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.

#VSS365 May 2019

Once again, trigger warning for grief related stories below. May is not only the month of mother’s day, but it’s the month of my mother’s birthday. Needless to say, May hits me hard. This is the second time around since her passing.

 

#VSS365 April 2019

Warning – the first few “very short stories” I wrote in April may be triggering. I’m still grieving the loss of my mama. I write in an effort to comfort the ever present void in my life due to her absence.

What missing mama is like

What missing mama is like

It’s having to YouTube how to peel yautia.

It’s having to Google translate Spanish.

It’s all the little girls holding their mother’s hands on the street.

It’s all the elderly women and their middle aged clones sitting between shopping bags on the train.

It’s buying flowers every 20th because the petals feel like the tops of her tender hands.

It’s not knowing who to put in my emergency contacts now.

It’s not having someone to ask if these shoes match with this shirt.

It’s realizing my life was on training wheels the whole time I thought I was adulting.

It’s realizing that “You are my sunshine” is the saddest song ever created.

It’s having to keep family drama to myself.

It’s not knowing whether to bundle up unless I actually look up the weather.

It’s sleeping all the time because dreams are the only way to see her.

It’s chronologically organizing and filing day every card she’s ever given to me.

It’s caring for an oversized pair of pajamas the way a museum conservator does artifacts.

It’s not having a partner the night before Thanksgiving who knows how to tuck in the turkey wings.

It’s buying nothing with her name, for Christmas, mother’s day, or her birthday – ever again.

It’s being truly homesick, because home is where the heart is and my mom, was my heart.

It’s crying at the live action trailer of Dumbo, because damn those bastards who take his mommy. Heaven forbid Disney decides to reboot Bambi next.

It’s her number in my favorites, that I refuse to delete, because she is still my favorite person to talk to.

It’s never being able to talk to my favorite person again and when the cold turkey becomes unbearable, it’s stalking her Facebook feed, memorizing text message threads and writing her in messenger despite that it’s the same as writing to myself.

It’s writing her into a Christmas card for my dad because I’ll be damned if I have to refer to my parents as anything other than a pair – two halves of a whole.

It’s having a dream where she isn’t really gone, and it was all a trick, because she is here – in the flesh, and I’ve never known true happiness until that moment.

It’s waking up at one in the morning and realizing she died all over again, and real life, is the nightmare.

It’s knowing my life will always be “the before” and “the after”.

And most of all, it’s knowing I will never bask in the unconditional, effortless love, that is my mother’s.

– Rachel R. Vasquez, January 2019

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I don’t think many people realize, until they’ve lost someone so integrated into their lives, what having that person gone is like. It affects so many things, it’s this gaping hole in your life, that you are forced to live with. To learn to live with.

Some things have “work arounds”, like youtubing a video about something I could’ve asked my mom about. The 2 years before she passed, she taught me how to make pasteles from scratch and we made them together for the holidays. This past holiday, I stood in the supermarket feeling completely bewildered, because I didn’t know the difference between yautia – white or yellow – and malanga. I think if I didn’t have the internet on my phone to help, I wouldn’t have tried making pasteles without her again.

For other things, like the urge to call her, it doesn’t go away. It’s almost been a year and even today, without thinking, I thought, “I should call my mom,” and then to realize, “Oh wait. Yeah…”

Running errands have become quieter for me. Either she kept me company or I called her on the phone to catch up. I like to talk to people when I cook dinner, and she was one of the people I called most. Now there are times I cook in silence, and my husband asks me, why aren’t I talking to anyone? Because sometimes calling someone different makes it feel a bit better, other times, nothing can replace talking to her so I choose to talk to no one at all. There, in the emptiness of a phone call and conversation that could’ve have been – had it not been for cancer.

It sucks. Still trying to find ways to cope. Writing is one way. Taking it day by day.

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.