Time has a way of flying and more so these times that bring with them so many challenges none of us ever thought we would face. Yet thinking of Mom and talking to her helps ground me a lot. She still brings me peace even in the midst of chaos as do many people whom I love. People who are anchors in our lives and who help us weather whatever storm comes our way.
There is a temptation to say that today would have been Mama Estrada’s 73rd birthday. Born in 1949, the math makes sense…what doesn’t make sense is the tense. Saying things in the past might invite some people to leave things in the past and that’s where I struggle. I still talk to her. I still write to her. Even if I miss her intensely, she is part of my past, she shall be part of my future, and she is always present.
I am blessed to have many anchors and many hearts help me in countless ways. From kind words, to boundless love and support, to a meme sent, a phone call given, a text, an email, or hey, even a book review. Acts of kindness can be immensely soothing and healing and if something characterized Mama Estrada, it was her kindness and her abundant random acts of kindness to people who would have not expected her to be the one to offer a helping hand, a shoulder to cry on, or advice they would carry for life. Every January 17th, I receive messages from people saying #CheersMamaEstrada and from time to time, someone offers a little story of who and how she was and the kindness and generosity she showed to them. I smile because every time it’s another treasure I store in my heart’s trove.
The curious thing is that today we also celebrate another magnificent golden girl whom we’ve lost, Betty White, who was just shy of celebrating a century of awesomeness. Mom passed away when she was 70 and it definitely feels like she was taken too soon. Betty White passed away at 99…and even at that age, still too soon. The people that leave a lasting impression will always leave us too soon, even if they outlive a turtle. That’s just the nature of it and I think it’s definitely a sign of greatness. That no matter the time that passes, these people live on in our hearts and even our dreams. I love that Mom shared her birthday with Betty White because they both loved life, loved family, were astoundingly cheeky, and loved dogs…Mom later got a soft spot for cats thanks to the most doglike cat we’ve ever known, our dear Leo. So as a tribute to Mama and our dear Betty, I joined the #BettyWhiteChallenge and donated to Save a Sato (a Puerto Rico based non-profit dedicated to ease the suffering of Puerto Rico’s homeless and abused animals) (http://saveasato.org/donate-for-the-satos) and to the Atlanta Humane Society (https://atlantahumane.org).
Mama always loved dogs and adored each of our pups intensely. So in keeping with the topic, I want to share a small story about Mom and one of our pups, Miabella. If you ever visited our home and met our pups, you knew they each had their own unique personality, although from all eight dogs that went through our household, the loopiest had to be Mia. Being a basset hound, she was long, clever, wily, naughty, silly, and was pure love embodied in a not so small and plenty strong body. Imagine a Basking Robbins log ice cream cake, with short legs, and a big heart. The thing is, Mia almost didn’t make it when she was born. Among the many things my Mom was during her life, she was a “canine midwife” on two occasions, once with Tina (our beloved shar-pei and as noble as a dog can be) and once with Kahlúa (our basset momma).
Tina was a trooper and she only had 5 pups so it wasn’t that intense. Mom had been informed by the vet that Kahlúa would have a litter of 7 or maybe 8. Showtime was around 2 AM or Lord knows what hour. It was late, I was sleepy, and for about 3-4 hours, Mom was the “canine midwife” and I was the best “placenta catcher” I was able to be, i.e. beyond moral support, all I could do was hold a plastic bag because although dogs do tear the sacks the pups are in and lick them clean, 7-8 is a tall order and Kahlu needed help, which Mom selflessly and lovingly did. After the 7th pup, it seemed Kahlúa was done and Mom told me to go back to sleep, which I did.
Fast forward a couple of hours and I am stirred from slumber with some ruckus and I have no idea what’s going on. Exiting my room, I quickly decipher the reason…Kahlúa wasn’t done and after about an hour after I went to sleep, she showed she still had more pups to deliver. Mom was crying though and I asked what had happened. Unfortunately, one of the pups had been born stillborn and it had hit Mom hard…but she had no time to process because more were on the way. The next pup came out fine, but another was also born without breathing. To lose a dog at birth was horrible enough…and Mom wasn’t about to lose a second one. So she cleaned the pup and massaged her chest. She did chest compressions. She put her fingers over the pup’s mouth and she gave her CPR. A family friend who had arrived told her the pup was gone and to let her go, because it had been another of the females, which were in short order in this litter and Mom wasn’t having it. She kept on gently and patiently urging the pup to please hold on, as much for her sake as Mom’s…and she did. The pup coughed, began to move, and she made it and lived a full and long life…because of my Mother’s faith, kindness, and love. Miabella was her name and trust me, that pup lived life with love the likes you’ll rarely see. I’m sure Mom gave a bit of herself so Mia could make it, a small price for the love she gave us and the joy Mom received from her and one of countless examples of her greatness I hold close to my heart.
As a person, Mom was wonderfully human and humane. She led with kindness and love and from all reports, Betty White did the same and then some, which we’ll definitely talk about later on this blog. Although leaving a mark is something special, leaving a legacy is something that often just happens because of a person’s nature more than from planning. So on this wonderful day, rather than a tear in my eye, I offer cheers with love in my heart, kindness in my actions, and faith in tomorrow to two golden girls, whom I truly hope can meet up for drinks, laughs, and a cuddle fest with all their furry angels.
Peace, love, and #CheersGoldenGirls