Wishing you a very Merry Christmas and a Prosperous upcoming New Year!
Photo credit by Leo Laredo Photography
Photo credit by Leo Laredo Photography
I kissed her sweet, velvety cheeks. When her tiny hand wrapped around my finger, she instantly wrapped around my heart. Having just witnessed the birth of my first granddaughter, I was simply ecstatic. Grace Elizabeth, a little thing with a mop of chestnut hair and raven eyes, reminded me of the sister I lost so long ago.
Not long after, our joy was short-lived. Apprehension and a staggering wave of fear suddenly replaced excitement and joy.
Her doctor ordered x-rays, ultrasounds, RSV, EKG, blood work and an echocardiogram. “She has three holes in her heart,” he announced. His foreign words invaded my head: “congenital heart defect . . . coarctation of the aorta . . . a ventricular septal defect . . . an arterial septal defect . . . a bicuspid aortic valve . . .”
But three words snatched my breath away: “Open-heart surgery.”
Surrounded by family, we waited. Watched. And prayed.
That night, my daughter Angela and I shared a couch that opened to a bed in Grace’s room. Dreams and visions overlapped, as I drifted in and out of a fitful slumber. Nurses routinely coming in to check on Grace’s vital signs, administered meds and prepared her feeding tube around the clock, interrupted sleep.
But tonight was different.
3 a.m., a nurse instructed all residents to remain in their rooms behind closed doors. We couldn’t help but peek out of the window blinds. And we watched in horror as the mother of the infant in Room 1704 ran inside, hand over her mouth. Soon her wails carried across the hallway from inside. Other relatives arrived and held tightly unto one another weeping, lamenting, and grieving.
Hot tears flowed down our faces. I gazed upon Angela—my baby girl who always wanted a baby girl—and grieved along with her. Though she carried unspoken heaviness, she always remained strong for her household. But this was too much for any mother.
My eyes traveled and fixated upon our sick Grace. The doctors had said that Grace needed to gain weight, but she only grew weaker and tired more easily. Instead of eating, she slept during her feedings. I now watched her shallow, rapid breathing and listened to the heart monitor. Beep. A precious life. Beep. Hopelessness loomed. Beep. Fear gripped my heart. I said another prayer.
Beep, Beep, Beep. The rhythm of Grace’s heart monitor echoed louder in my head.
Come morning, more alarming reports:
“Murmur is louder.”
“Heart’s beating fast; enlarged, working too hard.”
We waited for the day; we waited for the hour, but when the time finally came for her procedure, tomorrow seemed much too soon!
In the morning, we huddled around Grace behind a curtained room. Her daddy’s strong arms around her mommy. Her papa’s firm grip holding me up. Words failed to express our love for this precious twenty-nine day old child. We covered her with our tears, our kisses, and our prayers.
“Please Lord, bring her back to me,” my daughter whispered and cried out.
In a moment’s time, they whisked her away to prep her and lay her on the operating table, surrounded by nine surgeons. We felt helpless but believed God while we prayed that He would return Grace to us alive . . . whole . . . and healthy.
After four hours in surgery, the cardiologist reported, “Grace’s heart is very sick,” and added, “We didn’t know how sick until actually seeing it.”
The pendulum swung. We sat and paced. Paced and sat.
A flood of questions crammed my mind: How do you silence the sobs that overtake you? How can you calm the waters and keep the dam from bursting from within the depths of your being? How do you say good-bye when someone has captured your very heart and soul?
Nine hours later we were told, “Her heart failed when taken off bypass.”
My gut tightened. “Please, Lord.”
We gathered in a quiet room to pray. I studied the faces of each family member. The women prayed openly as they cried out to God. The men, unable to trust their voices, did not open their mouths for fear of losing control.
After three hours, the doctor’s assistant entered and announced, “She’s made it, but she’s not out of the woods yet.”
We hugged one another. Tears of relief flow freely.
“The next forty-eight hours will be critical,” she cautioned. “You can briefly see her soon.”
Emotions raw, I lacked the courage to see Grace lying still, motionless, and heavily sedated. “I want to see my granddaughter when her beautiful eyes are open,” I said.
Angela understood. “Mom, go home and rest,” she urged. “I’ll keep you posted.”
* Day One Post-Surgery, my daughter’s report via email:
Baby Grace remains heavily sedated, and has countless tubes and wires attached to her small frame. Mom, the list is endless: a breathing tube, pacemaker, rectal thermometer, catheter, and so much more. Arms and inner thighs are bruised due to multiple attempts to locate the main artery. The sides of her head are shaven. Her face is bloated from fluids. One lung has collapsed. Mom, I’m so scared!
* Day Two Post-Surgery, another email:
No movement, still heavily sedated. I held Baby Grace’s little hand and said, “Mommy’s here.” Grace moved her head for me and I whispered in her ear, “Mommy loves you so much.” When her eyes opened for me, my heart skipped a beat!
