Recently, I learned that the word inspiration is synonymous with the word breath, more specifically to breathe-in. In medical terms, to inspire is to breath-in and to expire is to exhale. But to expire can also refer to something ceasing to be valid, or to come to an end.
The catalyst of 2011 for me has been expiration. The physical death of my Tia at the end of January was the leader of the troop. In my 26 years of life I had never experienced grief until that point, and while she was a cancer survivor for some time the rapid decline of her health (when it returned aggressively) left me shocked. I kept asking myself during her last week of life ‘Have I said everything I need to say?’ ‘Is there going to be something I regret when I think back to this time?’ Most of my energy during the decline was focused on taking the supporter role because my cousin (her only daughter) is more like my older sister.
My older sister is the type to put the air mask on anyone who’s incapable around her before herself. And now she was loosing the only person who FED her spiritually, emotionally, and who could tell her the truth without insulting her. I did everything in my power that I possibly could to be there; ran to the hospital whenever she needed to make a decision, took turns with the night shifts and even got in touch with the proper spiritual authorities when we knew that date was creeping near. One night I was in the room with my Tia while my cousin ran out to get something to eat. I noticed her nails were unkempt and she would not have that (nunca!/never) so I thought I would give her a manicure. At this point she was already on an oxygen tank and her lungs were filling with liquid, in other words she had less than a week of life left. I ran to the convenience store of the hospital and purchased a filer, nail clip and a pretty light rosy nail polish. I figured I would ask the nurse if the strong smell would disturb my auntie before I put the nail polish on. When the nurse came in the room, I asked:
Would it be a good idea to paint my auntie’s nails? She would never stand for her nails looking like this, even in a hospital.
NURSE: *pause* I don’t think so hun. We want her to be as comfortable as possible. You do realize what’s going on here?
I don’t know if it was her way of trying to say it without saying it, but I was hit with incredible sorrow when she released those words into the room. She finalized what everyone could only think or hint to. There was no coming back, this was the end.
In the weeks following January 31st, I learned what the end meant. I booked my last-minute flight to Costa Rica, since she was to be laid to rest at home. I would get out of work and proceed to making my way to the hospital, forgetting she was no longer there. I would be up late nights asking myself bizarre questions like ‘Did she realize that would be the last pedicure she would get when she was getting it ?’ and crying thinking to myself that my older sister would never be the same again. In the last weeks, my Tia also did not speak (except to shake or nod her head) when she was uncomfortable or hungry so I also would wonder to myself if she knew what was going…and if she accepted it, was bitter, was ready? These kind of thoughts plagued me, but I knew my older sister was probably having worse thoughts than I, and I tried to remember that it’s not about me!
This Monday, October 24th will have been my Tia’s 67th birthday. October marks 8 months since she’s left us. Although I would rather her be here, I know that her passing set many things in motion. Her memory inspires me to want to be remembered as she was, a community pillar and respected servant of God. At the funeral, I will never forget the man who used to wash her car crying hysterically from the back of the church.
There is irony in the end being the beginning, and my wake up call that life is too precious to stay miserable in a job, path, or with a person that is the cause of more pain than happiness. We hear it all the time, and are reminded when we hear of another death that life is short. Life is short, life is short, life is short. I’m tired of taking that lightly, of getting that short-lived boost and then going back to taking life for granted.
Does every breath INSPIRE you? Are you doing more complaining than LIVING? If so, what can you do to change that? Do you even want to?