Last time I was in NY, my great Aunt and Uncle scanned some great family photos for me, like this one: A picture of my mom with her grandparents celebrating her first birthday, 57 years ago today.
I wasn’t sure how personal I was going to make this blog, but I think documenting this trip without mentioning my mom would not do this adventure justice.
Although both of my parents always instilled in me the importance of education, my mom pushed me harder than anyone. She would talk to my teachers, she would punish me when she found out I wasn’t completing my assignments. When I was at risk of not completing high school, she came into my room one morning and told me she didn’t understand what had happened to me, “You used to love learning” she told me, “What happened?”
These types of things used to drive me crazy when I was younger. I hated it. I was young and thought I had my life figured out, and in this grand vision of mine, I didn’t leave much room for education. As a result, my mom and I argued a lot when I was in high school. I think that’s a common occurrence in the US- the battle over who knows what’s best for whom…It’s no doubt a case by case basis. However, in my case, my mom seemed to almost always be right.
That early morning intervention always stuck with me. I knew she was right. I did love learning. To investigate and explore new ideas and places is something beautiful. Without knowledge, there’s really not much of an adventure. Sometimes you just need a kick in the ass to get moving. Giving me that push was always a pleasure of hers.
Today is my mom’s 58th birthday, and I miss her greatly.
When I would tell my mom about how I wanted to travel, she always asked me, Why don’t you travel while you’re in school? It was her way of encouraging two things at the same time. If you stay in school, you can get scholarships to travel-travel for free, she would say.
My mom got sick with breast cancer after my first quarter in university. When I sat with her in her hospital bed, she asked me if I was still planning on studying abroad. I laughed and told her no. I needed to stay there with her. “You need to move on with your life,” she told me.
I’ll never forget that.
A year to the day after she passed away, I found myself in Nicaragua. Disoriented, exhausted, and with pain swelling through my head, I began this new chapter in my life.
Before I left, I found a journal of my mother’s where she had only used about half of the pages. Reading through it brings her back to life. I feel like she is talking to me. In return, I have filled the empty pages with stories from this adventure. Now we have a journal that is full, shared by both of us.
As dear friend of mine put it: the slow drip of time will eventually fill you back up. And It is true. Like the journal, I have been slowly fulfilled by my memories of my mom, by her spirit which I still feel, and by that unrelenting drip.
Today I leave for the Nicaraguan countryside to continue working with an incredible community of people. Although today is a day I would love to spend with my family and friends, I take comfort in feeling my mom’s pride as I continue to learn and develop from a place where I am still surprised to find myself. I know full well that I would not be here without her constant push. She still pushes me.
Over these last two years, I have taken great comfort from this passage by Kahlil Gibran from The Prophet:
"Your joy is your sorrow unmasked.
And the selfsame well from which your laughter rises was oftentimes filled with your tears.
And how else can it be?
The deeper that sorrow carves into your being, the more joy you can contain…
When you are joyous, look deep into your heart and you shall find it is only that which has given you sorrow that is giving you joy.
When you are sorrowful look again in your heart, and you shall see that in truth you are weeping for that which has been your delight.”
Love never expires. I no doubt feel my mother’s presence everyday. Whether it’s in the form of great pain or deep joy, it is her love I feel in its most potent form. And I am nothing but grateful for it.