New Beginnings

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When I started this blog in early September, I really had no idea where I was going with it. Like many bloggers, I like to write and sometimes I have a lot to say and of course I assume that people may want to listen (yeah, we’re a bit egotistical like that). Plus, I’ve had my share of challenges in the past five years and I figured that besides being therapeutic for me, blogging may also help someone else that’s going through something similar gain some clarity.
Little did I know that blogging would be challenging itself! But I am enjoying it. I am enjoying chronicling my life’s many ups and downs. Sometimes 15 people may read it and sometimes it may be more. It doesn’t matter. I am doing what I have loved since I was eight years old – writing. And I am learning from my mistakes. I’ve learned I need not make families members mad by spilling all of my guts with absolutely no censor (big whoops) but I’m also learning that it’s my blog with my opinions and it will stay as such. I’ve learned that people I would have never expected to read my blog are indeed reading it and that builds confidence And I’ve learned that this blog is part of my journey towards what God truly intended for me.
So as 2013 draws to a close I sit her and reflect on where my life has taken me. It has brought you to me and vice versa. It has brought my family to you.

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It has brought Joaquin to you.

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It has brought my struggles to you.

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It has brought my faith to you.

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I have newfound friendships through my readers and for that I am beyond grateful.  And I am over the moon thrilled that you are still here with me. I know that 2014 and beyond will take me on the rest of my journey and I couldn’t be happier to share it with you. May all of you have a blessed and prosperous 2014.

2014

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Where Have The Tears Gone?

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If you read my post yesterday, you know that I experienced a connection to God and Joaquin like never before on Monday afternoon. This connection left me so peaceful that I felt extremely energized. I fell asleep for the first time ever on Monday night with no tears in my eyes. And what followed was confusing. I tossed and turned throughout the night. So much for inner peace. But I wasn’t torn or sad. I just couldn’t sleep. I was just confused. I felt guilty.
My son died almost 3.5 weeks ago and I am not crying myself to sleep for the first time ever? How can that be? Is it possible that I’m forgetting him?? I continued to toss and turn and I when I finally fell asleep I realized that I started to remember my dreams again. I hadn’t been able to recall any dreams since Joaquin died. But I recall them now. Joaquin isn’t in my dreams but I at least know that my dreams have returned. When I woke up on Tuesday I woke up feeling very different. I didn’t feel like I was floating. Or dreaming. And things didn’t seem surreal anymore. I felt energized. But the confusion lingers.
When I finally spoke to a friend who has experienced the loss of a child as well, I quickly told her my experience and I immediately felt bad for doing so. Was it wrong to share my “awesome/peaceful” experience with her so soon? Would she hate me? I apologized for doing so as I realized that perhaps she had yet to find inner peace and I shared my guilt from the night before and I asked if it was remotely possible that I was forgetting Joaquin (yes, conversations with other moms that have lost a child are crazy like this…the words just spill out between us – no filter and no walking on eggshells when the topic is death)? She assured me no all across the board. She has had her moments of peace and she assured me that what I am experiencing is that I am adjusting to my new normal and that heck no – I am NOT forgetting Joaquin. I was told that my tears would return soon.  They won’t come as often but they will always be there. I don’t want to cry forever but I most definitely don’t ever want stop thinking about my sweet boy.
Later that Tuesday evening I did something that I hadn’t done in 4 months. I was still feeling energized and I was longing to feel that connection to God and Joaquin. I dug out my running shoes, changed my clothes, left my music behind and walked out the door. I started off with a very slow walk and slowly began to jog. My legs felt heavier than usual. Very unlike the first time I attempted jogging at the beginning of the year. But as I switched gears between jogging and walking I realized something that I had never experienced before. I could listen. Clearly. The sounds were everywhere. It’s as if I had been given new ears. I enjoyed my time outside. And I could literally see the huge driving force in my life ahead of me, the little one next to me and the huge army behind me. It was just me, Him, Joaquin and my team. On the path, alongside the noises that God wants me to hear – nothing else mattered. I found my peace.

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Crossroads

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Several things happened this weekend and they all involved talking about Joaquin, again.  It started with lunch with a friend on Friday afternoon.  Towards the end of our conversation, her eyes welled up in tears and we both sat in awe of the whole thing.  I said, “A mother’s instinct is amazing and even more so when we have a connection to God”.  A second visit happened when I ran into a friend on Saturday while I watched Alejandro at his golf lesson.  This particular friend had attended Joaquin’s funeral mass and we finally got the opportunity to speak.  It was such a good visit as she bravely asked questions.  In many circumstances, people tiptoe around the topic of death, especially that of a child’s death.  But she didn’t because she felt a connection.  She stated, “Forgive me if I’m being frank”.  Frank?  Gosh no!  I want people to talk to me about what they’re feeling and what our journey has done for them.  My friends, my life is an open book for a reason.  Please, ask away!

