I Die

I Die

I die

over and over.

 

I used to think I wanted to.

I used to flirt with death using the same razors

mama used to shave calluses from her

hard working heels

but now I know better

 

when walking feels like

dry heaving my broken insides

when it feels like vomiting

the pieces of me

of her

that have loosened in me

since she left

 

pieces trying to force themselves out of my body

 

but I hang onto them

no matter how sharp

 

and I die

from doing this.

 

I die when I remember her face

turn blue

 

I die when I can feel how soft her hand was in mine

in my mind and

I realize

I can never feel it again.

I die.

– Rachel R. Vasquez, June 2018

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I wrote this around 4 months after my mama died. Grief feels very surreal in the beginning. Our culture truly does not give grievers enough time before they have to throw themselves back into the daily grind.

I went back to work about a week and a half after her passing. I remember walking in the streets, physically straining to hold myself back from what felt like dry heaving. I can’t describe it. It wasn’t necessarily about being nauseous all the time. It was like, being a water balloon ready to burst and with any poke, gentle or otherwise, the balloon will splatter into a mess. I felt like I was literally hanging on by a hair, trying to keep myself from literally collapsing in the streets in pure agony.

Sometimes it did feel like “Fuck, I’m going to throw up,” because the horror of loss and witnessing death feels that way. Sometimes it was more like an unfathomable sorrow and pain that I could barely contain within myself in silence.

It’s like being punched in the gut multiple times. There’s only so many times you can let yourself get punched without ever making a sound. Sometimes the pain is so great, the only relief is to make a sound – to cry, to scream, to release.

There were many times I couldn’t hold it back, and I had to pull myself into a restroom stall or even face a wall in the subway to just break down. Let some of the tsunami out just enough so that I could return to appearing “normal” and walk that fine line between sanity and the insanity that is grief.

There were mornings I didn’t make it to work, and the mornings I did, it felt like a drunken haze, an alternate reality I was being forced to live in. How do people laugh? Go to work? Keep going about their lives when this life is missing from this earth? When this life has been snuffed? How does no one notice when the sun is blotted from the sky?

I wrote this back then. It’s been a year and 4 months since she passed now. While it’s no longer a physical strain on a daily basis to hold back my grief, it still comes in waves. Ever since, I’ve been following only a single line of advice. Take it one day at a time.

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Brink of War

Brink of War

With news of escalating tensions with Iran, and Russia already being a worry for me, combined with my own personal life stressors – my anxiety is off the chain tonight. I haven’t been this anxious, or in what I like to refer to as “OMG I’m gonna die” mode, in a long time. So in an effort to feel better somehow, I thought to myself, if I never achieve all the things I wanted to achieve in life, you know, because of possibilities like war, what will I have left behind?

It was then that I decided to share a very vivid dream I had, days before I went to visit my mother in the hospital, and it truly hit me that she was going to die. This was three or four months before the fact, but until this day, I haven’t forgotten that dream.

I’ve decided that, if for some reason I don’t get to live out my life until I’m a sassy, salsa bopping, viejita, this was the story I wanted to share.

In the dream, I was in the city. It was Manhattan probably, and I was standing in the middle of the street during the day.

Just like an apocalyptic movie, the skyscrapers are collapsing around me, the ground beneath my feet, is cracking to inevitably swallow people and everyone is running for their lives. For me, the moment is in slow motion. I know there’s no point in running because there is nowhere safe to go.

A few feet ahead of me, both of my parents are holding onto each other and looking at me.

I glance at the buildings and know that I only have seconds to act before we all die. Surprisingly, my first thought isn’t that I’m scared, or that I don’t want to die. I don’t despair over the multitude of unanswered questions regarding the Christian faith I abandoned in my late teens and what that means now that this is the end.

Instead, I only have one thought. To get to my parents in time.

So I ran to them. And when I reached them, I grabbed both of their hands in mine. While breaking down in tears and trying to keep my eyes on them, probably even try to smile at them one last time, I only tell them this:

“I love you. Thank you for giving me life.”

I woke up after that.

I’ve always thought this dream was metaphorical – a bad omen of things to come. I don’t normally remember my dreams or nightmares, unless they really strike a cord. If I remember them, I feel like they must have a purpose.

