My mom called to say you fell twice and that you were getting confused. I knew she was worried so I took my next day off to drive to see you. I walked into your familiar home. You have always been one of my steady people. You have always been one I can count on.
I sat by your bed while you slept. You didn’t even hear me come in. That should have been my clue that things were changing but all I’d ever seen was a woman in control. I had been there just two weeks before and we had eaten together while I showed you pictures of my grandson. You smiled and said, “He’s so cute Mija (my daughter), it’s so nice to have them little. Enjoy him. Pretty soon they get busy.” I pushed off the warning because well, it’s hard to face. The pages of my life are filled with all of the advice you have given me over the years.
I watched you, the strong figure that you have always been in my life, sleeping peacefully as I sat and prayed for you. When did you get so small? Sure, I had noticed the last few years but you were always alert. You were always in command. Your voice was strong and authoritative as it had always been. You thought you would pass at the age of 91 as your mom had passed at 91. You turned 91 in June. The mind is powerful.
You woke up and asked me if I heard children laughing as you tried to focus. I let you know that your caretaker, Maria, has her daughters home from school. They had been in the kitchen getting snacks so I thought it was what you’d heard. You told me they were off this week from school.
We talked about your confusion, we talked about your health and your weariness, about being in a body that would not obey a mind. You’d nod off during our conversation. You’d wake up and apologize for falling asleep. I asked you how many times I’d fallen asleep on you? After all, you have been with me my whole life. You laughed and said, “A lot.” I’m sure it’s true. I have pictures of us since I was a newborn. 53 years of memories.
When it was time for your lunch you demanded ice cream. I figured hey you’re 91 and honestly has anyone ever told you no? The negotiating started and you had ice cream and Ensure. We then had some private conversation because well, the two of us talked about a lot of things over the years.
After I told you how much I loved you and how much you meant to me, I hugged you gently and kissed your cheek and told you I would pray. You thanked me and told me you loved me. I didn’t want to think it was the last time I would see you but my heart felt the nudge. In fact, for a brief moment I thought you’d pass while I was flying out to Illinois. I quickly cast that thought out. Only you did pass hours after I landed.
Nina. It’s the Spanish title of your Godmother. You and Nino truly were Godparents to me. Lots of people are flattered to baptize a child but don’t understand the responsibility of the vow. You two certainly did. You took me to church, you made sure I had my catechism book and clothes for church. You bought me my first fake fur coat and pantyhose. You loved me deeply. When I got In trouble with you I knew it because you never hesitated to let me know, plainly and simply you weren’t above yelling and letting me have it. That is what love does. Love keeps you straight when you’re running crooked. When I needed a secret keeper there you were. I trusted you, I believed in you, and you showed me loyalty, love, and perseverance. How many quiet conversations did we have at your kitchen table over the years?
You taught me about Nana Camp as you took your five grandchildren for the entire summer and had fun. Sure, I’d stop by and you looked exhausted but you were happy and they were happy and I learned.
I awoke Thursday morning in a hotel room at 2 am from a nightmare. I tossed and turned for over two hours unable to fall back to sleep. I received a call at 8 am telling me you had passed. They checked in on you at 1 am and you were sleeping, again at 4 am and you had passed. To say that souls are not knit together is a fallacy.
Tomorrow I will attend your services. I have cried my private tears and while I am still quietly processing the loss, I am at peace that you are no longer left with any questions or doubts. Everything has been answered by Jesus himself. My sarcastic sense of humor can’t help think that Jesus chuckled upon seeing you remembering that you were the lady that on Palm Sunday took one palm leaf off the altar for each of us. Yes, I don’t know what that was about, but I remember you calling me to say you’d picked up a palm leaf for me at church. Then asked if I went to church.
You are now surrounded by loved ones and you can be proud that you left a legacy of love and strength here on earth. I will miss you greatly but your love will live on through those of us who were blessed to be loved by you. Thank you Nina for showing me Jesus and for the honor of letting me be a part of your life. I will see you later!