For me, the hardest thing about losing someone you love is the anxiety you feel as memories become less sharp, smells lose their vibrancy, the colors more dull. I formed a deep sense that I am losing something that felt so tangible only days before.
The strongest memories I have of my mother, the ones I hold on tightly to are related to how uninhibited she was. Somehow she raised three fairly introverted children along with my poor father who was petrified over the idea of any attention being drawn to him. Her effervescence, limitless energy, and desire to interact with everyone in social situations was somewhat terrifying to us. Nothing could and did hold her back, my father regularly unable to keep up with her. She was able to read a room and found ways to connect with people and build community. When I was small I loved watching her work a room, I took mental notes on how she was able to disarm people. When she had breast cancer and we were stuck spending hours waiting for doctors appointments, I of course sat reading comfortably and her restlessness led her to speak with most of the women. She listened as they shared there pain and volunteered me to support these women. I did with pride. Their prescriptions were in English despite the fact that many only spoke Spanish. I made sure to thoroughly explain when and how often they needed to take their cocktail of pills. Nothing could hold her back when she wanted to do something and I try to embrace that lesson as much as I can.
Whenever Mariachis were present she would ask them to play Cielito Lindo. Of all the videos I found online I thought this best represented her personality since I would imagine she would be one of those women screaming at the top of their lungs, knowing all the words of the song. Despite her stage presence and my siblings and I playing instruments to various degrees of succsess she really was terrible at singing, honestly incapable of holding a pitch. But that of course didn't matter to her and she always sang gleefully with a thunderous volume.
I was in my early 20s when she was diagnosed with breast cancer. Two years later she finally succumbed to the illness. For those of us whose mothers are no longer around, especially the younger of us, mother’s day can be very challenging. The first couple of years after her death was always awkward. I was in my first quarter in grad school when she died, getting to know my new colleagues. I remember that first mothers day was hard as folks would always ask about her, my plans, what I was going to do for mother’s day. There faces becoming stone cold as I explained that she was no longer with us.
Enough years have gone by that I have thankfully been able to avoid those scenarios, however, I had been doing a lot of dating over the last several years and inevitably the conversation turned towards my parents and I was compelled to offer my narrative of what had happened to my dear mother, connecting back to the pain I still carry.
I love watching people hold their mothers on these occasions but it does sting. I used to volunteer for an organization that always sloppily had a board meeting on mothers day. I appreciated that my friend, the president of the organization acknowledged my situation and of others and said something like, "happy mothers day and those that play the role of mothers." These days I have various surrogate mothers since I miss the warm embrace of my own. We had a lot of years of tension but her love for me, as much as she was able to express it, was always there. I especially love being with mothers that are similar to my own, loud and unfiltered, incapable of holding things back.
Upon her death one of the harder pieces for me was to change how I imagine my own future. When I was younger I would imagine my mom meeting for the first time the women I would fall in love with, hanging out with my kid, proudly standing by me upon at a graduation. After she passed I needed to start imagining my future differently my hopes and dreams with her absence, referring to her in the past tense. I knew that I would always have that void. It’s been nearly 10 years. When she initially passed I never really thought about what it would feel like after so many years. What the void that initially was so harsh would evolve into. Perhaps thats why I made the short film below. I thought I was making it as a way to process my grief but I think I was also motivated to preserve my memories of her. In particular the former VHS footage of mom dancing at my sisters quinceañera.
In conclusion during these celebratory days think of us, those that are struggling with our memories, grieving and holding memories all at the same time.