It was the most unlikely of afternoons. To be sure the ground upon which I stood was not a place I would ever have taken myself, but when my mother declared on our drive, pointing at one of the oldest cemeteries in El Paso, that it was her dream to go there...I ignored the look on my own face, which said more or less...are you crazy...really? Mom...who does that? and instead took the next exit off the highway.
"Hey! Where are you going?!" my mother declared, sure that I was lost and exiting wrong.
"It's your dream to go there...well what were you going to do? Drive past it for 20 years? I'm taking you now..."
Her face lit up and a sense of wonder passed through me about this little scrapbooking 4'11" grandmother who loves pink and lace. Suddenly, I remembered...she also has a personality that inevitably surfaces and throws me off every time....I call it her murder, death, intrigue self, the one who worked for secret service, and it was this one now driving us to the cemetery.
The Franklin mountains surrounded us as we walked upon the desert floor, cactus blooming and ground squirrels running. It wasn't eerie...more..peaceful. Statues of angels, iron cribs, fence posts, unmarked graves....and though I should have felt a deep sadness...the day was curious...the speculations on the stories and the reading of names...the dates were 1860....1914...influenza sections and revolutionaries...lying now...side by side.
Some sections were Jewish, others Catholic, and still others Chinese. Separated by beliefs, united in eventuality. We talked then about my own grandparents...about their own passing and we realized simultaneously that we never visited their grave...that was not a visit of anonymity, but of longing and remembrance.
The thought occurred to me then, I was born in El Paso. I said it to myself many times allowing it to sink in. I was born on this land. My grandparents died here....all of my grandparents will...and they were born here....some within a two hour radius but going back 7 generations...at least. And I thought...doesn't that mean something? A powerful thought to one who travels often and far...that even still, staying here or not, this is my home...because there will always be someone in the family here who remembers me.
It seemed inevitable, then, that my mother and I take the drive to remembrance that we had avoided. For weeks, doing healing sessions in my grandfather's room, pictures of my grandparents life surrounding me, I had been thinking about the two of them.
For many years I used to reflect on my grandmother in the kitchen, my grandfather "making" her cross the room to pass him the salt that sat inches from his hands...what was a modern granddaughter, still single at 38, independent traveler to think about this? I did not usually reflect happily upon it but the image kept appearing over and over again.
Now here we were arriving at Mt. Carmel approaching the Virgen de Guadalupe and the site where my grandfather was recently placed side by side my grandmother.
I didn't expect to feel so much, but when I saw the stone and our last name written upon it: Uribarri...it hit me. This was not an unknown grave, with stories to speculate about...it was my grandparents'..and they were lying side by side.
The images that had been flashing for weeks suddenly became vivid and clear. I remembered everything. The smells, the smiles, the look in their eyes and the still peace of watching them in the kitchen.
My grandfather was a writer...he sat for hours at the kitchen table scribbling away...my grandmother was a nurturer. Walk into the house...be sure you would be asked a relentless series of how can I serve you questions...
"Qieres algo para comer, mija? (Something to eat?)"
"No, gracias, Grandmalita."
"Algo para tomar?"
"No, no. Nada."
And my grandmother would smile her beautiful smile that would light up her eyes and melt your heart. And I realized as I sat at the grave, emotions overflowing that she wanted to. That she wanted to nurture, she wanted to serve, she wanted to love, and suddenly I saw those moments in the kitchen for the loveliness that they were.
I think when I was younger I used to think you met someone, you feel in love and "something" happened...now...looking at the people I love who have made it work for 42 years or more...I see love the way I now saw it unfolding in the kitchen.
There was not more happening...there was less but the "something" was deeper...stiller...a bit quieter. Two people honing life down to the things they loved the most...food, writing, and each other. Married for 50 years, in a 20 foot space, each day doing exactly what they loved...3 feet apart...breathing time together...one dream, one simple moment together in time. How ever it was going to be...they were going to hold the memory of each other alive...and my grandfather did just that.
