Love is the most humbling force I have ever experienced in my life.
Having donned many costumes, earned a degree, been a professional, and traveled...I can honestly say that the most important thing I have ever done is love somebody.
I am not a parent yet, but I have had hundreds of kids pass through my life who didn't care if I was cool, who didn't call me Momma because of my clothes but because of the way I held them when they cried.
I was just a kid when I started teaching but I, like most of the teens, I spent time with, was an old soul. I saw their sufferings and battles through high school and remembered my own daily with compassion and all my heart.
I grew up in an upper middle class family in Pleasanton, CA. My freshman year of high school, my maternal grandmother was diagnosed with breast cancer, she was 63. It changed the course of my whole life, not just because at 14 it was to be the first time I came face to face with death, but for the choices my parents made when the news was heard.
At the time my father was a Chevron executive working in the University as a trainer. When the news dropped down, everything became inconsequential. My father gave notice at work, the company refused to accept it and instead put him in a factory job in El Paso where he laughed at himself for his blue uniform embroidered with his name. A blast from the past, my father began his career at Chevron washing oil barrels at 18. Suddenly a lifetime later, not even for his own mother, he was there again and the whole family relocated.
For the first two months it was only my mother and I. Having been spoiled beyond imagining, I rebelled at this very tender moment. I love my mother for never losing focus. Having the choice between diverting her attention from her mother who lay dying and her daughter who in an effort to get attention dove head first into cocaine, my mother sat by her mother's bedside and let me cry my own way out.
It is a moment in my life that I know I can not regret, because for every time I came home from school scowling and stomping around while my grandfather gingerly helped my grandmother inch her way from the car to the house, I now have learned that it isn't all about me. But if I could change that time, I would wish for more time feeding her. I would wish for the wisdom to stop everything I was doing and just sit in the energy of her love as her eyes watched me cross the room. The way I did when I flew across the ocean from my blissed out post tipi hillside in Maui to sit with this grandfather, who, when he saw me, gingerly placed his hand upon my face, a twinkle in his eye and a smile in his voice..."My, Zonia."
I think perhaps on the road to love and service, there are times when a person starts to feel that they aren't feeding their own soul, that somehow they should be cooler or having more fun...at least that is what I was feeling when I got here almost two months ago. I just wanted to be alone. A sure sign...that I probably needed it.
I put myself on time out to feel everything I was feeling and in the course remember everything there was to remember so I could re-value the journey it took for me to get to where I am.
The journeys I have taken in my life have helped me to arrive at best one of all...that it is worth giving everything for love, even if I am uncomfortable, tired, overwhelmed..its the only thing that really matters.
I wish I could say I remembered all of this before my grandmother passed away, but I didn't. I fed her once...she cried. I didn't understand then what deep emotion went into the reversal of roles, but I do now.
My destructive behavior continued through high school, crossing the border into Juarez, alcohol poisoning, and concussions were a mainstay that crescendoed with a night out partying...two hits of acid and a lot of cocaine. I died that night and I had a vision.
I can still remember the feeling of being on a gurney rolled down a hospital corridor clink clinking along the cracks on the floor. I could hear my friends drift into the distance and the sobbing of my parents from an imagined waiting room. When the sound of doors opening hit me I was engulfed in white light that overtook me not with love but with Universal sorrow of the deepest kind. It was an understanding that what I do affects everything and everyone around me. That I had a choice to be a force for healing and accept divine guidance, or continue to add to the pain of the world and live in self-imposed separation and isolation.
I awoke to hands beating me on my chest and a knowing that my life was a gift. I was never the same.
My father picked up and moved us to Arizona. I met a holistic healer began working at his clinic where he practiced naturopathic medicine, acupuncture, chiropractic, nutrition and, most importantly, yoga.
I became a vegan and changed my body chemistry back to its natural state. I immersed myself in the faith of my youth and became a missionary. Graduated high school became a teacher at 20 and held those kids through drug abuse, alcoholism, cutting, gang bangs, divorces, beatings, heartbreak, suicides, arrests, pregnancies and low self-esteem. I held them and I held myself. I let go of all my ego because truly I had been one of them and the only thing that saved me was the love of my parents, both my physical ones and my spiritual ones. I thank them for their vision of me happy and whole and the love they were willing to give me to get me there.
I am grateful that I get the time to remember. Mostly, though, at the end of the journey that takes days, weeks, sometimes months to recap...what I remember is not just the bliss but also the fierce love that doesn't give up. It doesn't give up on me...it doesn't give up on anyone. It just begs us to return to it, to live it, to share it, to be the hands, eyes, words that will give comfort to ones praying for it to come. Not because they are less enlightened or evolved but...damn...shit happens...and some of it hurts so much it will be the force that helps us to grow for the rest of our lives.
We will hit the wall, feel it again, be humbled, face our choice to be happy anyways and use it like a slingshot to grow just that little bit more....and when we hit the wall...may there forever be people in our lives that believe in us...that know us to be strong, good, true....who will free us from the net of our own past and help us to step forward...changing the net to wings....and take flight again into the soul bursting freedom that...love is.
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.