* Day Three Post-Surgery:
Mom, Grace is better and responding to my touch! Her swelling has gone down. They re- installed her feeding tube today and are giving 5cc of my breast milk per hour. She is eating now and will gain weight again.
* Day Five:
My first day to see Grace since her surgery. Overflows of emotions bombarded every nerve in my being. Hope crashed into fear. Joy into anxiety.
I must keep it together. My legs turned to putty. My daughter took me by the hand, “It’s okay, Mom,” and led me into Grace’s room . . .
I see her! I reached down, caressed her face and gently placed my hand over her chest. The incision was the length of my index finger.
And then her eyes! Those familiar eyes sparkled and looked at me as if to say, “See Mimi. I’m here. I’ve made it.”
Twelve Years Later:
This precious flower continues to blossom and bloom wherever she is planted. Grace is our little miracle and she knows it! She has brought much joy to our lives and we are grateful to God for answered prayers!
Just when I thought I was too old to fall in love again ~ this precious one first called me “Mimi” at 8 months old!
Painting By Karin Best Pink Rose Poem ~ Author Unknown
Of all the attitudes we can acquire, surely the attitude of gratitude is the most
important and by far the most life changing
~ Zig Ziglar
We are Four Generations ~ few in numbers, but fierce in heart, a force to be reckoned with.
My precious grandchildren keep me young at heart!
Three of my dear children – I loved them since the first day I laid eyes on them.
She is the perfect one for him – two hearts, one soul.
He is my quiet strength, the perfect one for me.
I am a blessed woman. I will never forget when I prayed
for the things I have now.
I remember first holding you, so tiny in my arms.
Next thing I knew, you turned two, angelic, and quite a charm.
Your silhouette dancing in my dreams before my eyes –
Remembering your joy with my simple lullabies.
I imagine your eyes, your voice, your laughter,
Spending time together, nothing else mattered.
Thinking about you often before crawling in bed at night,
I loved you so much, never wanting you out of my sight.
I wish you could tell me what’s on your mind today?
What are the things you’re longing to say?
Would you have married a wonderful husband?
Live in a castle and have many children?
Oh, if only, if only, I could see you now,
I would run to you, hold you tight and twirl you around!
Oh, sister, there will always be a hole in my heart,
But I guess I knew that from the start.
If I still had you now to talk, share secrets, laugh and cry
I would not be here now thinking: Why did you have to die?
As we approach the anniversary of my baby sister’s life and death, what I have shared is very dear and personal to my heart. As my eyes mist with tears, I still feel my heart burn heavy from missing her! But please understand that I do NOT “blame” God for my sister’s death! Our God is Sovereign and I believe that He allows certain things to happen to us for His greater plan and purpose. (Isa. 57: 1). After all, His ways are higher than our ways.
Now, I’m not by any means a theologian, a preacher, or a Bible teacher. I’m just a layman, a simple woman of faith, with a finite mind trying to serve an Infinite God. I know that it rains on the just and unjust (Matt. 5:45); bad things do happen to good people.
If I am to be honest, I don’t always understand the mind of God. Howbeit, I purpose in my heart to trust Him! And if I am to be truthful, yes, my heart does have a few unanswered questions. On occasions, in my journey of life I have meltdowns, wallow in self-pity, and find myself clouded by doubts and fears. However, because of His steadfast love and His unfathomable mercy for me, I thank God that I don’t remain in that state of mind!
You see, I am a work in progress.
In memory of my sister who prematurely passed away 50 years ago by a hit-and-run driver. (To learn more of her story, click here.) She would have been ten years older than my first-born! I had to say goodbye to her when I was nine, just a month after she turned two years old. I remember so much pain and suffering as a child back then. In retrospect, I believe God may have spared her from something worse. I look forward to the Blessed Hope that one day we will embrace one another once again. She will not return to me, but I will go to her one day. And we will NEVER have to be apart.
This was a joyous occasion to witness two hearts becoming one under God in matrimony. A dream coming into fruition.
I am reminded of Proverbs. 18:22 “He who finds a wife finds a good thing and obtains favor from the Lord.”
To my strapping son, Daniel: I love you with all of my being; since the first day I laid eyes on you and held you against my breast never wanting to let go. You have found your good thing! May she always feel your love, your warmth and protection.
Sandy, our beautiful little ladybug: I thank God for you. You are a breath of fresh air, a ray of sunshine in our family! I am proud to call you my daughter-in-love. Always stand by your man. May he always feel your love, respect and encouragement.
Pray for one another, support each other, be quick to forgive and NEVER take the other for granted.
“Love is patient. Love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no records of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love. Never. Fails.” 1 Corinthians 13:4-8
Hold on tight – the best is yet to come!
Photo Credit: Leo Laredo Photography https://www.facebook.com/leolaredophotography/
God is faithful and has brought another precious daughter into our lives!
I would like to introduce to you my soon to be daughter-in-love, Sandy.
