Thursday, July 23, 2009

Saying Goodbye To Dad.

This picture is of dad and I when I was about 4 years old. He was always there when I truly needed him the most.

I know, I haven't posted anything in 2 weeks. If you are following me on twitter, you know why it's taken me this long to post anything new... my father passed away almost two weeks ago, on July 11th. In an ironic twist, dad went downhill (and FAST!) the evening I wrote my last blog post. The words I wrote, "At this point, I just want him to stop suffering" are going to haunt me for a while. It all happened so fast, I don't think I really got a chance to process everything.

That evening, Thursday, July 9, we got a call from the convalescent hospital that his blood pressure had drop to 50 while he was doing his dialysis. It had gone up to 70-something by the end of the night, but it was still very worrisome. I fought with the nurses (with the help of my brother) to have him transported to the E.R. and do whatever they could for him. They were refusing to take him anywhere but we signed a paper saying that they HAD TO take him to the E.R. if he got critically sick so in the end they took him. They also had to find elsewhere to send him because his own doctor refused to see him and said that they should just let him die there. (I had a few choice words to say to the doctor, which I did not say but I thought... and have to go to confessions for.) Later that night, we were told his blood pressure had gone up to the 80s-90s, which made us worry less. We thought he'd be okay.

The next day, Friday, July 10th, I got a call around 10 a.m. that we had to go to the hospital immediately, that my father would not make it through the night. He was in the ICU. We had to go sign paperwork and get everything done quickly. Dad was still conscious and he was able to get a couple of things signed to make sure all loose ends were tied. We didn't tell him that he was dying; we just told him that it would be better to have things in order in case we needed to fix 'em while he was at the hospital. At that point, I still thought he was going to pull through. He was looking good and he was still up for joking around with me... though I did have to leave twice so he wouldn't see me cry. We were told to go home at 8 p.m. and I told them to contact us if anything happened.

The next morning, Saturday, July 11th, we were happy that they hadn't called us. We thought, "hey, maybe they are wrong again... like they were last month." At 8:34 a.m. I got on my cell phone... we had to go in THAT MINUTE because dad was in his final moments. Luckily we only live 10 minutes from the hospital AND my cousin had stayed overnight with us so we were able to get there right away. We got there and we could see that dad was in his final moments. It was the most heartbreaking thing I've ever gone through in the 24 years I've been alive. He couldn't breathe (his breaths were VERY labored and forced). He could understand what we were saying but he couldn't speak... or even move. Mom lost it and dad began to get agitated by the sounds of her crying. I had to ask my mom to let me stay at his side because I am able to hold in my tears a bit more. I would go to the side he was facing (his eyes half opened) and I would say "Just relax daddy, it's okay. I am not going anywhere. They're going to have to drag me away, kicking and screaming, if they want me to move." That seemed to calm him down and he began to concentrate on his breathing. Mom would again come to his side and again would start to sob, upsetting dad. I would ask her to go to his other side until she calmed down a bit and she eventually did. I stayed in dad's room the entire hour and a half we were there. My niece, Adriana, was the only other person in the room when dad was giving his final breaths. As soon as I began to see that the charts were reading "zero" I had her rush to get my mom. who'd stepped out.

I was at dad's side when he passed away. At that point, I couldn't hold in the tears anymore and I sobbed as I said my final goodbyes. I asked him to forgive me if I ever did anything that upset him, and told him that I knew he would forgive me if he could say it. I told him not to worry about mom and I, that we were going to be there for each other. I promised I would finish school (at least a B.A.) and do all he wanted me to achieve. I promised to become a woman he would be proud of. I read him Psalm 23, his favorite. I asked St. Joseph to please help dad go as peacefully as he could. I asked St. Michael Archangel (dad's patron saint) to protect him in his final moments. Mom came in literally 5 seconds before dad passed away. He gave his final breath and then went to sleep. My prayers had been answered; he went, as peacefully as possible, at 10:15 a.m... on St. Benedict of Nursia's feast day (he's a patron saint of those who are dying). Both of my Rosaries also broke at that time... which means I have no Rosary at the moment; I have to use the virtual one on my iPod touch.

