Her Faith

My grandma’s faith confronts mine. She doesn’t have this big ambition towards God. She doesn’t believe in Him hoping to get something great out of Him of their relationship. She finds rest in praying her rosary, believing He listens and somehow that’s enough to soothe all her pain. </p> <p>She’s not trying to preach to the world, save thousands for Him, she just hopes to pray another “Our Father”. She’s not out looking for anointing, or platform, or conversion. She just believes, she has enough mind to ask Him to take away the leg pain that torments her without questioning Him if the pain never goes away. She’s not doubtful, she’s not confronting Him, not scared, just a faithful believer of a God she may not completely understand but fully follows. How lovely, such uninterested, unaltered, unfailing love.

That’s who my grandmother was. What a lesson that is. In a world un satisfied with that is given, asking for more constantly and desiring all it feels it deserves, she was happy with her portion. She belived for more and better, but that didn’t stop her from appreciating what she had at the moment.

My Princess

So I realized I made a huge mistake. I shared the reality of who left without really telling you who she was. See, she wasn’t like any other woman you’ve met. She was old school, but  better. She was like that vintage dress you want to hang in a special casing, have it protected, untouched, but on display because such beauty should be shared without being messed with.

A smoker since her teenage years, grandma got to enjoy the toxic pleasure of cigarettes until the age of about 90 (if I wait until the details arrive we’d be here forever. Yet another negative of living away). She started smoking the non-filtered, less toxic cigarettes. A past smoker myself, I could imagine her  cool demeanor as she smoked, showing off to her younger sisters, cousins, even friends. I can’t say this for sure, but knowing her now I can imagine I have a lot of her characteristics and I would even say we’re pretty similar in personality, character and temper. Therefore, she would have been a magnet, the kind that people are drawn to for no apparent reason, all they knew is that they had to be around her. I could see all that slickness my aunts carry and that sass personified in her. She was a force to be reckoned with, up until her last moment. One of the first signs that it was her time, was the absence of fire in her eyes.

She smoked until she was forced out of her home in order to smoke. Her first great-grandson, Andres Camilo, was born with tons of allergies and one of them was smoke. Therefore the house, where grandma, my cousin Lina and her son lived, could not smell like smoke. So she had to sit on the stairs outside her own apartment in order to enjoy a very bad habit, one that was part of her by that time. She puffed and yelled and made angry faces, but yet every time she wanted a cigarette, she went outside. That’s how she loved, loud and almost against her will, but still loved a lot.

She was both rough and soft, sweet and yet feisty, she would have an opinion about every bit of you and still love you overwhelmingly. I liked her ways so much, I took some pages of her book.

She loved to play “table games”. So my afternoons in her house consisted of dominoes, card games, Parcheesi (parques), “Damas Chinas” (if you know the name in English, help is appreciated). But this transcended to our family times during the holidays, as everything else she did. I remember a game that lasted for over 5 hours of Parques.  Maybe it was around 8 hours of playing JUST ONE game, I forgot who won and I hope it was me. And she was there, from beginning to end, fighting every injustice and giving us some referee-like looks, so you best believe we played on our worst behavior.

She was 98 and for 98 years this world was hers. She had friends and a very active social life. She had a husband who gave her 9 children, 3 of which didn’t make it past days of life. She had one male child who was the apple of her eyes. She had 7 grandchildren and 5 great-grandchildren who added to her joy. She gave life a different aroma, one full of natilla and buñuelos, of festivities and homemade birthday cakes, of colorful dresses and tons of good times, of which the best were right by her side.

Her silver hair was her best accessory, in my eyes. It complemented her, it enhanced her beauty, it made her softer and lovely and so much more feisty. I love every bit of her. And I’ll miss every bit of her, but worst than missing her would have been had I never met her, I wouldn’t have all her wonder to miss.

She left

She left. But so did I. That same day, at 5 AM, my mom and I were in an airplane on our way back. And boy did I dread that flight, I think more than any other flight I’ve been on. I wanted nothing more than to go back to that room and being by her side. Forget work, forget dream, forget friends, all I wanted was to caress her hair one more time. I feel like I didn’t have enough of those, nor kisses on her forehead, or blessings, or feedings, or any of those. There just was enough time with her. At least not for me. Maybe because I was the youngest grandchild, maybe because I lived away. None of the reasons matter today, all I know is that she left.

At 98 she had survived a stroke, an enlarged heart, over 70 years of smoking without lung cancer. But she also suffered from leukemia, cancer in one of her kidneys, complications with coagulation due to the meds she took for her heart, year of immobility, severe osteoporosis, and a full life of heart- and headaches given by a family not every can be a member of. But yet she was still strong, she held on to life like few people do. I knew it was her sense of responsibility, because I know that feeling all too well.  I got it from her. If anything losing her has done, is shown me how much of her I have, how like her I am, I’m still processing it.

I walked into the ICU unit where she was and I could still see her longing for life, she wanted to go back home so bad. She wanted to be in her room, with every single family member around her. Good thing is that we aren’t many, we’re a small family in comparison to so many families we know. But I think we were the exact size for her, cozy enough to keep her warm and alive as she fought through the pain.

But suddenly, she lost. That fire, that fight, her will to live. In the transit from hospital to hospital, she lost all her energy. Apparently her should was broken, it is believed it happened in that same transit. All I know is that one day I saw her fighting, the next she could barely complain about the heat. A women who would tell you what was on her mind at any moment, barely expressed her thirst. Someone stole it from her. Her voice, it was gone.

At one point during the trip I thought she would actually overcome this and make it home to last us another year or so. She had done it so many times, have our hearts hanging by a string, only to fool us in gaining some superhuman strength and go back to requiring the full beauty treatment before leaving her room. That’s who she was, vanity was part of what made her so special in my eyes. She would require her hair combed a certain way, powder and lipstick. They were non-negotiable unless you were ready to be challenged by a 98-year-old woman with two hearing aids. She could be many things, except having visitors over without her best outfit. That she would not take.

She even complained about it in ICU, “they haven’t combed my hair” she said. Just like she said she liked my purple hair. You best believe I felt like a champ, no one could say a word now because grandma said she liked it, and if such a fashion lady liked it, your disapproval at this point has no worth. At least that was my take on it and hey, it worked.

The problem was, her shoulder wasn’t the only thing that broke in that transit. Her will live disappeared too. She had much less energy in a period of 48 hours. She could barely express herself and had about 80% harder time eating. What happened? Maybe it was just time, maybe she got tired, maybe she felt at peace because now she had seen everyone, at least all of her children. The reasons we don’t know. But in a matter of 3 days she made it back home, and yet the night right before we were to come back she was rushed to the hospital. And I knew, I just knew it was the end.

We didn’t get to have a proper goodbye. We said “we’ll see you later” because we were going to pack our bags and go back to spend some more time with her. It was 5:30 PM. at 7 PM when we were leaving the place we were staying at, we got the call. She needs to be rushed back to the hospital so cancel your plans. Bags were made so I left my mother behind and rushed out with one of my aunts.

Next thing I know I see her in a wheelchair being taken out, not even a glance to connect, she can’t really make out what’s happening. She’s there, but not quite. I knew it was it. We arrived in Miami at exactly noon, and  at 11:02 PM we were told she had left at 11 PM, like almost planned to be so exact. And that was it. No more grandma. The last one I had was no more. Her body cremated, her soul lifted, and her essence more alive with and in me than ever before. She’s not gone, just not here on Earth anymore. We will remember her so much it’ll be impossible for her to leave us. It’s just what happens when someone who changed your life dies, they stay alive in the midst of the best memories of your life. And so though she left, she can never truly die.