She may be small in stature but this butterfly has a big, loving heart and is a breath of fresh air to our family.
Sandy and Daniel compliment each other – both love the Lord and are strong, passionate and heart-driven!
“Oh, taste and see that the Lord is good!”
When I met her dad and step-mom, I instantly fell in love with them. And wouldn’t you know it, Sandy’s father is a pastor, a fixer of souls, and has a beautiful voice as well!
Both Emilio and his beloved wife, Katie, are active members in their community, preaching, ministering and touching lives wherever they go, sharing the Word and love of God.
We love our Daniel with all our hearts!
My heart is filled with joy!
“I sought the Lord, and He heard me, and delivered me from all my fears.”
Getting our pretty on with the bride to be!
One of our many outings together as a family!
“Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Heavenly Father.”
These two shall become one!
Two Hearts ~ Two Souls ~ One Love
Dad: A son’s first hero. A daughter’s first love.
The fathers in my family are called Dad, Daddy, and Papi. Newsflash: None are perfect! But each one represents love, courage, provision, and strength. Their eyes glow with purpose. Their smiles melt hearts. Their chest swells with pride. Their callous hands protect. They stand tall with dignity. And their embraces offer comfort and assurance. Yes, they are the pillars in our households.
It’s said that every man is trying to either live up to his father’s expectations or make up for his father’s mistakes. I don’t know if that’s true. I only know that each man represented in my family strive to being the very best possible. Each hold a mantle and carry a torch for the next generation. Each dad represented in my family lays a solid foundation, even those who have crossed over to the other side. I can’t help but to think about my own grandfathers. They were strong, respected dedicated men with a constant presence. They left behind a legacy. When the tough got going, they didn’t cave under pressure. They persevere with Puerto Rican pride in every fiber of their being.
To the men in my family who are dads (and have yet to be): I love and admire each and every one of you. And to my dear husband who married me with four children, I share this quote: “It takes a strong man to accept somebody else’s children and step up to the plate another man left on the table.” I salute you.
I salute you all.
Remember: Any man can be a father. But it takes a special person to be a dad.
© M.A. Pérez, 2018, All Rights Reserved
As I reflect on Mother’s Day, I am thinking about the mothers in my own family. Some of us had nurturing in our DNA; some of us never got the memo. Some of us got it down pat; some of us continue to learn by trial and error. None of us are perfect or have it all together. But no matter what, our bloodline flows strong, our hearts beat true. Children are a blessing. I believe as we look upon our children, young and old, the beating of our hearts never ceases to flutter. Some of us ease into our rolls, some of us, not so much. No one ever gave me a manual on Motherhood, and even if they did, the writer most likely didn’t have children of their own. Why? Because we learn by experience, and we learn by trial and error.
As I gaze upon the eyes of each Mother represented here, I see sadness of some unanswered prayers, worries about tomorrow, regrets of yesteryear, and the fear of failure. But I also see love, joy, perseverance, and tenderness, belonging, pride, and hope for the future — a better tomorrow.
One thing my mother always said and it is worth repeating: You can have ten fathers but only one mother.
Mothers, stand in the gap for your children. No matter what, never give up on them. And in our twilight years, may our children never give up on us.
© M.A. Pérez 2018, All Rights Reserved
“I always did love you, just had too many problems.”
Ten words on ink and paper.
Handwritten by her.
Pierces my heart.
Does she know I exist? Or care? Or want me?
I love her, look up to her; want to be her.
Isn’t love also a verb?
I leave home. Searching for Mr. Right.
Run to him at sixteen. Happily ever after.
Young. Naïve. Taken for granted.
Thinks to mold me into his image.
His way or the highway.
Motherhood. Baby having babies.
Crawl before walk. Stumble. Fall.
Clinging unto a strand, unraveling.
Years overlap. Encumbering.
Emotions are numb.
Hubby seeks greener pastures.
Two-timer. Tosses me to the wolves.
Grown children look back.
Open arms. Nostalgic.
Rebuild the fences.
Dying to live.
Original poem by Mary A. Pérez
We visited my paternal grandparents. My grandpa was Don Angel (pronounced “Annhel”), and my grandma, Doña María. Upon our arrival, we politely greeted them the way Daddy had taught us to, by asking for their blessing in Spanish:
“¡Dios te bendiga!” they answered, opening their arms, smothering us with bear hugs and wet kisses.
Abuelo was born in 1908 and Abuela in 1907. Both were born in Utuado Puerto Rico and married in their early twenties, ultimately having ten children. Abuela stayed home attending to her brood while Abuelo supported his family as a farmer. (Rumor has it he made a little Moon Shine too). On twenty-five acres, he tended to bananas, tobacco and coffee crops. He raised chickens and goats and even owned cows that he milked.
Daddy favored Abuelo; everyone said those two could be brothers.
(An excerpt from Running in Heels: A Memoir of Grit and Grace)
© M.A. Pérez 2018, All Rights Reserved