Sunday, November 8, 2009

So What if I have another Brown Spot?

I looked in the mirror today and there it was-- a new brown spot. It wasn’t there yesterday. This brown spot is an old age spot. I am getting older whether I like it or not. Then I thought about my mother and even though she had brown spots, she never would be considered old. Her mind stayed young and active until non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma consumed her body.

I aspire to be like my mother, maybe old on the outside but young, energetic and eager to learn on the inside. She was a kind soul who truly cared about others. I aspire to be like her and use my “orphan” status to help others through their grief.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

September 8 Marks Three Years

A Message to My Mother:

I can't believe that on September 8 it will be three years since you passed away. Every day, I miss hearing your voice, your optimistic outlook on life, your caring ways, your strength in dealing with life challenges and of course, your presence.

I wear something of yours everyday-- a pin, a ring, earrings, a necklace--to keep your memory close to my heart. My hope is that you are looking down on me and smiling, that you know that I will keep trying to honor your memory, and that your memory lives on in all of those who you have touched.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Forever Memory Pin

In December 2008, I made a New Year’s resolution at that I would create a lapel pin, which would be a symbol of hopefulness for those who had experienced the loss of a loved one. By wearing this pin, it would honor the memory of their loved one. The person wearing the pin would also have an opportunity to speak about their grief to others. Sometimes it just helps to know others care and that they relate to your grief. Hopefully, the person that is wearing the pin would feel that they are not alone.

In our society grief is not spoken about or is hidden. I think all of us need the opportunity to speak about our grief, even if the grief is from a loss in the distant past. Since we do not wear black to show we are in mourning anymore, this pin would demonstrate our grieving in a subtle way and would be uplifting to those who wear it.

Well, this is one New Year’s resolution that I’ve kept. The pin is designed and I’ve named it the Forever Memory Pin. More news about the pin will follow. Stay tuned!

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Steps for planting the Forever Memory Garden

Chose an area 16 X 20 feet
Laid out the planting scheme on graph paper
Rented a tiller to break up the earth
Raked the area several times to remove all the twigs, roots and other obstructions
Purchased peat moss to put in the holes and to spread around the plants
Purchased perennial plants, speedwell and lantana and one perennial, Juliet Dahlia
Purchased lilies, begonias (weather tolerant) and portulacas (drought tolerant)-- annual plants with color to plant on the borders of the garden
Dug up cannas from another location on the property
Once the raking was done, a focal point was picked for the cannas, which was the center of the garden. A hole was dug and peat moss was mixed with the soil before the cannas were planted. The cannas were placed in the hole and dirt was put in the hole and around the cannas along with more peat moss.
Next the lilies were planted around the cannas, leaving enough space for weeding.
Next the lantanas were planted in a circular manner.
Next the speedwell plants, which are low lying plants that are great for borders.
Then the begonias were planted, which were pink and yellow in color, for the border. The begonias’ colors made the garden “pop” and created a true sense of where the garden boundary was.
Each time the plant was placed in the hole where dirt and peat moss were mixed and then peat moss was spread around the top of the plant.
Shake and feed fertilizer was put on all the plants. The plants were watered twice to make sure the soil was good and wet. Peat moss was then spread over the entire garden to keep in the moisture.

Do not plan to plant the garden in 102 degrees in the summer. Fall or Spring would be a much better time than the summer. Choose plants that are best planted for this time of year.
Choose perennials and a few annuals for color.
Start with a small plot of land for the garden. 8 X 10 feet is a good size. If you have space challenges, start with a 4 X 5 foot footprint.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Forever Memory Garden

I was thinking of remembering my mother in a special, almost permanent way when the thought of a remembrance garden came to mind. My friend, Jennifer Blair, thought this was a great idea and volunteered to help me. You must know that I have a “black” thumb when it comes to gardening so when Jennifer said she would help me I was not only excited, but also relieved.

Jennifer flew down from Washington DC to Cairo, Georgia, where my husband and I own twenty acres. She surprised me with a beautiful ceramic plaque that she had made and which read, “In Memory of Marina Gonzalez”.
I picked a sight near the lake for the garden and where I would be able to see the garden from the windows of our future home. I bought an old bench, with lots of character, for $10 and placed it under a magnolia tree and placed it in front of the future garden with a view of the lake.

