Mami was so vibrant; we all knew that she would go on forever. Then I got the call, “Mami is in the hospital. She has stomach cancer.” My gut wrenched. I was thousands of miles away and I wanted to be there by her side. Mami was my grandmother, but for all intents and purposes, she was my mother. She raised me, protected me, loved me, and cheered me on no matter what I came up with. Only a mother loves this way.
The airfare was costly, work was busy, and I didn’t want to leave my son and husband alone as my husband had just started feeling better the last few weeks. He tried to tell me to go, “we’ll be fine, go.” But I couldn’t just leave them. Then while eating breakfast, my wise 13 year-old son looked at me and said, “You need to go. You need to be there.” My husband just looked at me and smiled. I was on a plane in days.
I was there to soak up as much of her as I could because I could see she was leaving us. Mami died the last day of my two-week stay. She went peacefully, with family by her side as I was caressing her forehead and saying the Lord’s Prayer.
Now, when did God speak to me? Always. He was giving me physical and spiritual strength every day. But he spoke “out” to me one day when I was walking to the hospital. The 20-30 minute walk in the morning gave me a chance to walk the city streets before they were fully awake–quiet except for the birds also waking up, and empty except for the workers sweeping the streets. During this walk, I thought about my husband and son, what family I would see that day, and would just let my thoughts wander.
One morning, as I am walking and thinking about work and what I have to do when I get back, I heard this voice say “Quit!” The voice was not coming from within me so I looked around. The only other person was a street-sweeper in the next block. I thought, “I am losing it.” I kept walking, thinking about work and again I heard, “Quit!” Again, I looked around. Nothing. It happened again. This time I asked, “God, is that you?” As I am asking this to myself, I am also thinking, “boy, there is really something wrong with me!” But God replied. This time I could hear the voice within me saying, “quit.” When God speaks, you listen but I also had questions. “Why?” This time there was not and immediate answer but images starting popping into my head. My husband, sick off and on throughout the years; doctors telling us more than once what a miracle it was that he made it through XYZ or ABC; hearing that he only had 6-months and to get things in order, but yet here he was, 5 years later. All these images came to me in a matter of seconds. Then I heard the voice inside me again. “There is not much time.” I knew what that meant.
When I returned home, I told my husband I was planning on taking off for a year. He didn’t ask why but I think he knew. DH had just started feeling, better than he had in a long time. I told him that we could do some of the things we had talked about doing for years, like traveling. The month before I had made a very forceful argument for him to retire as I was seeing what stress was doing to his compromised health. “Either you call your boss to quit or I will.” He called.
So here we were in December, preparing for Christmas, his birthday, my birthday, and having our son back from boarding school. At the same time, I am grieving heavily over the loss of Mami but was so glad that I had been there those last couple of weeks.
I approached my bosses after New Year’s to discuss my quitting as I knew a sabbatical was not an option. They were very kind. They recognized that I had just gone through a terrible loss and stated that I shouldn’t make any rash decisions at this point. They asked me to table the discussion for a while. I went back the next week, again to quit and discuss if they needed two weeks or three or four for a smooth transition. I wanted to ensure that no projects were compromised. Again, I was asked to wait a bit before making such a drastic decision. This dance continued for about 4 weeks. Finally, I decided that I would just not work the extra hours and started turning things over to staff. I stayed. Two months later I lost my husband.
After my husband died, I did quit my job. My son came home from boarding school, where we had sent him as the constant vigilance and uncertainty about his father’s health led to his acting out in extreme ways. He and I have used this time to enjoy and really get to know each other. I am using this time to come to terms with two tremendous losses, all the secondary losses, and to find me again after 15 years of being in primary caretaking mode.
I go back many times to that morning when God spoke to me. I say this, because there is absolutely no doubt in my mind that it was Him. While, I wish I had listened earlier, I ended up listening in the end. I do not regret it.