She told me she had been waiting for years. And she was right. It had been 24 years since I had seen her, since I had left her home.
She said I waited for you. I wanted to talk to you. To say, I am sorry and that I love you.
I cried. I knew in my heart I should have come sooner. I felt God’s prompting 4 years ago but I thought … tomorrow. I will go tomorrow. Not because I did not want to see her, but because I took time for granted.
She held my hand between her two thin hands. She was emancipated, skeletal in fact. I was amazed at her strength, her resilience. She weighed barely 70 pounds. Sheer determination kept her alive.
She told me she loved me, always had. I knew. She took care of me when it must not have been easy to see my mother’s face. She took care of me when no one had taken care of her. She led a hard life, a very hard life. Life had not treated her well. Worse, no one had extended a helping hand. No one gave her hope, or comfort, when she most needed it. Even as a child, I understood that and could not blame her for what had transpired.
I told her I loved her and had forgiven her years ago. It was not the first time I had said it. We had spoken over the phone. However, I believe she needed to see my eyes, to look into my soul, to believe my words. I know it gave her comfort. Her grip on my hands told me so.
She tried to speak but labored. She had lung cancer. The tubes made it hard. They irritated her but were necessary to provide some degree of comfort. She no longer received oxygen. Those tubes cleared her lungs.
She spoke to me about my siblings. Made me promise to visit often. I pray I can keep that promise. I know it is most difficult for the youngest. The last time we spoke he was 2. Still, she persisted. She talked about him. I could see it was important and so I sat. I listened. I stored it in my heart.
She was a single Mom who loved her children, as best she could, with all she could. She had escaped an abusive relationship. Her husband, my father, was not the best man. He represented the machismo that harms women. He was nothing like my Daddy, my stepfather, who raised me.
Without going into detail, I understand what transpired between them, between us, made me who I am. Resilient. Like a reed. I bend but haven’t broken and know I have God to thank for that.
I also understand my parents, all 4 of them. None of them were perfect. They did the best with what they had. Just as I do the best with what I have. I am not perfect either. However, I know the cycle ends with me. My sons will have better. God has promised me that.
Speaking to my stepmother provided closure. It healed my soul, just as I am sure it healed hers. Yet, deep down I know, it was not her mistake. It started before her. Those parties may never apologize. But I’m learning that my destiny is not tied to my past or theirs. All I can do is learn from it…and do things differently.
And I will.
This past week was hard. Today was even harder, but tomorrow will be brighter. Debbie, my sweet stepmother, gave me a new beginning. She showed me that even in the rain there is hope, that people change and grow. She showed me that we can make a difference no matter how much time has passed. I thank the Lord for that, for His prompting to fly to Georgia this past week. I also thank Him for allowing her to be lucid when I arrived. It was the last time she was.
I know I will see her again one day. She accepted Christ into her life and I stand on the promise that we will meet again.
Because we will.
Till then, I will hold tight to what she gave me.
“For we believe that Jesus died and rose again, and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him.”
1 Thessalonians 4:14
“And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying.There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away.”
Debbie Rivera: September 19, 1956- May 3, 2012