For the 20 years he lived beyond my grandmother's young 64 year old life, I watched him breath love into her pictures, remember her in his writings, and live the life they lived together over and over again. She kept him company and together, though they are gone, they came together to teach me through memory...less from the big things of their life...mostly in the little things...like passing the salt...what love actually is.
And as I held my mother, now parent-less, and feeling into her heart...I tell her its ok to cry...its ok to let go into our hearts and know by experience the depth of our love...because I know someday...I too will have to face the eventuality of my parents absence and someone will hold me through it until it is our turn.
I hear my mother say in her heart, "Te esperamos en la resurreccion."
I feel into the space of my own heart, the one that connects me to my relatives past and present, and I do know that we will one day live together again...we will and do remember each other alive...in some other place in time and be willing to lose again, because the having is so worth experiencing.
"Juntos, para siempre 1946.
Carmen and Roberto Uribarri."
And to my grandmother...I would so love a liquado and some lucky charms...yes, please.
I am still young...realizing my grandfather died at 99 and my grandmother is 93...I see that I have at least two more of my lifetimes to go. And I reflect on this one that I have been gifted with...
I have learned how to walk...twice. I have grown out of the ethers magically appearing from a Universal place to a peanut into a full size human being. I have watched two boys be born to my brother, held them in my arms and watched them turn into men. I have watched three generations of Lucero's be born and am now on my third row of cousins Urribarri side. I have lived in Kauai, Maui, Big Island Hawaii, Washington, Oregon, California, Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado and Texas. I have crossed two borders and flown around the world.
I have gone to college, taught high school to many who have graduated college, married and now have children. I have changed careers from teacher to curriculum developer to teen center manager to editor to muralist to massage therapist to yoga instructor to ceremonialist. I have made easy money and no money. I've been in a common law marriage and had several loves of my life, each with their own unique special memories imprinted on my soul. I have self-healed from a brain tumor, manic depression, and physical traumas.
I have traveled the medicine path to come back to the belief that the best and most powerful medicine is the one of our hearts and that the medicine ways are for living this life and for learning how to sit with losing it. And, though I have feathers cool hats and crystals for my altar, I know the altar I am building is the one upon which I have placed the things that I stand for, the essence of my soul, translated into a million different acts and offerings of these hands to the healing of others. And I know that as I sit up for my grandmother, I am also sitting up for my children yet to be born.
As I submit myself to the life cycles and the passing of torches from one generation to another, that I am doing nothing special...just holding a place of remembrance, that though I am still young at nearly 40, someday...the coolest thing I will have done is made the bed myself, walked 20 feet to the bathroom and still be able to do it myself. Someday, I will have grandchildren who will tell me far off tales of places I have no frame of reference for, cannot form a mental picture of, and I will smile only at their enthusiasm and be thinking to myself...I brushed my hair on my own today...and I think it looks pretty good.
And it is small victories that color the world of my grandmother, while it is large adventures that have punctuated my life so far, mini-deaths, endings and new beginnings, that lead me to believe that while we are young it is for us to dream big, to take huge risks, to live a large life...because it is a natural fate of this life that we get smaller, simpler and the living with no regrets is the only way to settle into the deep peace of contentedness.
It is the way we continue to live in the stories that are told about our strength, faith, courage, and heart that will live long after us...and it is the way those things shape us that help us to dig deep, stand on our own two wobbly aged feet and walk, slowly as possible, to the sink where we comb our hair and look into our reflection and to know we have lived a good life.
I sat in the truck after a night sitting up with my grandmother. It was a simple overnight stint to ward off the pitch dark, no walker, seemingly at that moment mile journey to the restroom she insists on taking.
The whole night is for that one moment when I feel her rise up, unassisted, to make the journey she has made for the last 60 years in her little Adobe house. She refuses to quit taking it, despite the many falls and risks associated with it.
She never quits and everyone at the morning table tries to convince her that the portable potty we place next to the bed is an excellent alternative. We come up with ideas of pulleys and wiring to support her on the walk, knowing no amount of talk or convincing will make her stop...she is stubborn. A lucky Lucero trait I remind my father, perhaps it is this very trait we have to thank for him surviving a Vietnam landmine and me healing a brain tumor. My uncle chimes in...yeah and me...I'm still here.