I won't lie and say that I didn't fall apart at that moment; I did. I nearly fainted. I had to be rushed to the seat and given water. The entire right side of my body went numb. I was dizzy and lightheaded and barely managed to ask for rubbing alcohol or smelling salts in case I did faint. I sobbed when I was able to control my panic/anxiety attack. We stayed at the hospital until 5 p.m. when they transferred him to the morgue. My brothers and sister, along with cousins and my uncle (the eldest of the family), arrived shortly before dad was taken. Hearing my brothers break down and cry was the third hardest thing I've ever experienced (first being dad's death, second being my mom falling apart in front of my eyes). I was the last person in the family to see dad before yesterday's funeral. (Side note: before I go on, let me mention that as soon as we got home from the hospital and I sat down, I smelled one of Beckham's colognes -- the last gift I ever gave dad -- coming down on me. I knew that it was my dad's way of letting me know he was still with me since I associated that scent with dad... and because Beckham was one of dad's favorite soccer players. Mom couldn't smell the cologne... and I later couldn't smell the roses she said she smelled after reading the Bible.)

The next week was heck on earth for me. I ended up getting VERY sick (pharyngitis) and was stuck in bed for most of the week. My temperature went up to 104 on Wednesday (the 15th) and it was a miracle I didn't feel as horrible as I was. The fever was around 101-103 for the next couple of days. It was another miracle that I didn't get a panic attack, because I usually do when I get that sick. I wasn't the only one. Mom ended up getting bronchitis and nearly got pneumonia. She, along with my niece Adriana, and I were the first to get sick... and the only family members in the room when dad died. From there, one of my brothers (the one who sobbed the most) ended up getting very sick. Those who took dad's death the hardest were the ones who got very sick and were in bed for nearly a week. We're all okay now, except for the grandson of one of my cousins, who's still at the L.A. Children's Hospital with pneumonia. (btw, please pray for him. He's 6 years old but he was born blind and mute, and a bunch of other complications.) All the rest of us have are stubborn coughs that won't go away.

Yesterday was dad's funeral - the final goodbye. I was worried that I wouldn't have anyone there for me since it was during the week and everyone had plans. Luckily one of my best friends was able to change her work schedule and she came with her family. Seeing dad's coffin getting loaded out of the hearse made me cry. To think that it was the last time I would see him, physically, was painful. We had a Rosary said for him before his Mass. During the Mass, my brothers, sister, and I helped. My nephew and I (the youngest family members there) stood at either side of the casket as we Mass ended. Then we took him to his final resting place -- the San Fernando Mission Cemetery, right behind the San Fernando Mission. Thank God, and Fr. Leo, that we were able to bury him there and that the L.A. Archdiocese was able to help us with the costs. I thought it was fitting for someone who'd expressed how much he loved his faith up to his final days.

I thank God for helping me get the strength I needed to get through it all. I am grateful that my friend Eileen was there with me, with her arm around me, as dad was lowered and was buried. That was hard for me to watch and I'm just glad I didn't faint. I am also grateful to everyone who was there for us, physically and through prayer. I'm truly amazed at how much more strength I found within myself. I just hope it resurfaces when I need it.

Although I know that it isn't a final goodbye to dad, it still makes me very emotional. Y'all would be surprised with how sensitive I actually am. I feel things quite deeply. My comfort is knowing that dad is no longer suffering - which he did the last 7 years of his life due to the cancer. I know that there will be moments when I will miss him the most. I know that I'm going to be an emotional wreck if/when I get married because I won't have him to walk me down the aisle... my future husband (whoever he is) won't have the chance to ask him for his permission to marry me and my future children won't get to experience what a warm, loving, generous man their grandfather was. But I know that dad will be there with me, in spirit, through every milestone I will reach for the rest of my life. I also know that one dad we'll be reunited in heaven... especially if it's anything like that dream I had over a year ago. And, if anything, this will only bring me closer to my faith (if that's even possible.)

I get asked often if I curse God for taking my father away from me. The answer is a big NO! In fact, I still attended Mass the day after dad died and the only Mass I missed was last Sunday's when I was still quite sick. As I said in the previous entry, I am grateful for everything God has given me... including a father that, for 24 years, loved me more than words can describe. I am grateful that I was given a father that was there for me through everything. Yes, we had our disagreements and we did not have an easy relationship, but I wouldn't have traded any of those experiences for anything or anyone in the world. And, my father gave me the greatest gift I've ever received... coming back to the Church after 40+ years of being away only a day before my 24th birthday. Thank you, Lord, for giving me a man whom I loved and respected to the very end... a man who taught me so much, including to always put others before myself and to be as generous as I can be. As I promised dad, I also promise God, I will grow up (I still feel like I'm growing up) to be a woman that both my heavenly Father and my earthly father would be proud of. And with that, I am ending my blog.

