Yes, you read right? My Mother passed away, January 1, 2009 at 9:50 pm, even though her death certificate will say 10pm, my brothers and I know better...we were there.
Those of you who know me, know my Mother had been ill for quite sometime and it was just a matter of time before I had to deliver this news. I wasn't ready to write about it earlier and frankly, I still don't think I am, but I'm going to try.
It started New Year's Eve, December 31st, 2008, it was bitter sweet...my Bestest had announced earlier in the day that he and his wife were expecting their 2nd child...due date? August 9th (you all know I was excited to hear that!) my brothers left to spend the New Year with my Aunties (all four of them) since Mom had been sick she wasn't fit to travel long distance, so My family and I stayed at home with her. (another year with Dick and Ryan...no big deal) I remember her saying..."Mija, just give me a vicodin and I'll knock out and be out of your hair." Just like her...to try not to be a burden to me. Through the night, she had been complaining of pain her leg and I gave her another Vicodin...hoping it would ease her pain. I should have seen it as a red flag, but i was so tired I just wanted to get some sleep. You see one of us had to sleep next to her just in case she woke up in the middle of the night and needed something, since by brothers were with our family in Riverside...it would be me to stay with her. The moaning just kept up and I was getting so frustrated cause i was sooo tired. I snapped at her a couple of times, something to this day I dont think i could ever forgive my self for. Finally dawn broke and I had no choice but to take her back to the hospital, she had requested that my brothers come and get her and I told her that since they had all been drinking that didnt make sense..I would take her. Michael called by brother and told him to meet us at the hospital..he would later be the one to make all the decisions...possibly one of the hardest decisions that any of us would ever be faced with.
All the way to the hospital she had been complaing of the pain and i snapped at her...again and told her that I was driving as fast as I could to get her there. You see I lived in South Orange County and I had to take to Moreno Valley..not exactly a 15 minute drive.
We arrived at the hospital and my brother was waiting for us outside. He told me to go get some sleep and he'll take care of everything from there. i just glared at him thinking, "Yeah, you got to enjoy your New Year while I had to deal with all this...as usual..figures" at that point i was relieved that he was going to take care of it. I told him I would sleep in the car for a bit til we hear from the doctor exactly what is wrong with her. That was at 9:05am.
I slept for about 15 minutes...needed to find out if everything was okay. I went back into the emergency where they had her and I could hear her moaning, "It hurts It Hurts" I thought she was being over dramtic has she always had been my entire life. I rolled my eyes and asked my brother what did the doctor say. He says, they are waiting to calm her down first before doing any tests. I looked over at her and yelled at her, "Mom, you need to calm down so we can figure what is wrong!" She looked at me with tears and cried, "I know but it really hurts!!!" The nurse then interjected and told my Mom they were going to be giving her some pain medication to relieve some of the pain she was experiencing.
My brother could see the frustration and told me to go home, get some sleep and just to make sure I come back. I told him I would, I looked over at Mom at that moment and saw how fragile and weak she looked...then I choked and my eyes filled with tears...what was wrong with me? I went up to her kissed her on the forehead and apologized, "Mami I am sooo sorry, please forgive me!" She looked up at me and said, "My Brown Eyed Girl...no need to say yur sorry..I know you were tired"
I said bye to my brother and told him i'd be back later. I cried all the way home. I got home and slept for about and hour or so..it felt like 5 minutes. I could hear Michael talking to someone, "Yeah, she still sleeping...I'll tell her..is there anything else...?" At that moment i woke up and asked him who it was..."Its your brother" he said.
"I'll take the call, give the phone...please" I asked as I motioned for him to hand over the phone.
Half asleep, I answered, "Dude..whats up?, everything okay?"
"yeah, just wanted to see what time you were heading back here...get some sleep..i just wanted to know when i could expect you"
I cleared my throat and told him, "Im on my way..I just woke up, Im good..how is she?"
"They moved her up to ICU, just get here as soon as you could, okay" he had this sort of worried toned when he asked me to come back.
"Im on my way..." then i hung up and jumped into the car.
I had driven the distance to the hospital a hundred times but it never seemed as long as it did right that this moment. About 30 minutes into the driving...it was about 4pm...my cell phone rang and looked down to see who it was...it was my ex sister in law, Brandy.
I answered the phone..."Hello"
"Lisa, its Brandy...where are you at?"
"Im in Riverside near 14 th street, why?
" Lisa, I need you to pull over..."
My heart sank at that moment..."this is it..this is the call I have been dreading" i thought to myself..."Lisa, you're strong...you've been preparing yourself for this moment" I said to myself.
"Okay, hold on" I told her...so i veered off to the side of the freeway and took a deep breath for the news I was about to recieve.
"Lisa, Frank just spoke to the doctor and the doctor told him that there was two options that can be done your guys Mom"..she started to say.
