Life · Uncategorized

The Road of Mental Illness

What goes on in the mind of a man that kills himself along with his two children?

When faced to a question without an answer, we disregard further thought and explain it with two words, “mental illness”.

I wasn’t catching all the reporter’s words because Ian had come from our church’s summer camp and he was talking to me about something his camp leader had asked him to bring tomorrow. So, I kept on asking my husband, “What did she say?”.

Carlos replied, “I’m not paying too much attention to the report.”

I knew he was trying not to get his head wrapped around the news clip, with thoughts about the two boys who perished with their dad. As a father he just can’t understand an atrocity like this.

Mental illness is blamed more too often for everything from mass shootings to callous murders.  I’m not saying it isn’t the issue at hand, but there are preventive measures we can take to avoid these tragedies.

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Carlos lost his job last year, a job he thought he would retire from and that brought an enormous emotional baggage he had to deal with. It has been hard on him and on our family, but we’re working at it.  This man had also lost his job and was facing a tough reality in front of him.  He took the easy way out.

Just looking at my seven-year-old, I felt heavy hearted just thinking about how innocent he is and how blindly he trusts us.  Those two boys trusted their father the very same way.

I only can think about, what they asked him, if they were hungry or thirsty, or if they were asking him where their mommy was. Answers to these questions will remain unanswered to us.

When events like this happen, people have a hard time believing in anything. These events compromise humanity’s faith because there is the underlying question of, “Why did God let this happen?” “Where was God?” However, you can’t forget that as humans one of the endowments we possess is free will.

We make choices.

Today this man chose death over life.

Surpassing all the things that are categorized under mental health, we need to be vigilant of those who surround us.

This life has so many ups and downs, but one of the most beautiful things we can do for ourselves is develop creativity.  Create new things when those we have get broken.  Shifting paradigms and rewriting our lives with brand new scripts to tell a new story.  This is the message we need to deliver to those we love and those we meet.  A message of hope, so they can believe that things will get better.

It’s a difficult road to travel because sometimes people don’t want to listen to a message of hope or any kind of message.  Nonetheless, we need to keep on trying and find the courage to confront someone we think may harm themselves or those they love.

So, next time we come across a situation we may easily categorize under “mental health” issues, let’s take a moment to readdress the situation with the mentality of what can I do to help this person and offer him, or her preventive self-care not only for their own safekeeping, but also for their family.

See you around the corner, and thanks for stopping by. And remember  be kind to yourself and to others.  Kindness my dear friends can go a very long way.

 

 

Death

One Foot In Front Of The Other

A day like today we were at my beloved father’s in law burial.

It’s been  a year since his passing.

We’ve moved on by placing one foot in front of the other.

Out of us all, my mother in law has endured the hardest part. If I chose a mantra for her, it would be “one step in front of the other”.  With each morning she’s had to get up and get going, placing one foot in front of the other to walk the difficult road of life. Most of all adjusting to living without her life long partner.

What have we learned along the way? I would say PLENTY.  For starters there is so much to do in regards of the legal things, it’s pretty complicated navigating through the paper work. It gets emotional when we stumble on a note here and there, touching and looking at things that are private.

Trying to figure things out, specially when we don’t know where to begin.

Out of all his papers, the one that got to me the most was his plans to celebrate his 50th anniversary.  He had made a detailed list of the people who would attend, and was working on a budget. For a second, that blew me away.  In a sense, that simple piece of paper became a “shout out loud” on life’s fragile state.

Mostly all of us think we’re bigger than life, when really nobody can give us guarantees that we will be able to see the next sunrise.  Bottom line, we’re just plain stupid when we don’t grasp the now and here to pursue at least some happiness.

True and real happiness doesn’t really exist, what we get are moments where we feel happy and in peace with ourselves and the world that surrounds us.  Life would not be life if we were happy twenty-four/seven.  Don’t you think?

We’ve had a year of lessons taught from the grave and others right at the grave literally.

Why?  Well, one of the first lessons my husband and me learned was sitting under a raving sun painting his grave and cleaning a bit around it some time after the burial took place.  I recall clearly one afternoon, when we got there my husband said,

“Aqui estoy otra vez, papito.”

