I know the tenderness of her touch with my eyes closed. The gentle way she smoothed my hair and fixed the pillows behind my head when I was sick. The soft melodies hummed in perfect harmony. She is my rock. My security blanket. She is the reason I rock my babies to sleep and rub their backs when they are ill. She is my teacher and my heart. She is my mommy. But last year, I grew to know her not as simply my mother, but as a loving and dedicated daughter.
Last year I stood by her as she took a journey I never wanted to understand. A journey I still think about with bated breath. The journey we are all supposed to take. The journey of adaughter saying goodbye to her own mother. My grandmother… Mi Abuelita.
I watched my mother nurse and care for the matriarch of the family day in and day out for more than four months. My mother prayed over her, sang songs of comfort, brushed her hair, fixed the pillow behind her head, and fought to make her Mommy comfortable as we all prepared to say goodbye.
I know this is the circle of life. The way it’s supposed to be if you are lucky. You are born in the arms of your mother and one day if you are blessed and you live a full long life like my Abuelita then perhaps you will leave this world surrounded by your loved ones. The people you helped bring into this world. I understand this and I fully believe this is an honor. Yet, it terrifies me.
Every time I stood by my Abuelita’s bed and watched her slow rhythmic breathing, my eyes would scan her arms. Her freckled soft almost translucent skin. The skin of my mother. My eyes would scan her hands. Her rough hands that told a story of a long hard life. My hands. My eyes would scan her face. Her high pronounced cheek bones. My aunt, sister, and daughter’s cheek bones. You see, my Abuelita was and is a piece of all of us.
Being a granddaughter wasn’ta role I ever thought about. I always knew I was blessed to have my Abuelita and I loved her very much, but she didn’t live close during my childhood and our relationship was long distance.
But, when I became a parent, I finally got it – like so many things. I watch the love my parents and my in-laws have for my children and I understand that having grandchildren is a blessing and an opportunity to continue the love you created when you brought your own baby into the world.
When my children run into the arms of my mother, their Nana, I can feel the warmth of her love wrapping around me simultaneously. And really the arms of all the generations of mothers in my family who came before me.
This is why when I held my Mommy’s hand as we said goodbye to my Abuelita, my mother’s mommy, the impact was so visceral. Three generations of women. Three generations of mothers one moment and then just me and my Mommy and my Aunt. Just tears and an unspoken understanding that one day I too will have to say goodbye. That one day my children will have to say goodbye. That the cycle, while a blessing and an honor, is one of the most difficult parts of growing up. And one of the most important reasons I will always remember the tenderness of my mommy’s touch.