"You mean she still alive?" I asked..."Yes, she's still knocked out, they have her on pain killers" Brandy says.
"Well what are the options" I asked her.that
"the doctor says that there is a flesh eating bacteria eating at her legs and they could perform surgery but no guarantee she'd survive it..." she starts to say.
"what's the other option" I asked.
"the other option is that they make her comfortable with the pain meds and wait" she finishes.
"Wait for what?" I said.
She took a deep breath..and then she said, "To pass away...Lisa, Frankie cant make this decision he needs you to tell him what to do"
He can't make that decision? What? I could? How do i make that type of decision...i needed ALL my brothers.
"Brandy, can they wait, I'll be there in 20 minutes?" i asked.
"Thats just it, Lisa, they need a decison now so they can prep the operating room" she explains.
What do i do? I kep thinking to myself...this is our mother how do i say: let her attempt to live or let her die? I was up all night watching her go through that pain...what is surgery going to do for her? Cause more pain? Can we watch her go through that?
So I said it...."Brandy, tell Frankie...no surgery"...God forgive me.
When i had finally arrived to the hospital, all my brothers were there. They escorted me to the ICU department where our Mom was. When i saw her, I wanted to break down and let out all my pain, but i knew my bothers were looking to me for guidance and strength. I told myself, "Later, you break down later, the boys need you now"
My brother, Frank, walked in with the doctor to explain to me the progression that had taken place from when i brought her into emergency to when they placed her in ICU. It was pretty bad and the doctor said had we opted for the surgery the likelihood of her surviving was in the low double digits.
I pulled the doctor aside and asked her what do we do from here. She said that they would keep our Mom as comfortable as possible, they had her on pain medication and that it should happen fairly quickly. I gave the doctor a baffled look, "Fairly quickly? Doctor, what exactly are you telling me? Our mother is going to die tonight?"
The doctor had assumed that i knew exactly what she meant when she said that it would "happen fairly quickly". "Im so sorry, yes...your Mother may not make it through the evening"
I just froze when she finished her sentance. I looked in the room and saw my four brothers surrounding my bareley coherent mother. Each brother took turns holding her hand and each asking for my mother's forgiveness for all the heartache they caused her while they were growing up. I watched each of these men with tears in their eyes as they witness their mother slowly passing away. I was so sad to see these four strong men; men that when they themselves have been faced on the verge of death, guns have been pointed at their head and with no fear say, "You got the balls to pull the trigger, then pull it." These same men now have fear in their eyes that i have never seen before, as they are left to wonder what their lives will be like without their Mother in it.
How am i suppose to tell them that Mom wont be with us tomorrow morning. How do i say that? My next thought was my daughter, Isis, she needed to me here and be here now. I left the ICU to call my husband. "Hello" he answered. My voice was quivering as I began to speak, "Honey, they gave my Mom less than 24 hours...I need Isis here now..where is she?" i began to sob. "Babe im so sorry..she went to the movies with her friends, do you want me to get her and take her" he asked. "Yes, please..i want to make sure she sees my Mom and says her final goodbye to her, you know how close they were, please hurry"
*****When I was 5 months pregnant with my daughter, my Mom and I had gotten into a huge arguement and I moved out. I was so pissed at her that I had threatened that she would never see the baby (we didn't know whether is was a boy or a girl, all i knew was I didnt want her near the baby) I moved in with one of my Aunties and trying to get through my pregnancy with out her. After a month of living with my Aunt I had a doctor's appointment but no one was around to take me; i had no choice but to call my mom and ask her if she would be able to take me. She said she would; she came to pick me up and i barely said two words to her. We arrived to the appointment and it was my turn to see the doctor. I was going to have an ultrasound and i knew i didnt want to know the sex of the baby; i wanted to be surprised. My anger had obviously disappeared but i still held a grudge but let it go long enough to ask her if she wanted to come in with me.
The nurse asked me to change and lay on the table and wait for the doctor while he finished with another patient. The nurse tried to make small talk with me and my mom.
"So is this your first baby?" she asked while she was getting the gel to place on my belly to start the ultrasound.
"Yes", I answered, then my mom chimmed in, "Yes, it my first grandbaby" with a huge grin, for the moment she forgot that we were hardly speaking.
"Do you have any other children?" she asked her. "Yes, I have four sons, this is my only girl" she exclaimed so proudly as the nurse was rubbing the utrasound paddle back and forth across my belly with one hand and hitting a computer keys taking screen shots with the other.
"Yeah, there hasn't been a girl in the house for 22 years" I said. The nurse was listening while she looked closely at the screen, there were a few"uh huh's" between statements and then with a smile she said, "Until now" as she pointed to the screen.
My mom and I stopped moving and I said, "What? what do you mean until now?" I had completely forgot to tell the nurse that i didnt want to know the baby's sex.