Later that afternoon,  I was on the phone with an old college friend.  My friend is a busy homeschooling mom that works for a parish in her area and as the years passed we spoke less frequently, but had managed to speak prior to Joaquin’s passing.  She had been sending me texts with prayers and support from the day that Joaquin went in until just a few days ago.  I was desperate to talk to her and I finally did this Saturday.

And when we spoke it was beautiful.  We spoke of St. Michael the Arch Angel as she suggested that I keep his prayer handy for those times when I feel like I am afraid.  She reminded me of the Pieta (a painting or sculpture depicting the Virgin Mary cradling the dead body of Jesus)

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and how, when you look closely, you can see her sorrow and anguish and at the same time you can see her peace.  I got chills as I told her that my last moment with Joaquin was very similar.  I have never connected more to our Blessed Mother than I did then.  I was, of course, anguished and sad that I would no longer physically have my beautiful son, but at that moment I was at peace because he had no more tubes, no more pain and more than anything I could hold him again.  While my husband and Alejandro cried around me, I was at peace knowing my sweet boy was whole again.

I asked her how she got to where she is now.  Because truth be told, when I met her she was just a fun college girl just like the rest of us (although she was always more pious than many of us).  She shared with me that through all the pain and anguish that she had suffered in the past, she has always felt peaceful in the presence of our Lord.  I couldn’t agree more.  I blurted out that I was feeling overwhelmed because I felt like I had finally been graced by God – something that I had been craving for years – at yet, I didn’t know where to go next with it.  In a nutshell, I told her I wanted to be like her.  I want to know exactly what to say, what to pray, how to pray.  I felt like I was at a crossroads and didn’t know which road God wanted me to take next.  She laughed and told me I was silly.  She reminded me that I shouldn’t be overwhelmed but instead told me that if I can continue to listen to God, as I clearly have especially in the last three months, that I would soon know where God needs me.

So, yesterday, as my husband worked and Alejandro spent Sunday with my parents, I did what felt right in my heart.  I turned off the TV and prayed.  I spoke (and yes cried) to God and Joaquin for a good ten minutes. I texted two friends when I was done.   Both are mourning mothers.   One friend, whose loss is more recent, admitted that as she received my text she was not doing well and she didn’t know what to do.  She was on the verge of a meltdown and home alone with both of her children.  I gave her some simple advice (get out of the house and go to your mom’s!!) and told her I was there if she needed me.  As that was going on, I asked my other friend to join me at mass.  She agreed.  And there we were.  Two friends, both mourning the loss of their children in the place where I have finally come to find peace.  As I sat there and once again, let His words sink in, part of Psalms 46:10 came to mind, “be still and know that I am God…”.

When we left mass I checked my phone and my other friend’s text awaited me “The kids and I are dressed and singing in the car on our way to my mom’s.  Stepping out into the sun makes a difference, fast! Thanks for sending that text at the exact right moment.”

Then I realized, God is in control of my crossroads. My trust and faith is in God and Him alone. He never fails. So, I will gladly sit back and let Him lead me.

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To Be Continued

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My very first post on this blog was about why I decided to start a this weeks before my son Joaquin’s third open heart surgery.  In it I said “I don’t want you to hurt but I definitely want you to learn the same life lessons I’m learning and just come along for the ride”.  Well, that couldn’t be more true now.

The last blog I posted before this one talked about my fears as we went in for Joaquin’s Fontan.  And in it I said “He’s been down this journey before but for the first time ever, we’ll be able to recall the memories together.  And I can’t think of a better person to share them with.”  Well, as fate would have it, I will not be able to recall those memories with Joaquin.  Instead my Joaquin was called into God’s Kingdom early Friday morning.

His actual passing was as peaceful (for me) as I could have wanted it.  I listened for God’s word and when I let them sink in, I let out the most amazing sigh ever.  I exhaled and inhaled the word of God.  It happened in the arms of one of the hospital chaplains but I know she was just a vessel for God and as much as she spoke in to my ears as wept in her arms the only thing I remember was this, “You are a woman of God”.  When she let me go, the decision was clear and free of burden – it was time to let Joaquin enter into His Kingdom.

That moment was free of burden but not free of pain.  After all, pain is part of this world.  But I choose to focus on God and carry on.  And as I do I will remember that I wrote that I couldn’t think of a better person to share my memories with – my angel Joaquin.  And I will.  And I am excited and joyful to do so.