At the time, I thought, well, my parents are my world and I am theirs. So seeing as I was in the process of losing one when I had this dream, this dream could’ve been a metaphor for how that felt to me.

Today, in my anxious state and the state of our country, this same dream could have a different meaning.

I feel like it shows how much I love my parents. I was their “miracle” baby, a premie born at seven months who was sickly ever since. Asthmatic, hearing loss, anemia – while I became stronger health wise as an adult, they always prayed and worried about me. While it’s just my father now, I’m sure he still does it just the same.

And despite that I have so many things on my mind now, with my anxiety shooting through the roof, remembering this dream gives me perspective.

In the end, nothing else really matters, except family and those we love.

I just want to be with my family. My heart has never been the same since I lost my mama, and I ache with worry that someday, my father will go meet her. I know it’s inevitable we all leave this life, whether it’s through aging, a freak accident, or God forbid, war. I don’t know what tomorrow will bring, or if I’ll ever get to do all the things I wanted to do.

But for tonight, I’m going to hold onto that dream. I’m going to remember that, when I thought that life was over, how grateful I was to have been given life. How blessed, as ironic as that word feels coming from me, I felt to have the parents that I did. How fortunate I was to be loved and to have parents to love in return.

The life I leave behind may not be the legacy I intended; Maybe due to my own procrastination, or events beyond my control.  However, regardless of what remains when I’m no longer of this world, know that I was a girl, who’s parents were her heart and home. A girl – who hopes that someday when her time comes, she can have them both again, and be together.

– Rachel R. Vasquez, June 2019

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The picture on this post is of me as a little girl, holding onto my mama and my daddy. Holding on always…

 

Mama’s Heaven

Mama’s Heaven

I hope mama’s  heaven is

The Spring

 

trees with cotton candy tufts

pink because

what other color would love be?

bundles of pom poms

like they were dipped into clouds

yellow suns sprout among

the green thickets beneath her bare feet

leaves like canopies,

like baby angels

holding a million tiny umbrellas to shelter

her from a drizzle

heart shaped greens, they wave

like toddler hellos

like butterflies fluttering along

cloister walls

I hope mama’s heaven is

The Spring

so with every flower I see

 

there’s mama

smiling back at me

 

– Rachel R. Vasquez, May 2018

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I wrote this the weekend before mama’s birthday on May 8th. Her first birthday without her. I saw a movie with the in-laws the Sunday before and as we were driving home, I couldn’t help, but be in awe of all the flowers in the trees – it was beautiful. I started writing this – hoping that wherever my mama is, that it was a place full of flowers. I bring flowers home every 20th, she passed on Feb. 20th, and for me, the flowers connect us. Her name is Rosalina, Rosa, like the flower. She loved flowers, and by keeping flowers close to me, I hope that in some way, she’s just as close.

Agony

Agony

Oh God! Oh agony!

Throb that has been cast on me!

Oh silent searing

in my soul!

This violent breaking

of my home!

My womb, my mother

from where I was born.

My roof, my shelter

from this life’s storms.

Hacked off from me

like limb from body.

Hands gone from me,

like wind not breathing.

Meandering, I’m grounded

to this earth.

Wandering unfounded,

still I search.

Her laughter, her being,

my ears bleed with strain,

to hear her tell me

she loves me again.

But an empty cold hearth

I receive.

Her safety and warmth,

I feel only in dreams.

 

– Rachel R. Vasquez, April 2018

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2 months later and still hurts like no other. It’s hard to put this kind of despair into words, but I tried to any way.

Candles

Candles

My mother never liked candles.

Twice they were responsible

for a childhood blaze.

Now, like a candle,

her life wanes.

 

Her lips form soundless shapes

on January 9th,

“Happy Birthday.”

She smiles bright and sleepily

even when she’s held me to

her swelling belly

after I cried to “You are my sunshine,” on the guitar.

She mouths, “I love you, “

as if she’s drifting.

 

Sailing on the lip of a parting boat

and I am her shore.

The ocean between us grows by the hour.

 

Her glow extinguishes

with every breath,

her soul relinquished,

lying dazed, unfocused, silent –

she becomes far.

