I never thought Don Hector was capable of singing the way he sang to me on that morning! It was one of my favorite songs: “La morenita” which means “little brunette” (lol). It had been a few months since we brought him (and Luz) to live with us and he seemed so comfortable, happy and at peace. It was as if he was ready to finish a good run in this life and rest. We got so close during this time and I loved it when I came into the room and he said “there’s mi morenita!” 🙂
I remember the first time I met him (and Luz). It was 1985 and at a time when he used to drink and smoke. He paid me a big compliment by telling Wally “mi’jo esta es toda una mujer!” okay it was more like “mi’jo, esta es una mujerona!”) which means something like “she’s all woman!” I blushed and stayed close to Luz (okay, Wally!). He was never disrespectful but I always was intimidated by him probably because he would always compare my cooking to Luz’s delicious cooking and yes, I was always short on the comparison scale!
I would have never imagined that I’d be the one taking care of him and getting as close as I was to him during his last few months of life.
He became more and more conservative as years passed by, especially after becoming a man of faith and making a 180 complete turn around. He stopped drinking and smoking and was one of the most hard working and responsible persons I’ve ever met. He earned the respect of people because of his character.
Don Hector had a special appreciation for my mom, who became his spiritual mother. My mom and Manu, her husband, visited him and Luz often and they discipled him in the word of God. He was certainly a changed man from the first time I met him. This is one of the reasons why he was so grateful to my mom and why I admired her so much and always will…she marked the life of many people in a positive way and I celebrate her legacy!
Fast forward to 2014 and imagine this 83 year old men who always took care of others (especially his “viejita” as he used to call Luz), a man who always worked 2 jobs, took a month vacation every year and traveled one year to see his family in Mexico and the next year to see her family in Puerto Rico, a man who was strong and healthy… going from 180 lbs to 90 lbs in a matter of a short period of time and having Dementia make him become someone who couldn’t remember if he ate breakfast, if it was Sunday or if he knew who we were.
We saw the decline of his mind immediately and wanted to make him as comfortable as possible. Even though Wally had researched a few senior homes, neither Luz or me like that idea. So, we built an additional bedroom in our home and brought them to live with us.
We were so happy to have found Ana Lucia and be able to provide care for him 24/7. She was friendly, outspoken, talkative and hard working but needed to get 2 days off every week. So, Sunday and Monday became my permanent days to help. I had him on a firm scheduled and he would eat every 2 hours (including his protein shakes and supplements). When the Hospice visited for the initial assessment, she said “Norma, you’re prolonging his departure”. “there’s no need for protein shakes or supplements any more”. I could tell he was ready for some time and maybe I knew his departure would be very hard on Luz… and it was. Luz was in denial for a long time and I remember the moment she accepted it was time and let go. We asked her to give grace for the meal and with tear in her eyes she asked God to do his will with Don Hector. A couple of days later he passed away peacefully.
When you watch the video (wait for it!) you’ll be able to see what I mean when he said “I see beauty”… he didn’t mean it as physical beauty but I imagine that as he looked around, he saw the beauty of his loving family taking care of him and the commitment we had to honor him.
The lesson here is that no matter how hard life is for you that no matter what you’re going through, you can look around and see the beauty of a friend, the beauty of compassion, the beauty of family, of unity, of love, of God… look for things that make you happy and spark joy into your life!
I truly enjoyed this day for many reasons. First of all, I just finished several commitments that were taking much of my energy and all my focus in the last month. Second of all, I have family visiting from out of town and it was refreshing to be able to take a day to enjoy their company, catch up on life and rest. As I was laying by the pool, I reflected on all the great things that happened over the last few weeks and remembering the answers my group of 30 pre-schoolers gave me when I asked “Who made you beautiful?”, brought many smiles and warm memories.
I remember the day I asked them, it was 2 days before the program was ending and I had won the right to ask pretty much anything I wanted. We had created a fun environment where they felt loved and cared for. They would come into class with the expectation that it was going to be a fun time! Some them would run to me and hug me while saying “I love you”. They were all lined up and ready to start our session when I asked each “who made you this beautiful?”, nearly everyone answered the same thing “my mom”. I wish I had taken a picture of each one of them while they said it one by one. They had a big smile and the certainty that, if this was a contest, they would win! Moms have that effect on little ones.
I remember “knowing” my mom made me, helped me, loved me, protected me…there wasn’t anything I didn’t think my mom would be able to handle or do for me. She was my hero and I could tell these little ones felt the same way about their mom. To be fair, a couple of kids answered “my dad made me beautiful” and one actually said “my brother made me beautiful”.
When it was my turn, I shared with them the fact that when I was young like them, I didn’t think I was beautiful. My mom always told me I was and I never believed her. As you know I always blamed my insecurities on my dad…but the day I realized God loved me unconditionally and I accepted this love, I felt the most beautiful and loved woman on earth! I had finally felt I belonged and someone cared about me and ever since then, I believed I was a person with a purpose and that made me feel beautiful. The next day was our last day together and when I asked “Do you remember who made me beautiful?” some quickly raised their hands and said “God did and He made me beautiful too!”. Deep down inside, in their innocence, they believe their moms did and I agreed with them because God gave me the privilege to be one of the daughters of the most amazing moms ever.
I wish I was much younger when I learned this truth. Sometimes, even in casual conversations, we are influencing those we encounter, work with, counsel or simply talk to. Let’s be intentional to influence everyone we meet in a positive way no matter how old or young they are. Always aiming to live a life of significance!