A few years back, shortly after Joaquin’s second hospital stay, several people told me that I needed to write a book.  And I remembered telling them, “No, not yet.  My journey with Joaquin isn’t over.”  Well, Joaquin’s journey on earth was over on October 4, 2013 but our journey into our next chapter has only begun.  Stay tuned…

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Take 3

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Six weeks ago I got that dreaded call.  It was time for Joaquin’s Fontan.  We knew it was coming.  We’ve known since Joaquin was still in my belly.  And I would like to think I was prepared…but I wasn’t.  I cried when the hospital gave me the date.  And the memories started flooding back.  Oh, the memories.  Unlike my first born, Joaquin’s childhood memories have included plenty of tears.  From the time I found out about one of his defects up until Friday night when my nightmare left me crying and begging my husband to check Joaquin to make sure he was breathing.  He reassured me he was and then told me, “Walking into that hospital is making you stress”.  Stress??  Amidst the tears, I couldn’t comprehend what he meant.  Yes, I broke out in painful hives four weeks ago.  Sure, everyone contributes my painful gas to stress.  But how I could be stressed?  I was at peace with everything.  Much more so than I was two weeks ago.  I had changed my way of praying and it had made a difference.  Or had it?

Could the hospital really have made my subconscious bring back those memories?  What could have triggered it?  Was it the smell of the soap in the hospital bathrooms?  Was it the cardiac nurses that I have grown close to?  Was it the way my husband and I were just way too familiar with the routine?  That’s the part I hate the most.  He and I know what the routine is.  But Joaquin doesn’t.  He doesn’t remember the times I cried when he went into respiratory distress.  He doesn’t remember us trying to bring his fever down with washcloths.  He doesn’t remember having an IV started in his head because his veins were shot to hell.  He can’t possibly remember how at one point, I dropped to my knees because the worst thing was happening.  I felt my faith slipping away.  Without my faith, I knew I couldn’t function.  He can’t remember.  And I’m  he doesn’t.  But as we prepare for today’s heart cath and tomorrows Fontan, I’ll start sharing those memories with him.

And as we prepare, I’ll make sure to point out the best of our not so good situation.  Like, the fact that we have tons of people praying for him.  Or the fact that he’ll get lots of toys in his hospital room.  Or how about the fact that all he needs to do is smile at his nurses and they’ll treat him like a king.  I won’t bring up the fact that the McDonald’s in the lobby has the worst food ever.  Or that mommy lives on so much coffee but still manages to pass out the minute her head hits a pillow.  I won’t mention that I miss his big brother terribly.  I won’t tell him that I’ll gain 10 more pounds from eating at that same McDonald’s in the lobby.  Or that the nurses will have to convince me to go shower (do I offend??).

He’s been down this journey before but for the first time ever, we’ll be able to recall the memories together.  And I can’t think of a better person to share them with.

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Why Now?

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Why would I need to start blogging now?  Now of all times…when my life will once again be turned upside down?  The answer is pretty simple.  These are the times (when your life is anything but normal) that you start to look at life from a different perspective.  I mean yeah, in an ideal world, we would all be looking at life from a different perspective.  But come on, who are we kidding?  We have to have the naysayers to challenge those that are looking at life through rose colored glasses. 

And don’t get me wrong, I’m not ALWAYS looking at life through Mother Teresa’s eyes (but, man, imagine if we all did??) but I am definitely trying to.  And doesn’t that count for something these days?  That you at least try??

That’s what I love about this journey – my journey.  It’s so damn unpredictable and just crazy – kind of a lot like me, I suppose.  It’s so all over the place (hello??  another reference to my true self once more!!) but I am learning so much more about the true me now than I have ever known.  When our youngest son, Joaquin, was diagnosed with three congenital heart defects that would require three open heart surgeries, life threw me for the ultimate loop.  I can honestly say I suffered.  I suffered throughout my pregnancy.  I suffered during his hospital stays and man, oh man I suffered so much when we thought (one too many times) that we were close to losing him.  My heart ached so much. 

And then he got better.  And we were thrilled.  And life got back to normal – our normal, at least.  And when it did, I managed to say “Thank you, God” for these awesome life lessons.  And I tell everyone whenever I get the chance.  It hurt like hell but I would do it all over again in a heartbeat for those lessons learned.  So why am I blogging now?  Now of all times…when my life will once again be turned upside down?  The answer is so simple – I don’t want you to hurt but I definitely want you to learn the same life lessons I’m learning and just come along for the ride.