Jennifer and I planted the garden in memory of my mother on Father’s Day weekend. We planted lilies, cannas, lantana, begonias, portulacas, speedwell and one Juliet Dahlia. It was 102 degrees but we persevered and finished the garden without getting heat stroke. We placed the plaque leaning against the cannas. The garden is truly lovely, achieved with a lot of love with every hole dug and every plant placed in the earth.

You might ask why do something in honor of my mother on this special day for fathers? I know my father understands why I did something for my mother on his day. He always gave my mother beautiful cards for Valentine’s Day, for anniversaries, and for every other occasion and gave her beautiful gifts. He so appreciated the special person my mother was. So I am honoring my mother on his behalf—that is my Father’s Day present to him. I know my mother is smiling down from heaven looking at her garden.

I will remember sweet memories of both of my parents whenever I sit on the bench overlooking the beautiful garden.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Father’s Day without Father

What do you do when there is no father to celebrate on Father’s Day?
I decided to make a donation to Hospice in memory of my father.

Both my mother and father were in Hospice the last weeks of their lives. Hospice served as a peaceful time for their last days—no pain, no more needles sticking in them, no more X-rays, no more hospital. Apparently, in medieval times, hospice was a place where weary travelers found shelter. Now Hospice provides an environment where those facing life-limiting illnesses can live their last days in comfort, at peace and in control of their health care. I am grateful for the care they received.

So this Father’s Day, if your father has passed, think about giving to your favorite non-profit organization in memory of your father. It will make your heart feel good and you will know that your father was remembered.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Where's My Chicken Soup

I've been under the weather the last couple of days. These are one of the times I really miss my mother. When she was alive, she would check on me every day or I would check in on her with a phone call. During the call, if she found out I was not feeling well, she would make me homemade chicken soup and drive forty-five minutes to my home to deliver it to me.

There is no substitute for a mother's caring ways. Not getting chicken soup is one of the things I have to get use to. But still I yearn for my mother's chicken soup.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Caregivers sometimes get "down"

Do you want to keep busy so you won’t have to be alone with yourself? Do you find yourself depressed when you are alone with your thoughts? These feelings are perfectly normal as a caregiver for an aging parent.

It is easy to go through stages of depression when you are dealing with the care of your parent on a daily basis. It is easy to busy ourselves to the point of exhaustion because it is easier than to face the fact that your parent is ailing or dying. However, the previous behavior will only add stress to your life and will add wear and tear on your mind and body.

When I found myself in a normal state of depression, I would read a book or articles on losing a parent or would call a friend. It helped me come out of the doldrums.

You need to give your mind and body time to regenerate. As you regenerate, your depression and stress will ease. During these times you might even come up with new ideas to utilize in your care-giving situation, new ways to handle your grief over losing your parent, or in having a new outlook on life.

Do you have any other ideas of things that you do, as a caregiver, when you are feeling "down"?

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Sundays Were Mother's Days

Sundays were special when I was growing up. This was the only day of the week my mother did not work. We spent a lot of time in the kitchen working on Sunday dinner. I rolled the dough for the pie crusts, one for my father's diabetic pie and one for the rest of us. My mother would usually make spaghetti, yes not a Spanish dish but nevertheless delicious. I would toss a salad and usually drain the spaghetti after it was cooked. My mother made the best spaghetti sauce, everyone thought so. After supper was made, we all sat down to eat. Sometimes our friends would drop by and of course they were invited to join us. Sometimes one of my friends would stop by just in time for dessert because she knew that my mother would have baked a delicious pie, coconut cream or apple or chocolate, all made from scratch.

After I got married and had my two sons, we would all go to my mother’s house for Sunday dinner. My husband was usually working so I appreciated that I could go to my mother’s house. She made an effort always to cook something that my sons liked. I would visit with my mother, nothing special; we would just sit around and talk about what was going on with my sons or me. But it was special. These were times I treasure to this day. Time spent with my mother. Time spent with her and my children.

