In 1980 my mother fled Cuba for a chance at a life of freedom with my father. She was just 17. My grandmother was devastated and terrified to let her go. But a good mother doesn't hold her children back from pursuing a better life, and she signed the papers that changed my mom's life forever.

Over the years my mom did everything she could to convince my Grandma Elsa to join her in the states, but her crippling fear of flying prevented that from ever happening. My mom would spend the last 27 years (there was a 14 year travel ban to Cuba for anyone who fled in 1980) spending tens of thousands of dollars she didn't have traveling to see my grandma when she could and taking care of her from afar.

The last decade was especially rough. Elsa's health was failing dramatically, dementia took a strong hold, and there was no family who wanted to take care of her the way she needed. I witnessed endless phone calls where my mom was pleading with family to provide proper care, sending every last dime she could to ensure it would be done. Her vacation time form work would go almost exclusively to trips solely to care for my grandma in person.

Toward the end of 2019 my mom had to cancel her last trip because she herself was really sick. It wasn't ideal, but it was necessary. She assumed she'd be able to go another time, but the pandemic hit and halted every travel plan. Then, over the weekend, word came that Grandma Elsa had passed.

The anguish in my mother's voice when she called to deliver the news was the most gut wrenching sound I'd ever heard in my life. The call was quick as she could barely utter more than a few words. My heart didn't know how to handle what I'd just heard. I felt sick I couldn't hold my mom while she cried. Later in the evening I sent her an email (that's our preferred commination style) in hope of providing some sort of solace. I praised her for the way she cared for her mother no matter the obstacle.

My pure, sweet mom responded with the following (translated from Spanish):

Thank you, my girl.

God is good and she did not suffer. I think the most peace she felt in her life was in her departure, God is good!

All I want to do is cry and it's good to cry, so don't worry. My mother was the best mother in the world. It’s not that she was perfect, but despite her imperfection, she was the best.

I know my, girl, that even in the distance, I was always there for her, I provided her with everything she needed, because she never wanted to take a plane.

My sadness is that I'm going to miss her, my sadness is that I couldn't be with her in her last moments.

Kisses for you, my children and Timi.

God bless you

 

 

It gave me comfort that she knew she did all she could over the years and felt sadness rather than guilt. And that's my take away: to love my mom so fully with my actions that whenever she does pass I simply miss her with every fiber of my being without the mar of guilt for not showing her enough love while she was alive.