A Warrior’s Legacy
You look at her and, at first glance, she looks small, fragile, and worn out. She seems poised, contained, and even a bit constraint. Oh, all right, a lot.
Fun is not a word that would describe her. Her body shows signs of aging past her 70 years of age. She is still a beautiful woman, but, judging by today’s standards she looks old. One would assume that she does not take good care of herself. Her face is full of wrinkles that seem to have settled in a long time ago. Her eyes have a look that, even when she smiles, betray her and lets her pain be known.
When she talks she speaks of pain, physical and otherwise. She sees several doctors every week. They, no longer interested in seeing her, have all spoken the same words, “There is nothing I can do for you.” That does not stop her from making the next appointment.
She keeps herself abreast of all the most daunting news in the country and, sometimes, the world. She knows in painstaking detail, who is accused of murdering who and how. She speaks as if she knew details of the lives of others in a way that leaves you wondering how in the world she can be so sure that this is true. When a popular singer died earlier this year in Puerto Rico she was heard explaining the depths of the relationship that the man had with his wife. How much they loved each other, and how devastated that woman was by the death of her lifelong companion.
Oh Goddess! How annoyed I have been all my life of these personality traits that she displays!
I Call Her Mom
I call this woman “Mom.” She is the second of four children born to my grandmother. And the eldest of three born to my grandfather, as Grandma had been married and had had a child before marrying Grandpa. My grandparents had divorced probably before I was born, but they stayed in close proximity for the sake of the children and, later on, the grandchildren.
My memories of my mother are fuzzy. I, up until recent times, and in true offspring fashion, remembered only the bad and the ugly. Her story is for her to tell. Therefore, I will write only about her legacy and about the details of the events of her life that prompted this reflection.
About Her Courage
My mother is a warrior, a powerhouse. She has always been. Envision a woman who, against all odds, with no education, and no money stood strong and raised five children on her own. Her first child born in 1963, her last in 1972. Time would pass, and she would work at times seven days a week – holding several jobs at the same time and, still, would go to sleep with an empty stomach to ensure that her kids would not have to.
She got her first car in 1979. I remember the first time she took us on the road in that car; barely able to drive. We were so afraid. She was so angry at my step-father that she got all the kids in the car and left. Where to? I honestly do not remember. I was that terrified.
Almost fifteen years ago she received the most devastating piece of news: her youngest son had died by suicide. Imagine her pain. Imagine her sorrow. Imagine her soul dying with him and looking across the room to find the other four children demanding that she lived for them. How presumptuous of us.
My mother is still with us today. She lives on her own and works every day. Technically retired since her forties because of health concerns; she has not stopped working one day in her life. There is no correlation between work and income. I think we all know that. She is always working, always doing something for someone else, and always producing some results. She is a grandmother to eleven, great-grandmother to three, and the one running after all of us every day.
She is now an artist who creates jewelry, artisan soaps, candles, body scrubs, and all the goodies that I have been addicted to all of my adult life. She goes from one fair to the next presenting and selling her products. My mother, in true 21st century style, has become a brand.
My mother’s legacy is simple: you never give up. Here are some of the ways in which her life lessons manifest and what I have learned from observing her over the years:
- Honor your family above all else. They will always be there for you and will be the ones holding your hand when all others are gone.
- Say, “I love you” to those you love every time you get.
- Hug them tight. It might be the last time you will be able to.
- Tell your truth quickly, even if it hurts others or yourself. It does not have to be their truth. It is imperative that it is yours.
- Pay your debts – monetary and otherwise. It does not matter how long it takes you. At some point, make sure that you honor those who trusted you.
- Trust yourself. Do not expect others’ approval before taking action. Be proactive. Take a risk.
- Never stop producing. Life is as valuable as the effort you put into it.
- Do not be ashamed to ask for help when you need it. You will never know who is willing to help out if you do not trust others with your vulnerabilities.
- Never stop dreaming. If you are breathing, you still have time to make those dreams come true.
- Mess with me all you want, but if you mess with those I love, I will cut you!
You might say that there is nothing special about this story. That there are millions of women in the world who do the same thing and more, who see more devastation and more pain, and who still go through life with the same degree of power and commitment. To you I say, this is not their story. This is my life as impacted by my mother. This is in celebration of her.