We all laugh off the seriousness and try to not stare too long at the black eye my grandma has from a fall that she is going to the doctor today about. We all know she is fine...strong bones she has, my aunt declares.
We seat her in a wheelchair for the doctor journey and I can see the tiredness that has descended over her face. I am not sure if it is from the morning's activities, or from my shadowing her every move. I wonder what it is like to surrender the most private of moments to another person and compassion sets in.
I think to myself as we drive, if she really only knew how much we all love her, how it is not a matter of if someone will be here with her but whose turn it is and for how long we GET to be with her. We all know everyone would like to be here, working or states away...we pass on the love of a tribe.
From one single mother to all 7 of my living aunts and uncles, to their children and their children, we love this woman through these moments and it is this overwhelming feeling that causes me to reach over and touch her, tell her I love her, tell her we all love her. When I do, she turns her face to tell me she loves me too and tears are in her eyes.
Tell her the truth, spirit moves me..."Grandmother, I just want you to know something...I know that because you are a strong woman it is difficult to allow others to help you...so I want you to know...it's an honor to help you. It's an honor. Do you understand? You have taken such good care of all of us...its our turn to take care of you."
These words cause a small voice I barely recognize as my grandmother's to fill the truck cab..."All I know is that I can't do anything for myself anymore."
My heart catches and I quickly remember the words of wisdom she told me many times before I made journeys across the ocean or the world: "Remember, God first."
I repeat this lesson of hers and ask, "Do you still pray Grandma?" She nods the answer I knew she would give, "Yes." I ask, "Do you love your family?" Again, I knew the answer, "Yes."
"Then you are doing more than most because a person's worth isn't determined by what they do, it is determined by who you are...and you are a prayerful, loving woman. Isn't that worth something?"
She doesn't say anything but I see the glint in her eye return and a small smile come onto her lips. I breathe a huge sigh and let the truth of that sink in for myself. I wonder at how her own wisdom comforts her and continuously teaches me and I am happy.
To be sure there are moments when I remember California in the summer...the trip to India I came home early from to sit here...and I stop myself short of feeling as though I miss out and ask...what experiences do I want to have define me...and I know as surely as my own family would say...it is simple moments like these when we get to help each other feel just a little bit more than we believe our selves to be...and I give thanks that I am here...and I give thanks that I have had parents who taught me this at an early age so I have never missed a chance to share life with the ones I love.
1. Before you set out into the world to make promises, contracts and agreements with other people, you must honor the ones you have made to yourself when you arrived on this planet. That requires in depth investigation and openness to the manifestations in the physical world of your mental and genetic patterns.
***Yeah, exactly...how and why do you always end up in this situation? Ask the question and then...crazy part...ANSWER IT. Honor the truth. For a true life is the only one that can ever make you truly happy.
2. Communicate what you learn about yourself to yourself so you can learn how to communicate it to someone else...and then do so courageously. Clarify it with each lesson, try out your theories, if they are wrong...change them immediately...how many times do you need to feel wrong before you feel right?
***Yeah, that means trusting your heart and when it is hurting honor your own pain...weather it is based on false expectations, delusional projections, or unspoken words. Because...hell...if they only knew how much this meant to you, how much it would hurt you, or how unchangeable this aspect of you were...then they could act accordingly.
3. Let go of that which does not serve your highest most amazing path to happiness. That means that when you don't get the response you expect to 1 and 2 don't try to play it off, change your mind to get a different result, or ignore the response. Honor the Truth of the other person and your own.
***Yup...every time you pretend you didn't mean exactly what you clearly stated from your heart, your heart will be wounded and your soul will know you are living a lie. Does this catch up to you? You bet! Do you get less attached over time? Nope...always MORE! So, choose...more pain or less. Either way the inevitable irreconcilable differences will arise. Honor your disagreements and know what is not negotiable.