I hope that I was able to express myself as well as I could. I had a ton of gushing to do on dad, but I will leave that for something else I'm working on. :) I hope to continue blogging regularly for the rest of the summer, especially now that I've got a lot of time on my hands. I do plan on going abroad soon... and I'm taking mom with me for her first trip to Europe. I'll keep y'all updated on that. :)

Thank you all for your prayers... for dad, for the family, etc. Y'all are amazing people. :) As always, thanks for reading and God Bless!

Thursday, July 9, 2009

... Now What Do I Do?

Just as I was happy that dad was looking a bit better, and that he'd started eating again, we get the news that they only give him another week to live. I have to admit, though it still pains me to hear it... it wasn't a huge shock when the doctor told us. Yes, he IS looking better and he's in amazing spirits, but other things -- such as his not eating -- is what is making him go down, and fast. If I don't go to feed him every day around noon, he won't eat. He didn't want to eat today, because the food made him nauseous but I got him to eat a little bit. It was only fruit, but it was something. I wrote a couple of days ago about how he was almost as thin as I am... now he's even thinner than I am. I can't help but tear up every time I see him because he looks so small.

It's so bizarre and, to be quite honest, depressing to see my father so fragile. This is a man who had always shown a physical and emotional strength unlike anything I've ever seen. The only times I'd ever seen him down were when both of my grandparents (his parents) died and when he was doing chemotherapy in 2002 and 2008. Even then, he still had a strength in him; a fire his eyes. Today, I can't even see that anymore. He's still fighting but that spark keeps dimming as each day passes. It's painful to watch him waste away like that. At this point, I just want him to stop suffering. I've spent the entire day today in tears because it hurts me to see him suffer.

It's funny... I never had the easiest relationship with him. For those who personally know me, and have known me for a long time, know what I'm talking about. Communication wasn't great and was something I worked very hard to repair. My father always hid his emotions very well. He was stubborn and had a temper. I spent many hours and hours upset with him over how he treated us. I never went through a rebellious stage, and I am often told it surprises people that I didn't considering everything I went through. I'll be honest and say I hid some things in order to maintain the peace with him, but nothing bad, I promise. Despite all of that, I love him very much and I actually miss everything I went through because I at least had him healthy and here, at home, with me. I miss him being mad at me over the smallest things. I miss him lecturing me on things he felt I did wrong. I miss his little rants. He's the complete opposite now. He's emotional and is very vocal about his feelings. He's asked forgiveness for everything he's done. He tells me every day, multiple times a day, that he loves me and appreciates everything I've done for him. I tell him that he doesn't need to thank me; I've done it because I wanted to and not because I felt obligated to. He calls me "mi bebita" (my baby girl) in Spanish whenever he addresses me. It's becoming increasingly hard to not turn into sobbing mess in front of him.

I feel like I no longer know what to do for him. Going to see him every day, to make sure he eats and that he's being treated well, it doesn't seem like much anymore. I often stop and think "Now what do I do?" I do all I can but it never seems enough... at least not to me. I wish I could nurse him myself (though I would never make it as a nurse or doctor with my dislike of needles and blood.) Praying helps... but I still feel useless at times. I'm running out of ideas of what to do. I got him back to the Church and he's now in good standing, receiving the Eucharist when they send a Eucharistic minister from my parish to the convalescent hospital. In fact, the last time he received the Eucharist was this past Tuesday. I've had Masses offered up for him. I've done novenas, Rosaries, prayers, etc. I don't know what else I can do. I feel somewhat helpless. I love him so much and don't want to see him in the state he's in, but I don't quite seem to know how to let it out or what to do.

Despite being in this situation, and having this constant heavy feeling over me, I have a lot of love in my heart. Honestly, I feel like it even overflows. I'm not angry at anyone for what is happening. I do feel sad, but the love overpowers it. That's one thing that I'm grateful for, besides being able to stay as optimistic as I have thus far. I love my father, and mother, for everything I've been given -- especially life. I know they've made many sacrifices for me. I love my brothers and sister, and the rest of my family, for protecting me in any way they could. I love my friends for being there for me through thick and thin. I love God for giving me the people that have been in my life. I especially love Him for allowing me to have my father for as long as I have. I love Our Blessed Mother for always making me feel like she's there for me, even if she's not physically there and I can't hear or see her. It makes me sad that sometimes I feel like no one wants me to express that love. Most of the family just wants to dwell on the negative. Signs of affection are rare, which is difficult for someone (like me) who is big on hugs. It seems like everyone is so afraid to even give me a hug, or to even ask how I'm doing, because it'll make me fall apart, but it won't. It'll only make me feel better.