"Congratulations, you're having a baby Girl!" she gleamed like she just knew she delivered the best news on earth....little did she know...she did!
My mom and I looked at each other both with tears in our eyes and hugged each other. She kissed me on my forehead, rubbed my belly and said, "I finally get my I-ziz (Isis), you will tell her her Grandma named her okay, Mija."
She always said that if anyone of us kids had a girl first we were to promise and name her Isis.
I smiled back at her and as i was rubbing my belly told her "I will make sure she never forgets, Mom"
Since that day we always knew Isis was meant to do great things. Even in my belly, she was able to accomplish what other people couldn't do.....mend her Mommy and Grandma's broken hearts.*****
Through all this, my husband has been so amazing. He watched my relationship with my mother go from hot to cold in a matter of seconds. He would stand by and watch me give her money or pay her rent because she couldnt do it on her own and I would feel so proud that I could that for her because i was in a good place in my life to do it. Then how I would complain about after having a 5 minute conversation with her on the phone and feel mentally exhausted after i was done.
*****There was this time when she and I had a really bad falling out. I was pregnant with our son and I just let her have it, i told her how much i resented all the shit that she put me through when i was growing up and reamed her like i never reamed anyone in my life. She left crying and i went back in the house and was so angry. I told my husband I was done and couldn't deal anymore, I just need to stop talking to her. About a few weeks later, he and I went to a movie and there was a quartet playing some songs while people walked around the shops and then they started a few cords which i automatically recognized the song and my eyes started to tear up...it was "Brown Eyed Girl"
He looked over to me and saw my tears fall down my cheek, he placed his hand on my shoulder and said, "Babe, call her...its your Mom and I cant imagine you not having her a part of your life, especially now." He was right.
I called my Mom, "Hello" she answered. "Ma' its me...i am sooooo sorry, please forgive me, i had no right to talk to you the way I did and I feel sooooo bad" and then I started to cry.
"Baby, its okay, you needed to let all that out for you, not for me and Im sorry too that you held that in all these years." she replied.
"Mommy, I love you" "I love you too, Baby"...just like that we were back to being us.*****
I always said my heart belong to four major people in my life...My grandparents, my uncle Ralph and my Mom. If i were to ever lose any of them (which I did) i would be a mess, but losing my mother?... I would become a wreck. I'd always hoped that I'd have a strong mate if that ever happened because i was going to need him to stand by me as i try to function. I was lucky enough to have Michael by my side to help ease my pain or at least try.
He has truly been a God send.
After i hung up with him I went to the waiting room to see my family and my aunts were there. All grieveing; not knowing what was happening behind the metal doors was killing them and I could see it in their face. My Mother was the oldest girl and was a second mother for them. She had been there to care for them from diapers to every heartache, every addiction and all the growing pains in between. How can I tell them that their Big Sister; their second Mother had less than 24 hours to be with us. This was news that i didnt have the heart to deliver.
They all turned towards the door and saw me on the other side of the window; even though I didnt say a word, the look in my eyes told them what I couldnt.
I walked in the waiting room and told them that the doctor is only allowing me and my brothers in with her and if anything changes I will come and get them.
They didnt argue with me, they said for me to take as much time as I needed with her. If any people on this earth knew what my relationship with her was like...it was these women. Through all that we went through...my aunts tried playing referrees, mediators, confidants anything to help my mom and i make are relationship stronger. No matter what it may have been...this was my Mom...I may not have liked her, oh but I loved her and love her. If it werent for her, i wouldnt have had the strength to have endured what life has thrown at me. She showed me that you would do anything to make sure you're family is never without. How when things seemed so bleek, she could turn it around by making her famous meatloaf. I knew when she made meatloaf things would be okay.
When I was telling my brother how bad I felt for being so frustrated and I hoped Mom forgave me. My brother turns to me and says, " Lisa, I told mom, "please dont be mad at her Mom, she's just tired' Mom looked at me Lisa and said, "No Mijo, Im not mad at her...I made your sister with all the strength in the world...i just forgot to give her patience'" after my brother told me that, I broke inside. My eyes filled with tears but i couldnt let him see me fall apart because he and my other brothers needed me to be strong.
Later Lisa, you can break down later...not now.
I went to speak to the doctor to make sure that the priest would be there to read her her last rites. The doctor had said they called him and that he should be there shortly. I looked at the clock and still no Isis and Michael. I kept thinking, "I hope they make in time"
I went back in the room and found my brothers just sitting with blank looks on their faces and I saw that one of my mother's hands were free, so I figured it was my turn to to speak to her. I walked over to her, brushed her hair from her forehead, held her hand and laid my head an her shoulder.
