebrated her 21st Birthday week before last, having sat with my dad this evening over dinner, remembering with him that on the 5th of June it will be 6 years since my mom died, it is almost as if I can slip back into that day, and that incredible combination of wonder and horror that lived side by side in me as I listened to my mother’s labored breathing and got to see the pictures and videos of my girl celebrating. Such a life I have gotten to live…