Monday, September 10, 2012

My Mom was my biggest hero: She will be a tough act to follow

Throughout my life, I’ve operated on gut feelings, omens and premonitions. But the day my mother died, I never got a sign or felt an intuition that she was leaving me forever. I was secure in my thoughts that she was available whenever I chose to give her a call to chat or to get a food recipe from her. I was secure in the belief that I’d see her again.

From one moment to the next, she was gone. The woman who had recently visited me in Virginia, and shared days of shopping, going to church, home-cooked meals and lots of laughter, had ceased to exist.

In an instant I lost my biggest fan, my soothsayer, my life’s compass, my life-long friend. My mom.

In her wake, my mother has left so many memories and examples of the great adventurer, humorous and giving person she was.

In planning her funeral and taking care of her affairs, my sisters and I, ran into so many people who expressed how my mother had touched their lives in positive ways. They were simple ways, yet very meaningful and long-lasting, for those who knew her.

She lived in a building for independent seniors in Austin, Texas. Everyone knew her. The maintenance man came up to us and told us, my mom had recently cooked an enchilada dinner for him. A neighbor confined to a wheel chair and suffering from advanced diabetes, told us my mother had become one of his good friends. He said she would drive him to his doctor’s visits. At one point waiting three hours while he received therapy.

Another sweet old lady recounted, with tears in her eyes, how my mom would walk into the resident’s lounge and dance the Jarabe Tapatio, Mexican dance for her and her friends. Just to put a smile on their faces.  

My 72-year-old mom was proud to say she was the youngest in her building. She was a licensed cosmetologist and went around giving free haircuts to residents. When they offered her money, she’d decline.  If they insisted, she’d let them give her five dollars. She was the only person I know who bargained down her own price.

My mom liked making beautiful beaded bracelets and earrings. I’d always encourage her to sell them but she never did. Instead, she’d go around giving them away to people that were special to her. My sisters and I each have several of them.

                                                                                         My song to my mom

In clearing out her apartment, my sisters and I divided her personal belonging amongst the four of us. We took turns picking numbers from a hat and chose from her life-long keepsakes according to the order of the number. It was like winning the lottery.

What was left, we decided to give away in an open house for her neighbors. We did this in honor of my mother’s generosity towards others.

When she lived in in El Paso, my mother would visit nursing homes and spend time with some of their neediest residents. She’d read to them, join them for lunch, held their hand in quiet prayer, and lobbied for better care of them.

I once joined her on one of these visits. It was a tough and heart-wrenching environment. I was overwhelmed with how much I couldn’t do for these sickly residents. But my mother walked in with a great smile and hugged everyone she saw. When she walked into private rooms, the faces of the residents would light up. Their eyes would twinkle with happiness. My mom would clap and sing, in her not-so-melodic voice, and they loved it.  

She would travel across the border by herself to the outskirts of Ciudad Juarez, Mexcio. She'd  traverse through  the, not-so-safe hills, where the city’s poorest lived in squalor, under tin roofs. There, she handed out clothing, blankets and canned food. Always treating everyone with dignity.

My sisters and I, at the park, with mom 

My mom was a devout catholic and very spiritual. She was the go-to person if you needed a prayer to solve a problem. Her faith was so strong, she knew her prayers were always answered. When she lost her passport during a visit to the Vatican in Rome, she stopped three priests in the busy courtyard and asked them to pray that she would find it. They prayed with her. Hours later, her passport was found on a public bench and delivered to the U.S. consulate.  My mom proudly told me her prayers had been answered.

When the day came to have the open house in her Austin apartment, to distribute the last of her belongings, many of her neighbors showed up and took what they needed. My older sister supervised the event. Within hours, she said that my mother’s essence was sprinkled throughout the building.

In the hallway, one resident had hung one of my mother’s wall crucifixes outside her door. Another resident, relocated to Austin, Texas, after the Katrina hurricane in Louisiana, was able to replace her lopsided and torn couch with my mother’s newer sofa.

Curtains that had hung in my mom’s living room were now adorning the bedroom of another female resident. Another couple was able to stop paying pricy furniture rent, when they took my mother’s dining room set. 

The man in the wheel chair also took some crucifixes and other adornments. He invited my sister to come and see how he had displayed them in his home. People who had known my mom were able to keep a little piece of her, after she was gone.

My mom was a renaissance woman who loved art, music, and the people she knew. She was courageous and made the most of her life without drama or fanfare. She loved to travel, always read the newspaper, watched Mexican soap operas on TV, and she loved FaceBook.

In going through thousands of my mother’s pictures, I was able to put together a chronological video of a bit of my mother’s life. The pictures were proof, that she had lived a good life full of adventure and happy times with family and friends.  

She once told me that when she was a young girl, still living in Mexico, she commented to her father that she wanted to come to the United States and visit Hollywooood. She pronounced the word in a heavy Spanish accent, emphasis on the double “o”.

My mom made it to Hollywood, and many more places in the world. Most of all, she made it into the hearts of many who now miss her terribly.  

Twenty one years ago, I was inspired to let my mother know how I felt about her. I wrote her a poem telling her she was my hero. I then turned that poem into a song. Never, has what I wrote to her so long ago, resonate so strong in my heart, as it does now.

My mom loved her family, her grandchildren, her friends and always prayed for the less fortunate. One day, I want to be just like her.

She will be a tough act to follow.

My mother, Carmen Galvan died suddenly, alone, in her apartment on Tuesday, July 3, 2012.  She was a diabetic. We still have not gotten back the results of the autopsy, but we suspect her diabetes had something to do with it.


Anonymous said...

Losing a parent is never easy for us kids. On Dec. 31 will two years that my Dad left for heaven. It has been a tough road in accepting that he is in heaven. I am reminded of a country song by Diamond Rio "One More Day" and wish I had one more day with my Dad. The pain never goes away but it does get easier. I can go on about what I have learned about the loss of a parent but it can take all night. Have the faith and know that our parents are Heaven getting the house ready for our arrival into heaven some day. God Bless and keep your chin up.

Edie said...

Thank you for sharing Andrew. It makes it easier for me to remember how happy my mom was and all the good things that she did. I know she'd be happier knowing we were happy in our lives than sad.


Anonymous said...

Edith, this is beautiful! Could not have said it better myself. Words can never really capture the whole essence of our Mother but you do a great job. Thanks.


Edie said...

Thanks Gina. Mom would need a book and even that would fall short.