April 17th, 2018.
Exactly one week since I received the phone call from my dad.
“Mimi, she passed away!”
For the last 10 years of her life, my mom was in a vegetative/comatose state. At one time, even the thought of hearing the words my dad spoke that morning would haunt me.
They hung over my head like a massive black cloud that, especially at the beginning of her illness, would drench me with unbelievable SADNESS.
During those dark times, when the deep sadness would come over me, I often felt like I couldn’t breathe.
After so many years of seeing someone you love more than words can express, experience such suffering, you start to pray the prayer you never thought you would.
Lord, deliver her from this suffering; please take her home with you.
But, my mom hung on.
Back in February, we thought we were going to lose her. I sat in the hospital praying that the Lord would take her so that finally she could be at peace.
But, my mom pulled through again.
Some would say it’s because she is a fighter. My mom was definitely a fierce woman, but in my heart, I knew there was more to this story.
On April 5th, I sat with some 7th-grade students during circle time at school. I asked them this question, “What is your greatest fear?”
As I sat there overwhelmed with my own emotions, one student after another shared how their greatest fear was losing their mom, some with tears in their eyes.
I shared how this fear was okay to have, but that our fears should never overtake us. And also how their mom wouldn’t want them to lose sleep over this fear, but rather to just live every day loving on her, until the end of time- the best gift they can give their mom.
Looking back, that circle time was as much for me- as it was for the students.
On April 7th, I was invited to speak at a women’s breakfast for a local church. I shared the story of how the walls of Jerusalem were in ruins for 140 years. In the book of Nehemiah, God gave Nehemiah His eyes towards the ruins. Nehemiah wept. He had a burden in his heart to rebuild the wall of Jerusalem.
I challenged the ladies to look around them, and ask the question, “What are the ruins in your life that you need to have a new burden for?”
As I shared, my mom’s family came to mind. I knew that they had been in ruins for many years and how that hurt my mom greatly.
And for the first time after so many years, it hurt me. I had a burden in my heart for them!
After I spoke, I was presented (as a gift) with red roses, my mom’s favorite flower.
The next day, Sunday, April 8th, was my mom’s 61st birthday.
That Sunday morning it was hard for me to go to church. However, I knew I had to go. During worship I stood by the alter listening, the Lord clearly told me to place the red roses by my mom’s bedside.
I wanted to go visit her at 3 pm, but my oldest daughter Bianca who had to work that day also wanted to see “mom” (that’s what she called her, as well) on her birthday.
So, I waited for her and we went later that night. When I arrived placed the red roses in her room.
The next day, I received a text from my dad that my mom wasn’t doing good.
That night I attended a meeting, and the video session we studied happened to be about death and how we’ll all have to face it one day. But, how it’s not the end of our journey, but rather the beginning.
We worshipped to the song- “Do it again.”
I wept in that room publicly, as I’ve never wept publicly before.
The next day, I received a phone call from my dad that my mom had passed away that night.
I went to the nursing home and I brought the red roses home.
I couldn’t have asked for a better ending to our story. The last time Bianca and I saw my mom was on her birthday. And, I gave her red roses. Now, I had 5 days to plan the memorial and funeral.
I wanted to make the wake and funeral extra special for her, my family, and her family.
On Sunday, April 15th a week after her birthday, my church played “Do It Again” for the first time, and I had never shared with anyone how that song made me weep!
But, my God knew.
That evening was the memorial. We had it at my church, New Life Cicero. Over 300 people attended.
As people arrived, salsa and merengue music played in the background. It was like a Garfield Blvd. reunion. Friends that hadn’t seen each other in years were gathered together in a church building. Hugs, smiles, and laughter filled the room.
As far as the ambiance, no words can clearly express how beautiful the sanctuary and chapel looked, so I’ll share pictures below.
I gifted each of my mom’s siblings with an envelope filled with pictures of them, her, my grandparents, and their children.
I called this table- “Say Cheese!” Pictures by Goddy!” She loved to say the words “say cheese” before taking the pictures.
She was the photographer of her family and friend groups. I have boxes of pictures taken by her.
By far, the most beautiful part of the memorial was the service.
I arranged for the worship team to sing, I had my husband Juan share a few words, my cousin Nicole, and I, as well.
I thanked my sister, brother, and father for being so good to my mom and me!
I shared how my mom loved birthday parties and cake!
I shared my mom’s love for Marc Anthony. How she had a huge picture of him in our living room like he was family.
We don’t know how it happened, but ever since I wrote that blog about her love for Marc Anthony, if you Google “Marc Anthony’s sister” my mom’s picture with him shows up.
I shared how I didn’t want anyone to feel guilty. That she knew they loved her, and she loved them all very much!
But most importantly, I had Pastor John Palmieri share the gospel!
And some people responded by giving their life to Christ for the first time!
And, many of my mom’s family expressed how much it ministered to them.
I know my mom was smiling in heaven.
Her illness was a tragedy.
But, like Genesis 50:20 says, “As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good…
It’s because of my mom that many of her friends and family members heard the good news of the gospel for the first time.
I shared this before in another blog, but it’s so appropriate to share again…
“Death is inevitable. We all know that is what lies in waiting. (Sorry for my being blunt, but there is joy at the end of this post!)
Yet, when we lose a loved one, it causes such excruciating pain.
Life will never be the same. It will always be different. Even Christians that believe in eternity struggle when they lose a loved one.
Life will keep going on, day by day, we will get better at catching up to it. But, a piece of your life’s puzzle will be gone, and nothing could take its place.
The puzzle will have to continue to evolve without that missing piece. And, all you could do is hope and pray, it will be good. But, you know in your heart, it will never be better.”
Last night, as I was cleaning the church, it hit me! A realization dawned on me.
She can hear my voice now!
For so many years, I don’t think she knew I was there when I visited her.
She was no longer in a nursing home. She is with me!
This feeling overwhelmed me!
Now, as I write this, I feel a sense of joy and peace. Yes, I am crying, but she is more with me today than she has been in the last 10 years of her illness.
And, she is finally home with the Savior. She is dancing again, and words can’t express how happy I am for her.
I’ll never forget her, she will always be my mom, and I’ll always be her Mimi.
Until we see each other again, I’ll continue to carry my memories of her close in my heart!