December 15, 2012
Today is an extremely important day in my life. One early morning, somewhere around 2:00 AM, I was awoken by my sister, Laura. For some reason, I was lying on the living room couch instead of in my bed. Mom was gone. On April 1, 1991, the day after Easter, Mom went to Rush-Presbyterian-St. Luke’s Medical Center to have a part of her lung removed. The suspected culprit was cancer. Fast forward to around Halloween of 1992. All of a sudden things got really rough for her.
I remember all us one way or another having to help her walk around her own house. This is not something that teenagers should normally be doing for their own mother. I remember going to swim team practice after school at on December 14, 1992. Not long after coming home, Mom had sat me down to tell me that the doctors had said to her she had about six months more to live. I could not believe this. How is a 15-year-old supposed to imagine life without his mother? I remember going into my bedroom crying. Not much about the rest of that night comes to mind.
Laura woke me up around 2:00 in the morning, which was just a few hours later. I was in such a state of shock. Things were going in slow motion. Not long after people came to take Mom away. Then so many people came over, despite the early time. Aunt Josie, Paula, and Donna had come over. Many of Laura’s friends had also stopped by to offer their selfless support. It was so awesome to not be alone in what has been one of the toughest moments of my life. I will never forget having Neil, Jim, or Mike around during those upcoming days when I needed them the most.
Since then I hid from the pain. Hiding was how I dealt with problems in my life. Luckily, losing her made me into such a strong person. At the same time, a very profound source of vulnerability crept into my life. It was hard for me to be close to people. When things got too good, I would push people away. I have damaged so many good relationships in my life. I felt I did not deserve them. After all, God took my Mom away from me when I felt I needed her most. I wanted nothing to do with God or any religion.
I even went so far as to damage my relationship with the most important person to me, Laura.
It was not until April, 2012 that Angel and I had a nice walk around the Mesa Arizona Temple. He had read a post from my blog about how I still hurting, even 19 years after Mom’s passing. About a month later, Thor had informed me about his father’s recent passing. I clearly remember telling him that even though he had so many other people in his life to which he could turn, I offered a lending ear, regardless of the hour, since I had already lost both of my parents. That day was the first day in a new way of being for me.
Until that time, when I went through struggles, I would blame Mom and Dad. Why did they leave me? Why did they give up on life? Why weren’t Laura and I important enough to put down those cigarettes? Where these demons in their lives more important than us? It is so easy to blame others, especially once they have passed from this life and are no longer able to defend themselves. It is just so much easier than accepting the blame and responsibility for the mistakes that I have made.
Now I am finally able to think of them with full love. I have forgiven them for everything. I have now freed myself from the self-inflicting pain. I have freed them from the ropes that I had used to bind them. When I am going through trials, I look to them for guidance and love. What a huge change from looking to them to simply blame them for the mistakes that I have made.
What a coincidence it is that this anniversary happens just a day after an awful shooting at an elementary school. So many people question God. He is supposed to be loving. How can he just take these children away from their families? How could he do this? Does he just not care?
Every thing in life happens for a reason. There is a blessing to happen from each bad thing that happens to each of us. It may take us time for us to accept these blessings. Sometimes we are just so full of hurt and anger that we do not want to or know how to let go of it; we don’t know any better. We are simply just too scared to know anything other that what we currently know. Once we can let go of the pain, we can see the abundant blessings all around us.
Look how many great people have come into my life that I would have otherwise never met. Would I have ever dared to leave my beloved hometown of Chicago? Think of all the great people I have met here in Arizona. Just living here brings me joy each day. I have learned that I was blessed with so many strengths at the age of 15 as a result of her passing that others normally do not receive until much later in life. I still do not have a college degree, yet I have a job that rewards me both financially and spiritually more than I would have been from the job that would have gone along with that respective potential degree.
We come to this life to struggle and experience pain. There is no escaping this fact. You can deny it all you want. The moment you accept this fact is the moment you accept peace and happiness. We all go through struggles each day, being tested as to how we will react. Will we try to resolve this matter with a heart of peace or with a heart at war? A heart at war will just stew in a world of self-pity and blaming of others, just making the situation progressively worse. A heart of peace will constantly go through the cycle of getting out of the box, thinking what he / she can or could have done better, and just make the proper efforts of making this world a better place.
Think of all the heroes that have come out of these otherwise disastrous moments in our life! Look at all the police officers, firemen, doctors, and others that have come to the rescue in countless tragedies! Sing their praises instead of hating on the troubled people who have caused these messes. They were unsung heroes whose only chance to shine was when these tragedies struck.
Think of the moments when you hug your loved ones tighter. You fear that something like this would never happen to them. Use this moment to share your love. Other times we hold back our true emotions in fear of being vulnerable and eventually hurt. What do you ever have to gain when you don’t try? Nothing! Let’s take moments like this to not be afraid to risk anything and just do what our heart says to do. If not, we are constantly betraying our loved ones and ourselves.
You are reading this because our paths have crossed at one time. If our relationship has meant anything to you, then all I ask of you is this. Stop what you are doing to tell the people in your life that you love them. Only good will happen from this act. I the love is rejected, you can feel stronger, instead of weaker, knowing that you shared your love and you cannot expect others to be able to accept these gifts. You do not get a chance to go back in time and repeat anything.
I cannot go back and hug Mom or Dad again. I cannot look them in the eyes and tell them that I love them or that I appreciate all that they did. Even for the things that in the moment I resented them. It is hard to look back and still feel that resentment. Who really cares if Dad didn’t let me use the car that one Friday night? What good does is it to think of that frustrating moment 17 or so years later? Who cares if Mom let me stay up all night instead of making me do my homework in a timely manner? Instead of blaming her for letting me develop some bad habits, I can pass my love for her onto others by encouraging them to develop more productive habits.
Just like Mom and Dad were imperfect, we too have our flaws. It is up to us to make choices each day as to how we will handle ourselves when faced with tough situations. I am now choosing to take all that I learned from them and use that in my efforts of serving others. I really do strive each day to use this information. Mom taught me all about unconditional love. Dad taught me to be that strong, unwavering provider. They both taught me to push through, even when things seem hopeless. Even though I may have been too young or prideful to recognize it, they really did embody charity, which is true love. There were still imperfect aspects of their ways of expressing charity, but you will find their true intentions if you look deep down.
Thank you Mom and Dad for being in my life. Mom, I will never forget the lasting impression that you have left on me. It shows every day. People would want nothing to do with me if I was not a good person. I am sorry that I was resentful for so long that you had to leave me. I am sorry that I chose to feel pain and resentment instead of looking at the abundant blessings in my life as the result of your passing. Thank you to everyone else who has touched my life. I am sorry that the time I spent letting go of the pain of losing Mom was longer than the whole time she lived with me on this Earth. Thank you for being so patient, loving, and giving to me.
This, being the twentieth anniversary of Therese Mary Paderta’s passing, will be the first anniversary where I truly celebrate her life. Gone are the pains from the past. I have chosen to replace that pain with the love that I have been given. Once I had chosen to accept this love, my heart had become full of overwhelming gratitude.
I love you Mom, now more than ever. Thank you for giving me more than I could have ever imagined. Twenty years after your passing, I still keep receiving your love. For that, I am truly grateful and will forever honor your memory.
Love always and forever,