4. Bless the life of the person who is leaving yours. Express gratitude for the qualities that made them lovable and for the time they gave you (Because its valuable...you can never get time back.) Be clear about why it is not going to work. Apologize for the hurt, support their pain, allow them time to understand and ask/answer any questions. In time, acknowledge the lessons learned and forgive them for perfectly being exactly who they are but not the one you are looking for. Speak good of them to others, and celebrate the joys of their life...that's the blessing for you and for them...
***Exactly...treat this person as a humane being and know that your hearts are forever entwined...your stories...your memories...and what adds to them...adds to you...what diminishes them...will hurt you. Heal together because now...tantrically speaking, and yes...tantra is magic...you are one being.
5. Awake and conscious beings enter into relationship with eyes and hearts open through fully releasing (forgiving) the past and surrendering to the current person, time and circumstance. In this way, we are able to mirror to each other the joy of love and truth without projection. Keep clear and continue to communicate what you know about yourself to be true through experience (The less taboo topics...the more clear the connection) about: sexuality, commitment, family, friends, children, marriage, money, home, travel, personal time and space, time together, hobbies, interests, spiritual practice, willingness to experiment and try new things, desire for routine, spontaneity, planning, health, what actions/words/touch they can best honor you with...and YOUR HEARTFELT DREAMS.
***Take these communications seriously because you are making soul agreements and considering making binding contracts. Soul agreements lead up to contracts and contracts can not be broken without karmic retribution. Any inability on one partner's part to honor agreements nullifies contracts and through a mutual agreement...cotnracts can be altered...i.e. forever bound...footnote...as friends family...etc...
6. Everyone has something they are holding back for the one being who will enter their life and honor a contract with them. Know what actions or activity leads to lifelong commitment...for example...children...marriage...ceremony...and take those things seriously. If you didn't understand this before...its okay...see #4 Write a letter, make a phone call, or see each other in person and then begin again at #5.
***The key here is a focus on maintaining or now beginning to have, RIGHT RELATIONS. Right relations are based on heartfelt communication. In the end...let the love remain and feed the grid of all human consciousness. There is a better way to end and begin...let us honor the hearts of all our brothers and sisters and give them the gift of new beginnings...to heal the hurts of many lifetimes in this moment when we are present and open to letting go of the past.
7. Surrender. We hold power over each other until we don't hold it anymore.
Women hold the power of guilt and self-depreciation over a man. Surrender power and control over good men by forgiving them for reflecting your shadow and take responsiblity for your own projections. WE ALL GET EXACTLY WHAT WE EXPECT. EXPECT THE BEST AND HOLD SPACE FOR GOOD INTENTIONS BY ASKING CLARIFYING QUESTIONS...COMPASSIONATE INQUIRY. Ask hard questions and accept the answers. Clarify vague statements.
Men hold the power of lack of expression and timidity over a woman. Surrender power and control over open women by truthfully expressing your ability to honor agreements and hold your words sacred by being honest. YOU GET EXACTLY WHAT YOU ASK FOR SO SAY WHAT YOU WANT, BE SPECIFIC, ALIGN YOUR WORDS, THOUGHTS AND ACTIONS and don't be surprised when they believe you. Honor them by deserving it. Speak clearly and inquire as to your real feelings on matters.
8. Human beings are sense oriented beings. We speak different languages but we absorb information in non-verbal ways. Touch, look, listen, feel, taste, smell...be present with your partner and then be present with yourself by meditating and doing what you love...taking in your self by spending whatever time you need to hear your own self responding...and spend time with each other enough to understand the essence of a being that can not be altered no matter the actions or words.
***Love is the seed...patience and unfolding is the flower. Be conscious in love...be conscious in life...compassionately transform all the shadows into joyful light.
Many blessings on our joint journey to wholeness my brothers and sisters...thank you for adding your prayers to the ceremony and your lessons learned to these words. In so learning...may we all continue to grow and fulfill the blueprint to our soul's happiness and the healing of every sentient being, our Mother Earth...our Father Universe...
Healer, Spiritual Advisor, Yogini, Mentor