 

Her body rancid,

we count the days,

her wick dims placid.

 

A piece of my heart,

a piece of her goes.

I pray God carries her

afloat like music notes,

as she slowly sets like a sun,

into a gentle wisp of smoke.

 

Tallow lessened into rest

until her time has run.

Ended to infinite slumber,

from ember to ashes,

a votive that has un-mothered.

 

– Rachel R. Vasquez, February 2018

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I wrote this in February within the weeks my mother was becoming less like herself. By then she was in a nursing home, intubated via tracheotomy, and Pleurx catheters in her lungs and stomach. Although she survived a bout of pneumonia in December and January appeared hopeful, as February rolled in, I noticed she was sleeping more, becoming less focused, and forgetting things you told her minutes before. The cancer was progressing fast. A church friend of hers sat with me and said it reminded her of her father, who, like a candle, dimmed each day until he wasn’t there anymore. I wrote this praying that if I could not keep her, that God at least take her peacefully, without pain.

Room 10-24

Room 10-24

There was a woman I didn’t recognize,

the same color as the walls,

stacked like a house of sticks frail enough to knock over with a touch,

waiting for her daughter.

And I,

looking for my mother

popped my head into each room desperately.

In the room I passed

this woman I didn’t recognize was

until my cousin said,

“That’s her!”

I’m here mama. I tell her I love her, kiss her short haired head, and hold her hands.

I try to focus on her smile and not the tubes.

I come home guilty because

for just a brief second

she was a woman I thought I didn’t know,

until she was my mother again.

 

– Rachel R. Vasquez, November 2017

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This is the first poem I’ve put on this site for 2018. I have gone on internet hiatus with social media, my blogs, and writing in general since October. There’s no easy way to say any of this, but my mother, my sweet mama who I lovingly refer to as “mamasita”, died in February after a 4 year fight with stage 4 breast cancer. My life has been whole heartedly focused on the last 6 months of my mother’s life and now that it is “over”, I have never felt so – angry. Lonely. Heartbroken. Lost. Out of place in this world. Like I’m living in a twilight zone where everything else moves when for me, it’s like the sun has been blotted out of the skies.

I’ve spent my life writing. My mother knew I loved to write. And though I haven’t felt like myself in months, and I can’t imagine a future where one day, “this” will feel okay, I know that this is step one. Step one: Get back on my blog, my twitters, and write. Do the thing I know I loved once and hopefully it will get me through, one day at a time.

I am thinking of creating a blog dedicated to the last 6 months of her life- of my life when she existed in it. There are so many emotions and so many lessons learned, writing seems the only way to get it out of me. Until this new blog comes into existence, this is one of the first things I wrote as things began to go downhill. When I was beginning to face the fact that my mother was dying.

She was in the first of what would be a weekly routine of urgent care and hospital stays before the climax in December and the end in February. I was looking for her room in Memorial Sloan Kettering with my cousin, and I passed right by it. I peeked in there, saw a woman looking down at the floor, and I didn’t recognize my own mother. I kept going, trying to find her, when my cousin pulled me back saying that she was in the room I’d just dismissed.

When I realized that I didn’t recognize my mother, it was terrifying, and I felt incredibly guilty. I would never tell my mother that I didn’t recognize her. I cried when I got home that evening when I told my husband about it. I’m crying just writing this, but I’ve gotten this far! I’m typing! I’m going to keep trying and no matter how painful, I’m going to vent this in one of the only ways I know how.

If you have a mother alive, please, cherish her always.

It feels like…

It feels like –

I’m in love!

I wanna dance in the kitchen,

and scream as loud as I can until I can’t breath in anymore.

Not because I’m angry, but because I need to

move.

It feels like

JUMP!

Dive!

Spin ’round and ’round in circles

until I can’t stop laughing

and I can’t see straight.

It feels like

grab all the people I love

and squeeze them

because we’re all dying.

But no one else seems to see it

except for me.

 

– Rachel R. Vasquez, 1/15/2016

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I don’t even know if I should call this a poem. More like something impulsive I had to write and get out this morning. Maybe someday I’ll refine it and it’ll be pretty but, meh. It is what it is.