Saturday September 25, 2010
On Tuesday Linda had informed me that Eduardo's mom had passed away from a long battle with Alzheimer's. She told me that there would be a very small funeral service on Saturday. Despite both Linda and Eduardo asking me not to come, I insisted. I understood that they were worried about me coming, worried, as Eduardo lamented, that I'd be face to face with death and how that would impact me. At one point in trying to convince Linda that I should come, I told her that I had been spending 24/7 with death since August 19th and that there was no way that I would not be coming! Eventually, the Marbans conceded and I got the address to the funeral home.
I was so worried that I would be late that I left super early. What ended up happening was that there was not an ounce of traffic (when does this every happen in LA??) so I arrived early. As I sat in the parking lot, my heart began to race. My mind began going places it shouldn't and I began to worry that perhaps the Marbans had been right all along. Maybe it was too much. I pulled myself together and went inside.
It was marvelous seeing my friends. But the Marbans were not my friends....they are my family, so I stand corrected....it was marvelous seeing my family. I gave Eduardo a big hug. His handsome face said it all. He was sad, pained at the loss of his mother. It doesn't matter how old you are, I'm sure that it is always a terribly deep feeling of sadness to lose one's mother. Then I saw Linda. She hugged me for a long time and then in typical Linda fashion told me that I looked great, that I looked like I had been eating again, and asked me how I was doing. In the middle of their own grief, the Marbans wouldn't cease thinking about me and our family. But then again, these are the types of people that they have decided to be; they've decided to be a blessing in the lives of others. My entire family was living proof of that decision. It is not easy to put others first and to decide that blessing others is a priority in life. I am always amazed by the Marbans ability to do this so effortlessly.
As the Mass started, I felt a lump grow in my throat. The room seemed to get very stuffy all of the sudden. It was hard to be within the presence of other's sadness and not feel your own. I used to think that was possible but I am not sure that it is any more. Father O'Ryan started the mass by talking about his own parent's death and lamenting how some times we don't appreciate our parents the way that we should. The lump started growing bigger. I thought of my parents and the struggles they had been through in their lives in order to provide my brother and me with amazing opportunities only available in this country. I thought about how difficult it was for them, especially now, that we lived so far away. The more Father O'Ryan spoke, the bigger the lump grew. I told myself to focus on his adorable Irish accent. It was adorable and so soothing. I had always wanted to go to Ireland and I found myself day-dreaming about running into Father O'Ryan as I walked out of the Post in the little Irish village I lived in. Don't ask!!! I was basically replaying a scene from Waking Ned Divine (fabulous Irish film!!). When things are too hard to bare, I just start stimming (this is Special Education jargon).
Then Father O'Ryan began to speak about how our greatest calling here on earth is to show one another the love of Christ. He said that for some, this task is a gift, and that although he had not had the pleasure of knowing Hilda (Eduardo's mother) it seemed like she had lived her life with the sole purpose of blessing others. He went on to describe how one of his favorite theologians referred to these types of people as having "Christ's aroma". I had never heard of this phrase and I'm going to have to contact Father O'Ryan to find out who the theologian was, but this caught my attention. I loved the idea of someone having "Christ's aroma", where you see God's love, forgiveness, and peace in all that they do. Knowing Eduardo and the man of character that he is, I am positive that his mother had "Christ's aroma". How beautiful! The more Father O'Ryan spoke, the more the lump in my throat subsided.
After Father O'Ryan's introduction, Eduardo stood up and gave a sweet eulogy. It was amazing to hear about how his family had narrowly escaped Cuba when Castro took power (Eduardo had been a young child) and fled to the United States. Back in Cuba, both of his parents had been Ph.D.s but when they came to the U.S. they had to start all over again. Both of Eduardo's parents worked tirelessly, in positions that they were over-qualified for, to build a new life in this country. Eventually, Eduardo's mother, Hilda, earned her Ph.D. in Spanish and spent almost 20 years teaching in colleges. I loved hearing how soft Eduardo's voice was when he recalled sweet stories about his mother's tenacity and gregarious spirit. I especially loved seeing the pride that emanated from his shoulders as he described how he had eventually bought his mother a water-front condo facing the Miami hotel where she had worked as a maid for decades. What an amazing story and testament to the power of faith and commitment.
As Eduardo concluded his eulogy, my heart burst with appreciation for the gift that the Marbans were in our lives. The mass was closed with "Amazing Grace". I looked at Linda and we both smiled at each other. She had warned me via a text earlier in the morning that she had awoken with a nagging feeling and had read the blog, only to discover my entry where I talked about the very same song. Far too many times we have had these strange coincidences. We've decided that we must be sisters :)
By this time, it was past 2pm and I quickly hugged the Marbans one last time. I had to get going because my parents and Adelae (our niece from Todd's side- his brother Joe's daughter) were on their way to Santa Barbara and arriving soon. Again, I was blessed with no traffic and made it back to Santa Barbara without a hitch. I did make a quick stop in Reseda at Las Fuentes to pick up Nina some more arroz con pollo. There was no way she would have forgiven me if I had returned without a supply :)
I was convinced that my parents would arrive before me, but I actually beat them...by a whole 3 minutes. I was unloading the food from La Fuentes when they pulled up. They looked tired from the long 6 hour drive but also extremely happy to see me. My dad rolled down the window and I snuck a quick hug before he parked the car along side our mini-van. The back passenger door opened and out popped Adelae with the most gorgeous smile. Just then, we heard the zoom of Teddy's motor-cross bike as he rushed up yelling, "ADELAE!!!" He hopped off his bike and rushed to hug his cousin. He wrapped himself around her waist, almost dragging her down to the ground. She laughed a syrupy giggle and hugged him back. All week long the kids, particularly Nina had asked when Adelae was going to arrive. Now she was here!