On Sundays, after my children were off to college, I would go to my mother’s house for Sunday dinner. The meals she cooked were wonderfully delicious and we enjoyed each other's company. After supper, we would sit and visit. She would tell me what was going on with the entire family and I would tell her what was going on with my sons. She so enjoyed hearing about my sons, who she loved dearly.

When my mother became seriously ill, on Saturdays, I would go over to the house and cook for her and my father. I didn’t want to go on Sundays because subconsciously I think the memories were too painful. I knew the Sundays I so enjoyed with her were never to be again.

Sundays are a little lonely for me now. I yearn to sit next to my mother and give her a hug. I wish I could freeze those moments in time when we had so much fun together, whether it be cooking together, shopping or just visiting with one another.
As time passes after her death, I look back fondly at all those Sundays we spent together. All those times we sat down together to discuss our family, politics, my job, or whatever came to mind. I feel so grateful to have had such a wonderful, caring, giving mother. She was full of grace and dignity and always such a lady!

On Sunday and on every Mother’s Day, I thank my lucky stars for the time I had with my mother. My mother gave unconditional love and was an example of what true motherhood is. She truly deserves to be honored.

Friday, April 3, 2009

When Taking a Shower is Hurtful

Have you ever jumped into the shower with the hot water running and felt like the water stung your skin? Can you imagine having this sensation every time you took a shower no matter if the water was just at the right temperature?

For the last two years of my mother’s life every single time she took a shower she was in excruciating pain. We didn’t know why at the time. Perhaps it was my mother denying she had a horrible disease or she downplayed the fact that she was very ill or that she could handle the pain like she handled everything else in her life, with strength and dignity.

It was difficult for her to get out of the tub so that is why she opted for showers. I would buy her different body shower gels, lotions and creams to help with the pain, but to no avail. It didn’t matter what temperature the water was and what soap she used, it stung. Her skin had big brown blotches and it hurt to look at her skin which was oozing liquids. My siblings and I kept asking her what the doctors told her and she kept telling us that they didn’t know what was wrong with her. I went on several doctor visits with my mother and I think she hid how sick she was from them as well.

My mother had non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. She hid the diagnosis from me and my siblings for almost 1 ½ years. She hid it until the disease consumed her body and there was no denying she was very, very ill.

Who would have ever imagined that taking a shower would be hurtful.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Backscratchers make me cry

Recently, I was at the local dollar store when while checking out, I glanced over at a container next to the checkout counter. There in the container were about two dozen backscratchers. Have you ever seen a wooden backscratcher? Has seeing a backscratcher ever make you cry?

Well, I was in tears when I saw the backscratchers because it brought back memories of my mother’s illness, non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. One of the side effects of this disease is terrible itching. My mother had a backscratcher by her side at home, at the hospital, in the car, everywhere she went. It was my job to use the backscratcher on her back, on the back of her arms, at her waist, wherever she had the horrible itch. She would tell me that I did the best job of using the backscratcher and wanted me to do it whenever I was with her.

When she lifted her top so I could scratch her, I would see the blood spots, the discoloration of her skin, the tumors, and the skin appearing to be rotting. I was horrified! I would turn my face away from her when I used the backscratcher so she couldn’t see the tears running down my face. I wanted to run out of the room, escape. But I knew the pleasure she received from me using her backscratcher on her so I accommodated her wishes.

Her skin was so thin that I had to be very careful that the skin would not tear and bleed or that it would not exacerbate the oozing coming out of her pores. But how could I deny her the only pleasure or relief in the waning years of her life?

My mother passed away after over two years of agony and in pain. The backscratchers were a symbol of her pain. Maybe one day I will be able to look at a backscratcher again and not cry.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Facing being an Orphan at 60

It is hard to face that I now represent the older generation. I am the oldest surviving child, the oldest surviving grandchild of my mother’s family. I hope with time I will gain strength, perspective and fortitude to carry on my family’s values, traditions and cultural roots.

What a responsibility it is to be the matriarch of the family! Matriarch—the term never crossed my mind until I became an orphan at 60, when both my parents died. It is an awesome responsibility for me to make certain that the generational link is never severed.

