“To describe my mother would be to write about a hurricane in its perfect power. Or the climbing, falling colors of a rainbow.”-Maya Angelou
When my father became ill with a pulmonary disease that eventually took his life, my mother would call me almost every day, at any hour of the day, to cry and unload her grief since she was trying hard to be strong for my dad. Sometimes, there were no words on the other side of the phone, just quiet sobs and apologies for “bothering me” — perhaps she thought she could be vulnerable with me. At the time, I was working for a law firm in Atlanta, Georgia, and when she would call me at work, I just didn’t have the heart to stop her because I knew that the fact we had a sea between us made her feel isolated and lonely.
My parents had a good relationship. Through the years they had become closer while working in ministry, visiting the sick and friends in need. They were hospitable people who loved to entertain. After my father passed away, I watched as my mother began to take care of sick family members and help elderly people around her who didn’t have much assistance. That has been a trademark of her life — she has always been a hospitable, caring, and compassionate person, regardless of her shortcomings (because nobody is perfect) or resources available to her.
When I became sick myself, she took care of me as if I was her little baby all over again. To be honest, although sometimes she was over the top, it was not extremely annoying. Instead, I became introspective about how I should suffer well like she did throughout my father’s illness. I hope I have. As my journey with suffering continues, I strive to live a life that reflects that level of strength and compassion I have seen modeled through my mother.
Recently, as she is aging and her health is a bit more fragile, I have been spending as much time as possible with her. When we are together, we sleep on the same bed, and we talk a lot at night (mostly her — she even talks in her sleep!). Just this last week, she came to visit me at my new apartment, and one afternoon as she was sitting in the living room watching her precious Dimash (famous singer from Kazakhstan), she looked out the window and said to me, “Beba, I wish your father was still alive so he could see your place. He would have loved it.” I was touched and responded, “Really? Do you think he would be proud of me and how I am living my life?” “Absolutely!” was her reply. “Your father was proud of you, but I know that with all the things you are experiencing now, he would be happy to see how well you are doing today.” I said, “Thank you, Mami. That means a lot to me.” And then, I excused myself to go to the bathroom where I cried for a while.
Undoubtedly, I have had many special moments like that with my mother. She has quietly held my hand in bed as I cried about the brokenness and loss I am experiencing in my life. She is always willing to offer a helping hand whether I ask or not. And here lately, I have been spending quality time, learning how to recreate some of her favorite culinary delicacies from Puerto Rico, watching her favorite Turkish soap novelas (soap operas), and taking her to her favorite place — the supermarket! Most days, I feel as though time is my friend because it has allowed me to make many beautiful memories with her. And yet, some days I wish for more time…
In Ephesians 6:2 (NIV), it says, 2 “Honor your father and mother”— which is the first commandment with a promise. My sisters and I are of strong faith, and this verse is life to us. We have tried to live this way, especially during my father’s illness and now as we care for my mother as an elderly widow. I have found that, although it is difficult and requires much patience to care for sick or elderly parents, there is a level of satisfaction in knowing that when the time comes, I will have no regrets with how I honored them.
There is inexplicable joy and a strange sense of fulfillment when I hold the hands that once carried me; when I serve and dedicate my time as she has done for me. Perhaps my dad is watching from heaven. I don’t know if that is even possible, but I like to think that when she is with me and I care for her, Papi is watching and smiling. That’s when I feel as though my dad is proud of me. And I think it is the same with our Heavenly Father. When we serve the poor, the widows, the elderly, and those who cannot do things for themselves, we are loving what He loves. And when we love who and what He loves, He is most pleased.