All of the commotion must have caught Nina's attention indoors because within a few seconds, she and Todd had made their way outdoors to greet our guests. Nina was happy to see her grandparents and hugged them hello. But when she saw Adelae, brilliance radiated from every inch of her plump
little body. Adelae was music to Nina's life, plain and simple. Adelae returned the same radiant smile to her little cousin, although behind her crystal blue eyes I noticed a bit of surprise and a ton of concern. I looked at Addie and gave her the most reassuring smile I could muster. Unfortunately, I hadn't prepared Adelae for Nina's swollen little body, particularly her face. Since starting radiation Nina had put on 5 pounds but her face was the most noticeable difference; it was swollen and she had huge chipmunk cheeks.
Addie is a brilliant child. I don't just say that because she is my niece and I adore her, which I do! But truly is brilliant, a gifted girl, who is completely fluent in Spanish and can read and write as well in Spanish as she does in English. Since kindergarten Adelae has been in a Spanish immersion school program and has flourished! She is the second of four children and has the role of "care-taker" in her family. She is the one that no one has to worry about, although I often worry that because of that she is the one that suffers quietly. She takes care of herself and helps the rest of her family. No one has to worry about her getting her homework done or studying or playing well with friends. Don't get me wrong, Addie is a rascal like any other kid, but she is talented beyond talent and has the most generous and giving heart that I have ever seen in a child. The only other child that I have known to rival Adelae's giving spirit and love for learning is Nina. Perhaps that is why they are such good friends, such sisters! Irrespective of the reason, the girls are as close as any two people can be and we have always praised God for their relationship.
Being the astute girl that she is, Adelae noticed the look in my eyes and did not say a word to Nina about her physical transformation. She just hugged Nina and told her how happy she was to see her. Nina could barely speak she was so delighted. The girls walked into Nina's room and immediately began chatting. My parents stood in amazement at the sight before them. The last time they had seen Nina she could barely manage to walk, was unresponsive, and mainly slept. Now they saw a little granddaughter that smiled, responded, easily walked, and chatted up a storm. Their eyes filled with tears and they gave me long, warm hugs. It felt good to have my parents here. I was glad they got to see Nina happy again. Nina had always been our happy girl and that is what I want to ensure for the rest of her life, regardless of how long that may be.
|Playing with Adelae|
We spent the late afternoon and evening in complete bliss. My mom and dad fixed a delicious tri-tip dinner with all the trimmings. Nina loved each bite, especially the fresh bread they had brought. Of course the bread was smothered in butter :) My parents have a Portuguese bakery in Turlock and we are spoiled with all of their treats when they come to visit or we visit them. My parents could not get over how different Nina was. They were right. She had improved dramatically; was at about 50% of baseline. The best part of her improvements was how giggly she was. We had all missed that the most. Prior to getting sick Nina loved to laugh. That was the first thing that went and we were all desperately wounded by the absence of her laughter! But now...it was back and everyone delighted in it!
|Dinner with Vovo & Vava (Grandpa & Grandma in Portuguese but as those of you who speak Portuguese will know I mis-spelled Vava; I did it on purpose because it will be easier for readers to pronounce :)|
After dinner, Nina took a tiny nap and my mom sat beside her, stroking her head, tickling her back, praying over her. My dad played with Teddy and Adelae. At one point, Teddy came downstairs and flashed us the gruesomest of smiles. He had been given a set of Halloween dentures and had decided to model them all to us. After showing us the third pair, he tore them out of his mouth right in front of us. To his horror and Adelae's, my father took out his own dentures....but these weren't a set that came in the gift...these were his actual dentures which Teddy wasn't aware his grandfather had (my dad just got dentures a month ago!). When my dad detached his dentures, Teddy simultaneously shuddered and screamed the loudest, highest pitch scream that you could ever imagine. My dad, Adelae, and I practically fell over from laughter. Teddy was so disgusted that he said he felt like he was going to pass out, which only added fuel to the laughter that had now taken over my dad and Todd! Laughter is such a beautiful gift!
|Vava and Nina taking a cat nap|
|Teddy pretending to pass out after seeing Vovo's dentures!|
|Teddy and Vovo with their dentures :)|
|Nina and Max taking a cat nap!|
Life was good!! God was good!!
Life IS good, even now in the middle of this turmoil!! God is ALWAYS good, especially now in the middle of this turmoil!!