It’s not that we didn’t know it was coming.
I’m talking about my mom, Luza. She was, after all, 102 years old – going on 103, mind you.
My sisters and I had often discussed things like, “this might be her last – *Birthday, Mother’s Day, Thanksgiving, Christmas.” *(__________) fill in the blank*
We started throwing her birthday parties when she got into her 90’s. Por si acaso. (Just in case.)
I made a mental note to take lots of photos and video of her in these last years. Last years? Of course. I know. I made sure I photographed her often and with every family member, at every occasion we had to get together.
None of us are guaranteed long life. And if there are many years, what will the quality of those years be? Luza was in excellent health. Her long years have been good ones. But, of course, when the time comes we will be ready. It has, after all, been a very good and long life. 102 years! (One month shy of 103.)
So it happened that when, on New Year’s Eve, when Luza (102 – one month shy of 103) fell ill and had to be hospitalized, we started to wonder if her time had come.
That day in the hospital, she was lucid enough to remember that it was her wedding anniversary. 77 years ago, she and my dad were married on New Year’s Eve – a date that would always be easy for him to remember. She still smiled when she recalled that detail.
Then they sent her home a few days later under hospice care. Hospice care. That’s medical code for: they were sending her home to die. We knew that, of course.
Her body was tired. 102 years – one month shy of 103 – is a lot of years. The kidneys were the first to protest the length of their work load.
But still she persisted. But we were ready, of course. Of course. We had had her with us for such a long time. Longer, really, than anyone was entitled to. And in such good health. Were we greedy to want more time?
I wanted Amy to take Sebastian to see her. One last time? I don’t know if I even spoke the word, last.
That day, she was sitting up at the table in her usual spot and was delighted to see the baby. She played with him and said his name. She joked with Amy in the comfortable way they’ve always done.
I snapped that photo of them just before I put her to bed.
“Mami, te quiero mucho.” I told her as I tucked her in.
“Ay, Martona. Te quiero mas.” (She always made me laugh when she called me, Martona.) This surely couldn’t be the last time I would hear her say it.
She slipped out of lucidity shortly after that. Amy read somewhere that when people are dying they get one last burst of energy. That’s probably what happened, she said. I wasn’t quite sure. Maybe she’s going to be okay. So what if she’s 102 (a month shy of 103) and on hospice care? She might pull through.
I know. I KNOW.
A week later, on January 14th, at 6:15 pm, my sweet mother quietly took her last earthly breath.
And I was not ready. How could she be gone? This was not supposed to happen.
I know. It’s not that I was in denial, It’s that I was being selective about the reality I would accept. And the reality where my mom was not a part of this world was one I didn’t like.
The tears were relentless and I would in turn grieve and beat myself up. “But you knew it was coming.” I did. I just didn’t want it to be real.
And so now it falls to me to commemorate her beautiful life. Her long (102 years – a month shy of 103) and amazing life. How very bittersweet.
Today is Valentine’s Day. I was thinking about those I love the most, which of course includes my husband and my family, my grandsons. You know, the usual suspects. And, of course, I thought of Luza.
She departed exactly one month ago today and I have finally steeled myself to sit here and begin to write about it all. It’s time to go through her things, to scan the old photos, to find appropriate music, and order food and flowers.
To prepare, not a funeral, but a Celebration of Life.
And we will celebrate her long and beautiful life on the same day we would have celebrated her 103rd birthday. I know. It’s perfect.