December 25th, 2003

Pensive

(no subject)

As most of you who read my journal know, danger_chick's grandmother passed away yesterday. This has affected me more than I would have expected, being that I never met her grandmother or even knew of her until a few days ago.

But this has got me thinking a lot about my own situation. Just as danger_chick was very close with her nana, I was very close with my Mama Chellita and am very close to my Mama Carmela. Mama Chellita also passed away around the holidays, two years ago. Despite my best efforts, I was not able to get to Panamá in time to see her one last time and say goodbye and tell her I love her so much.

So I'm sitting here on Christmas, what should be a joyous occasion, with moist eyes thinking about Mama Chellita and also of Mama Carmela's current condition.

One of the ladies who joined us for dinner tonight made a meaningful observation. In life we choose our friends, but our family is given to us; hence, the relationship is that more valuable when someone is both friend and family.

Mama Chellita and Mama Carmela were't just sisters, they were the closest, truest friends one could imagine. They were inseparable. They slept in the same room, lived in the same house, ate together.... Even Mama Carmela's marriage didn't separate them: "Pedro hasn't said anything, so I'm moving in with them," Mama Chellita said.

She was also a source of strength and support for Mama Carmela. Mama Carmela has led a difficult life -- her first child, a son, died during childbirth; her only other son died at 19 in a freak accident; her husband left her when my mom and aunt were 3 and 1, respectively, and was eventually murdered -- and Mama Chellita was always there by her side.

In many ways, some of us hoped that if one of them had to pass away first it would be Mama Carmela, not because we favored one over the other, but because we knew that Mama Carmela would suffer more if left alone.

And she has not fared well the past two years. The shock of losing her lifelong companion is too much for her. Her subconscious mind has activated some sort of self-defense mechanism, and when I talked to her last year she still did not acknowledge that Mama Chellita had passed away. Deep down inside she knows, but she won't acknowledge it.

But the pain has finally eaten away at her physically. She was a grand woman who at 92 looked like someone 10 years her junior. Now she is 93 and looks at least that old. She doesn't walk much anymore -- maybe a few steps with the aid of a walker. Her mouth hangs open with her tongue thrust forward and her eyes are mostly closed. Her face is withered and her air thinner than ever. She spends her days sitting in a chair in her bedroom, lying in bed, eating liquified food, playing with play-doh for about 40 minutes while her food digests, and then going back to her bedroom. She hardly sleeps at night. And she doesn't talk anymore. When she wants or needs something, she cries. Only about three or four words can be understood: Estellita (my aunt's nickname), cama (bed), vamos (let's go), and an occasional other word. I gaze into her eyes and see understanding, see that there is still a mind at work in there, but her body is no longer responding to her mind.

One of my half-uncles, Daniel, stopped by for a visit yesterday. He bid me follow him into the terrace and then told me that she had not been this bad 10 days ago, when he last visitted -- that she then walked a little more and talked more clearly and often. And then he started to cry.

None of us knows if Mama Carmela will be with us much longer. In the meantime, we do what we can to try to improve her quality of life. We're happy if we can get a smile out of her every once in a while.

And at her age, and in her condition, she still tries to take care of others, tries to make sure others are being taken care of. This woman has given so much for others, suffered so much for others, she deserves so much more than we can give her.

So, on this day of celebration, my thoughts are with my Mama Carmela and my Mama Chellita, who have meant so much to me, and with danger_chick's nana, who I know meant so much to her.
You can't guard me!

I'm a BBC News Online editor!

Well, sort of. In a recent article of theirs concerning religious symbolism in America, the following sentence appeared: "In addition, even the most secular members of society, and those of other beliefs, concur that Christmas is inextricably linked to the tale of Christ's alleged birth - whether one believes in the immaculate conception or not." Upon seeing that a couple of days ago, I immediately zipped an e-mail off to their editor reporting the factual error and chastising them for their carelessness, for it was clear that they were alluding to Christ's birth, not Mary's.

This is a point that is often misunderstood. According to Christianity, Christ's birth was not the result of an immaculate conception. That was Mary, who was conceived without sin. Christ's birth was a virgin birth.

I received an e-mail saying they would research the issue further. So today, out of curiosity, I checked out the article again. It now states "virgin birth" in place of "immaculate conception."