I’m not anyone’s child anymore. There is no smooth transition from being a child in the family to becoming an orphan. One day you have a parent and the next day you don’t. As a lifelong pleaser, it’s quite a revelation to know that there is no one to approve or disappoint anymore-- only yourself. You are it!

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Today marks my father's death two years ago

Today commemorates the 2nd year of my father’s death. I will always remember this date because it is a day before my birthday. I prayed that he would not die on my birthday but dying the day before my birthday is really not any better. I will always remember this date for the rest of my life as the day I lost my daddy.

My father was afraid of death but was prepared for it in a strange way. He had written his obituary many years before his death; picked the picture he wanted to attach to his death notice and had pre-paid for his mausoleum space (right below my mother's space).

Approximately one month before his death, he had quit eating. This was odd behavior for him because he loved to eat. He did not have an appetite and pushed food away and lost weight. He lacked mobility and balance. He was going downhill fast and entered Hospice. One week later he was gone. I would like to think that at the end he was not afraid of death at all but wanted to be with my mother who had died five months earlier.

So today, I fondly remember his beautiful smile, his loving words, and his wisdom. He was a mentor not only to my brother but also to me. He was a true example of what a father should be to his children. I know that he is happy in heaven with my mother.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

A Letter to My Parents on Valentine’s Day

Dear Mama and Daddy,
I miss you. Today on Valentine’s Day, I miss getting the loving card from you. I miss the phone call that wished me a Happy Valentine’s Day. I miss your hugs and kisses.
In your honor, I made a point to send especially beautiful Valentine cards to my sons, their wives and my grandchildren. I thought of you, mama, when I was choosing the cards. You always took such great care in purchasing the most appropriate cards that showed the depth of your love. You and Daddy always exchanged cards. Daddy, after mama had died, we found the cards you saved that mama had given you. All married couples should love each other the way you both loved each other.
You provided a great example to your children and grandchildren of how to care for one another, how to treat one another, and how to respect one another. You were great teachers.
I want you both to know that you are remembered and loved on this special day when people express their love.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Virtual Blog Tour of Sites Related to Grief, Loss, Bereavement

Visit for a wonderful compilation of books, blogs, websites, services, magazine….all related in some manner to loss, grief and bereavement.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Recipe for Happiness

My mother loved to cook and when she became ill with Non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma and was not able to cook anymore, she taught her caregivers. From her recliner, she would tell the caregiver the ingredients to that particular dish, one by one. She never wrote down a recipe, they were all in her head.

At her funeral, one of the caregivers got up and spoke about the gift my mother had given her - she had become a good cook.

This is one of her recipes:
Spanish Flan
6 eggs
1 large can evaporated milk
1 can condensed milk
1 can water
1/2 cup water
1/2- 1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 teaspoon salt

In a bowl, beat eggs, add vanilla, evaporated milk, salt and condensed milk. Put water in the empty condensed milk can and pour into mixture. Mix all ingredients. Put sugar and water in a small pot on high heat. Heat until the sugar turns brown. Pour sugar mixture on the bottom of a tube pan (make sure this pan is one piece). Then pour egg and milk mixture over the sugar. Pour water in a large pot or pan and then set the tubed pan inside of it. Preheat oven at 375 degrees. Place the large pot or pan and tubed pan in the oven. Cook for 45 - 60 minutes. You can tell if the flan is cooked by putting a butter knife through the flan, if the knife comes out clean your flan is done.

I am happy to share her joy of cooking with you.

Friday, January 2, 2009

Ode to My Granddaughter

Have you ever had a poem just flow out of your mind onto paper? This happened to me this holiday when I wrote this:

Little baby girl you are a miracle to behold

You were given my mother’s name but you haven’t yet been told

What a special person she was

But you have her fight, her lust for life, ‘cause

Little baby girl you have my mother’s name

You have quite a legacy and it should be your aim

To live up to your great-grandmother’ s name

We will remind you of her goodness in every way

She is no longer with us, on earth, anyway

But she is looking over you every day

For you see little baby girl you have her name

And you should always be proud and proclaim

I have my great-grandmother’ s name!

I framed this poem and gave it to my son and his wife as a gift to their three month old daughter, whose middle name is Marina.