I'm honestly stuck. I know I'm sounding like a broken record, but I just no longer know what to do with myself. If anyone has any suggestions, please send them my way before I go completely nutty. I think that's enough unloading for now. I'm sorry if I've bummed some of you out -- I just needed to get it out of my system. This is something I can't keep bottled up anymore; it's just not healthy to. I'm going to go try to figure out something to do with the rest of my day.

In case I don't get a chance to write before Sunday: for those of you who told me you were interested in coming to Sunday's 9 a.m. Mass, which is being offered up for dad's health, please contact me soon so I can give you the directions. Also, for those who have asked if they could stop by to say a quick hello to dad after Mass, please let me know so I can figure out how many people we can get in. :)

As always, thank you for reading and for your continued prayers! God Bless!

Monday, July 6, 2009

St. Maria Goretti Giveaway

Yes, it's another giveaway! Those who won the Bl. Pier Giorgio Frassati contest have been notified... and now it's time for one that I've wanted to do since last year.

I've felt a connection to St. Maria Goretti since I first heard about her story. She's truly an inspiration and a great role model for young girls (and boys) growing up in our society. I've known of girls as young as 12 who have had children, and not as a result of rape. I sometimes help my sister and brothers by listening to music and watching shows that are aimed for kids. When you have 15 nieces and nephews (yes, I'm serious -- 15 of them), you try to do all you can to make sure they don't get the wrong messages. You'd be surprised at how many have sexual innuendos and/or things that are completely inappropriate for them. It makes me sad that there aren't enough good role models out there for them. I hope that more and more young people (those underage) learn about St. Maria Goretti and get encourage to live their lives the way she did. As Pope Benedict XVI said: "How timely this message (of purity) is. Today, pleasure, selfishness and directly immoral actions are often exalted in the name of the false ideals of liberty and happiness. It is essential to reaffirm clearly that purity of heart and of body go together, because chastity ‘is the custodian’ of authentic love."

I decided last year to give away two DVDs of her life story the next time her feast day came around -- which is today! All you have to do is answer the following questions and DM me the answers on twitter or send me a quick email. Winners will be chosen, randomly, out of the entries with the correct answers. Contest ends: Tuesday, July 7 at 11:59 p.m. PST.

The Questions:
1) What were the dates of her beatification and canonization?
2) What is she the patron(ess) saint of?
3) What did she say about her attacker briefly before she passed away? She .... and wanted him ....
4) Name at least 3 other saints or blesseds that died under the age of 14. Hint: I mention one quite often on this blog.

Good luck to everyone! :D

That's all for today. Sorry it's so short but I still have errands to run. :) As always, thanks for reading and God Bless. :D

Sunday, July 5, 2009

More Mantillas, Please!; Good Dad Update

If I see more young women wearing mantillas at my parish, I will be one happy camper! :D I've seen a couple more women wear them today... and be a couple I mean about 3 more. But, hey, it's a step up from being the only one in the English Mass that wore one. lol. Yes, I'm still the only one under 50 to wear one, but perhaps for not much longer. :D How do I know? Well, it started out like this: I went to see if they had other mantillas for sale at the little office next to the parish because I want to have one to wear on a daily basis (as in whenever I go to church). I still adore the one dad brought me from Mexico a few months ago, but don't want to wear it too much out of fear that it'll get ruined somehow. I decided to get at least two more. All they had were black mantillas so I waited for a bit to ask if they would get more, in white, any time soon. This is all while I was still wearing mine (which I wore for two straight Masses :D). A women in her late 30s came in with her little boy while I was talking to the woman. She saw my mantilla, as well as the black one I was being shown, and remarked how beautiful she thought they were and how it was a shame that the tradition had died. "How I wish it would come back," she said. I told her I agreed. The sales woman said she made them by hand, and she would custom make mine however I liked -- triangular, rectangular (like mine is), etc -- and that she would only charge me $5 for each. I told her I wanted two in a triangular shape, like this one but a little longer in the back, and that I wanted them in white. She took the length and all, too. The woman in her 30s then said that she'd also like half a dozen; she'd gotten inspired to start wearing them herself. Yes! :D One down... a lot more to go. lol. :D I will write more about mantillas (yes, I prefer calling them that over chapel veils) and the significance of them in a future blog... hopefully around the time I get my new ones in two weeks. :D