He talked to the grave as if he could hear him and know that he was back again.

He was teaching me how he mourned the loss of his dad and showcased the profound love he felt for him.  For some reason his words are locked up in a place he has only the key, but his actions yell at full voice how deep his feelings ran for his father.

My husband literally cried for the first time the last time we visited after finishing all the work.   He made sure he was in a nice, freshly painted grave. It may seem nonsense to some, but that was his first step in healing.

He loved to write everything, he could have been a scribe in another time.  His thoughts written here and there, many which linger at the back of our heads serving as guidelines to how to live.

One of my favorites is “With each passing second life begins all over again, let us happily walk to its encounter.  We need to keep on moving further even if we don’t want to because that’s better than staying behind.” Palabras de un abuelo He battled cancer from the get go till the end.  He did it the same way he lived, proud and vigorously.

He set great examples for his children to follow. He taught them kindness, compassion, love, hard work and above all sacrifice.  He never abused his wife or children in any given form.  Nevertheless, he was far from being the perfect man, husband, father or grandfather basically because nobody really is .

As a mother of adult children I fully understand what he went through to give his own grown children a helping hand.

His greatest legacy is his continuous effort to always try to reinvent who he was with fierce honesty and integrity towards not others, but to himself.

Through his journals, I saw glimpses of a man who tried to live the best he could.

So you see “my dear amigos” we are not eternal beings, and even though life is fragile  we shouldn’t let go of our own moments of happiness. Let’s always move forward, letting the past to rest and grasping each second of the beauty of this life and our wonderful blue planet.

There is always more to the eye, then what we see so it’s important to never stop believing in the beauty of life or yourself.

“Hasta la próxima.”

Death

The Goodbye Party

Anyone who knows me on a personal level, knows I hate funerals and weddings, but today I’m concentrating on funerals.

Why?

Probably because I think both should be private and intimate moments in life,  where only those who are part of it should be present at all.  That’s why it’s no surprise to anybody in my extended family when they don’t see me around if someone from our community dies.

My mom is always scolding me because she fears no one will attend my funeral.  She always says,

“The day you die nobody is going to go to your funeral.!” To which I always respond with a shrug (It’s not like that I’m going to be there to see it.   Ha!).  I wouldn’t disrespect her by saying it out loud, but the answer always pops up involuntarily in my head.

Wait a second!  Did I tell you that in Puerto Rican communities when someone dies everyone that knew the family is expected to attend?

YES!

That’s how it is, which means that you’re going to be attending a funeral home that’s packed with people, everyone talking at the same time, and some are even going to be coming in and out of the designated area for coffee and snacks (now a days they even serve food).

Bottom line, it’s basically a goodbye party!

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 Although it used to be worse back in the day.  When my grandfather passed away (who was like a father to me), the arrangements for his viewing were held in his own home.  

My God, talk about something wrong and I will always have this one on the top of my list.  

His viewing lasted three days, can you believe it?  When the day finally arrived where he would be laid to rest I was exhausted, my eyes had dried out, and all I wanted was to get over it, as soon as possible.

I watched in horror as every night people came from God knows where to attend his viewing,  and after paying the widow (my grandmother) their due respects,  than would step out to the “batey” to talk with folks they haven’t seen in years.

Sometimes people would get loud, making jokes and drinking coffee till the wee hours of dawn.

Did I also forget to mention that you weren’t suppose to sleep during the viewing.  This is when probably my hatred for funerals was born.

Some time ago I read a great blog from Ann Jacobous featured in Friends For The Ride, where she points out that “the moment a loved one leaves this world is a sacred moment..”.  

This is how it’s supposed to be!  I really don’t know how I’m going to feel when my own parents pass away, but for sure I want privacy and serenity to be able to face the moment when it eventually comes around.

Facing the eve of life of anyone who’s important in your life is hard enough, let’s not make it more difficult by adding the grievance of having to put up with the endless line of friends, friends of friends, family,  and family of family (if you’re Puerto Rican you know what I’m talking about) as they all want to share a piece of you.

Life goes on as it usually does, and after the funeral is when our friends and family need us around to help them cope with their loss.