I whispered in her ear, "Mommy its me, you said you wanted to see all of us together at the same time in the same room...we're all here Mom." By this times tears were streaming down my face and then I continued, "Mom, if you cant hang any longer, it's okay to go, you made me strong enough to watch over the boys and I'll always look out for them....I am my brothers' keeper. Go, Mommy go with all my Tios and my Abuelo and Abuela, they're waiting for you." Those were probably the hardest words I ever had to say, because the reality was i had to let her go and I didn't know how to?
I just stared down her face and watched her sleep, i looked over at the monitor and saw that there was still a pulse and some activity...i knew she heard everything i was saying to her. Just then her eyes opened half way and she smiled, looked up at me and said, "My Brown Eyed Girl, why you crying?"
My brothers turned quickly to see her, this is the first time since she was placed in ICU that she spoke. I could see the boys wanted to just talk to her but they also realized she was weak. She looked around the room and saw all of us surrounding her bed. Where's Iziz?
"She and Michael are on their way Mom " i told her.
"That's my Iziz...i named her, tell her i love her " she said.
"Why are all you crying whats wrong?" she said as she looked at each of us.
We had to explain to her what decision we had made, she argued with us and begged us to give her a chance to survive the surgery. We couldnt believe it. We were shocked that she would want to put herself through all that pain. However, as a mother myself, if i saw all my kids grieving for me, i too would want to try to ease their pain anyway i could; even if that means that I endure all their pain, becasue as a parent isn't that what you would do?
We spoek to the doctor and explained what she wanted and we asked the doctor what were her chances of surviving at this point and the doctore replied, "Her chances of surving has dropped to the single digits"
We all looked at each other, half of us wanted the surgery and the other said "no more pain for her". This would be the first time that my brothers and would be on oppsite sides of a debate.
One brother said, "Lisa, you're the oldest, what ever you say I'll stand by you"
The next brother, "What if she could survive? We have to believe, right?"
The next brother, "She has been in lot of pain, do we put her through that?"
Then the last brother and this one hit hard, "Fuck that! No, no...it has to be surgery, we're going to do the surgery...if there is a slight chance that she can survive, we have to try. If you guys choose no surgery, Fuck that...that's on all you, dont fucken say i agree with you, yeah majority will make the decision but no, she has to make ...she has to...Fuck..its Mom" with every hard word that he was saying the tears seem to fall even harder.
I looked at all their faces and then I spoke, " Mijos, i know what you're all saying, but she's been living with me for a month and i've slept near her practically every night. I hear the pain she's having and her mobility is none. If we opt to do the surgery and she doesnt make it...do you know where we're all saying our final goodbye? On a surgery table where she'd be cut open...I dont knwo about you but i dont want that to be the last vison of her in my head to ne that, I say no surgery..no more pain for her...here...in this bed...til her last breath..this is where she should be with all of us surrounding her. This is where she should be not on an operating table"
Its hard when we're faced with a decision to let go of a loved one. Our selfishness takes over and we want them with us forever but never thinking of what it might mean for them. I think my brothers thought about that and then agreed that we wouldn't do the surgery, but to put her mind at ease, we told her the otherwise. After she thanked us all for giving her a chance, she looked at each of my brothers and told them that she loved them and then she looked at me and said,
"Baby, My Brown Eyed Girl...everytime you hear that song you think of me, okay? I love you."
Those would be the last words we would all hear from her.
The priest finally showed up and started reading her final rites and we watched the numbers on her monitor get lower and lower til at 9:50pm when she took her last breath.
As the last breath left her mouth I felt an overwhelming feeling of pain and just when i went to fall to my knees, one of my brother ran up to me before I could hit the floor, grabbed me and whispered in my ear, "No, Lisa, no...we need you, we need you to be strong."
Just like that, I grabbed my composure, wiped my tears and held my baby brother...
Not now Lisa, you can't breakdown now...the boys need you..later..you can breakdown later
All a while i thought, 'Isis didnt make it to see her' and I'll need to help her through that pain.
I went downstairs to meet Michael and Isis, I broke down for a second, but then I saw Isis and knew I had to be strong for her too, she just lost her grandmother and she needed to grieve and as her Mother I needed to let her do that.
My family was in the ICU room to comfort my brothers; when Isis arrived she completely lost it and my brothers all held her. I looked over to my husband and told him that he and Isis go on ahead with out me because i wanted to drive home alone.
After an hour, I grabbed my things and as I walked away from the ICU room; my brothers and aunties were singing a heartfelt final "Happy Birthday" to Mom...she would have been 59 on January 3rd.
I reflect back on this night often and i believe deep down inside that she knew that we told her that we were going to have to surgery to put her at peace, this is why she said her final "I love you's" to us...just in case.
****Im told the pain will never go away but will subside each day; making it easier to survive it. I still havent fully grieved the loss of My Mother, but writing this has helped some...not completely but some...thank you for taking the time to read this.****