Many remember mom for her welcoming smile, her infectious laugh, her cooking, her generosity, and her enormous heart. But what I will always remember about my mother is her hands. When we were young, my mother would use her hands to feel if we had a fever. They might have been more accurate than a thermometer. Her hands carried us as babies, wiped our tears and dressed our wounds. Those same hands soothed my own children when they were in need comfort. Her hands showed me how to sew. She used to make my halloween costumes and sew matching outfits for my sister and I.Those hands also made beautifully crafted cakes for my birthdays when I was a little girl. I used to believe my mom’s hands were magic. There was nothing she couldn’t do. Those of you who have had the pleasure, know what an amazing cook she was. Her hands carefully sculpted every empanada and lumpia she made with such grace. Her beef curry is legendary! I’m still convinced that her mere touch may have been the secret ingredient. With those hands, mom taught me how to cook. When I would ask her for measurements, she would use the length of her finger as a unit of measure and say “this much”. As a nurse for 54 years, mom’s hands were a gift to each patient she ever cared for. She rubbed her patients’ backs before they went to sleep. Fed them, bathed them, nursed them to better health, and held their hands when nothing else could be done. In my darkest hour, mom held my hands and remained at my side, steadfast, until I was strong enough to stand on my own. Just six months before she died, her hands cared for my ailing father. Cared for him, soothed his pains, and held his hands when he peacefully passed away. A few years ago, I was speaking with a close friend of my mom’s and I was complaining that my hands were so dry and ugly. And this friend looked at my hands and said, “you know Normina, you have your mom’s hands. Hard working, just like your mom’s”. And this surprised me because being my father’s daughter, I never thought I had much of my mother in me. But those kind words from a friend made me see otherwise. My mother died of a virus that has taken the lives of over two hundred thousand people in this country alone. And like them, my mother died alone. It hurts me to think that she died with no one holding her hand the way she always held mine, the way she held Papa’s when he died. It seems so unfair that someone who gave so much, should die alone. It is something I will always struggle with. Two or three nights after her passing, I felt I needed a break from the pain and decided to lose myself in a movie. I watched “Mister Roger’s Neighborhood”. In the movie there was a scene where Fred Rogers whispered into a man’s ear as he lay on his death bed. When asked what he said, Fred responded “I asked him to pray for me. Because anyone going through what he’s going through must be awful close to God.” I’ve been thinking about that line for a while and it gives me hope that maybe, because she too was “going through what she was going through”, was awful close to God. I had always believed that my mother was too good for this world. If anyone deserved to be close to God, it was mom. So although we could not be at her side when she died and hold her magical hands one last time, maybe she wasn’t really alone.
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