So, you can figure out by now “mis queridos amigos”  no  traditional goodbye party for my sake,  I’ll rather prefer for my loved ones a very quiet tea party that will be held only by invitation so they can celebrate my life and recall the better moments we shared together.

And remember never stop believing in yourself or the good of life.

“Hasta la próxima.”

Cancer

The Tentacles of Grief

During these holidays I’ve asked myself many questions, however the one that has tingled at the back of my head the most has been, when does grief really begin?

When we face the loss of someone we have loved deeply and dearly, someone who has been very close to us in life it’s so painful you don’t feel anything at all.  It’s a feeling of numbness, it is a  pain so intense and overwhelming that we go to a place where there is absolutely nothing.  But, the catch and blessing of this loss is that it only happens when our loss is sudden.

On the other hand, when we face cancer its a bit more complicated.  With the passing of each day we lose bits and pieces of our loved one.  Cancer simply takes over who they are and leaves a  brittle voice as the aftermath of everything going on.

Is it worth going through the extermination process they call chemotherapy?  Is it worth holding to a life that with each day becomes less meaningful.  Is it selfish to want to end all the pain and anguish?

Grief even though shared does not lose its sharp edge, when you feel the hollowness of your chest, when any call is a reason to dread news or an unwanted reminder of how things are going.   This is when you learn to grieve over those who are still alive and within us.

Embracing the reality of knowing that simply there is nothing we can do about it.  Knowing that we can’t make it better even if we try our very best to do it.  Feeling powerless in front of whatever is happening to our loved ones.  Wanting the clock to tick backwards so we can make things right.

This is the moment when we tune into our spiritual world and let nature take its course.  Life is a circle and so, never ends.  The only things that change are those who spin around in it, the arrivals and departures and those who are caught in between.  Easier said than believed in because mankind has always entertained the idea of eternity.

We relinquish death and all it entails.

Our grief is the sorrow of the eminent goodbye, is not knowing if we will be departed from each other forever.  That’s what makes accepting death so hard.

Along my road to rediscovering who I am, I really don’t know what’s out there.  I no longer can trust my faith or the grace of a God who governs our world, but lets us suffer.  Who professes unconditional love to humanity, but is bleak in his response to our pain.  Can I still find him?  Honestly I think nobody knows the answers to these questions.

Nature will take its course and we who are still among the living can only watch and learn a lesson or two along the way.  Changing grief into acceptance.  Making it part of who we are and making us better and stronger along the way.   If our grief brings endurance with it we have gained and not lost one bit.  But, please lets leave faith out of the equation!

Friendship

When Grief Leaves You Hiding

I still can remember as if it was yesterday, when I went to buy these two vases with my dear friend Carmen.  We bought them in a small shop that sold unfinished ceramic vases.

She chose the colors she wanted me to paint them and I would have them ready the next time she came to visit.

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Carmen and me bought these vases so I could paint them for her.

As life turned out, the next time I saw her was in a coffin in her funeral a month in a half later.

These two vases remained unfinished for about three years, hidden in my kitchen cabinets, then on a shelf in my laundry room.

I finally brought myself to finish them.

I knew she wanted them to hang them outside her home, so that’s what I precisely did.  They’ve been hanging there for the past twelve years.

I’ve taken them down only when my husband has painted outside and when we have hurricane warnings up.

The one on the right has the hanger chipped.

You know friendship is a little like that sometimes little pieces of them break, but if it’s genuine it will endure time and circumstances.

These two vases are the silent witnesses of a friendship that was true and genuine.  Each time I see them as I enter or leave my house, Carmen’s memory is brought back.

I never got it when people would say that when a loved one died, they would live in you forever, until Carmen passed away.

She does live in my heart through our shared memories.  I’ve never allowed myself to forget her because she was an important part of my life, even when I hid her memories like the vases for a while.

Grief is something like that.  Any memory at all is painful, but then as time passes you begin to heal and let the memories flow and come back.

Our vases came out of their hiding and so did I.  The staggering pain of losing my friend came to an end as I rejoiced in the life she had lived.

Today they remain a constant reminder that life can be short lived, and that we control very little that goes on around us except the memories we chose to create with those who love and are loved by us.

Share a smile and a hug, and create wonderful memories with those who are part of your life.