Before I end this blog I wanted to keep y'all updated on dad's progress. He's been "walking" around in his wheelchair for the past two days, which is a HUGE step up from a week ago. His blood pressure is also normal, which is a massive sigh of relief for us. He's been able to eat, little by little, and increases the amount every day. Good thing, too, because dad's lost A LOT of weight and was almost as thin as I am (and I weigh about 123 lbs. and am a couple of inches shorter). He's drinking a lot of water, too, which is fantastic. He was getting dehydrated. He says he feels better every day, and you can really tell that he's being honest. He didn't have his oxygen cannula on today, which is also a first since we admitted him to the hospital a couple of weeks ago. That has to be good, right? :D The only thing is that he's getting very demanding. Two forehead or cheek kisses, one to say "hello" and one to say "see you tomorrow", are simply not enough for him anymore. lol. Geez, daddy-o. :D Overall dad's looking good. I haven't talked to the doctor in a couple of days but I'm going to call him tomorrow and get his updated prognosis. I'm still staying optimistic and still praying for Bl. Pier Giorgio Frassati's intercession. :D

Oh, and before I forget... thank you to those who came to the Spanish Mass which was offered up for dad's health. :D There's going to be another one, this time in English so some of you can actually participate (lol), next Sunday at 9 a.m. It's still at the same parish where I've grown up. :D

Okay, that's about it for today. I am going to try to write more often, especially with a lot of great news coming out of the Vatican lately. And, yes, I include the whole "investigating the American nuns" thing in that category. :)

I hope everyone had a great weekend. :D As always, thanks for reading and God Bless.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Happy 4th!; Morning Mass; Prayers; Last Day of Giveaway

I want to wish all my fellow Americans a Happy Independence Day (a.k.a. "Oh, you mean the 4th of July!", lol). Let us all thank and pray for all the brave men and women, past and present, who've risked (and continue to risk) their lives in order to protect this country and to help maintain our freedom. :) Fr. Stan said some lovely words about the significance of today in the 7 a.m. Mass. It was one of those things where you wish you had some sort of recording device to share with everyone. All those in attendance said a prayer for those in the armed forces. :)

Have I ever mentioned how much I LOVE morning Masses? It's the one thing about school that I will miss... along with the deposits they refuse to return to me. In all seriousness, I love starting my mornings with prayers... especially if I get a chance to do it at a parish. I haven't been to a morning Mass (that wasn't on a Sunday, of course) since I was about 19 years old, usually because of classes or other things I have to do in the morning. Going to today's Mass made me realize how much I miss going during the week. I am going to try to attend Mass as often as I can... and hopefully I'll be able to a couple of times during the week, if not every day. :) Oh, and because I'm often asked, YES, I DID wear my mantilla (chapel veil). I wasn't the only one either. There was another woman who wore one as well. :D I was, however, the only person under (maybe) 50 years-old at the Mass. lol. :)

After Mass, I spent nearly an hour just praying for my family, friends, and anyone who asked and/or needed it. My knees don't hurt as much as I thought they would from all the time I was kneeling. :D I prayed the Rosary, the Chaplet of Divine Mercy, a couple of prayers to different saints for different intercessions (see, twitter people? I came through for those who asked. heehee. :D) Before I began to pray, I got the idea of keeping a book with a list of all the prayer requests I get (you'd be surprised how many emails I've gotten from people who have found me through this blog and/or twitter) so that every time I'm at church I can pray for y'all in front of the Tabernacle. Any time any of you want/need prayers, please do not hesitate to ask me. I'd be more than happy to pray for y'all. :D If it's to a particular saint, I'll ask for their intercession. If it's a novena, Rosary, or chaplet, I'll do it. It makes me very happy to be able to pray for others. :D

Alright, I'm going to go enjoy the Love Comes Softly series movie marathon that's on the Hallmark Channel all day today. I'm a sucker for these movies. lol. It's not all romance for all you chick flick haters... you know who you are. There is love, but most of it has to do with the love between families and their faith. Really great message. :)

Don't forget that today is the last day of the Bl. Pier Giorgio Frassati giveaway. You guys have until 11:59 p.m. PST to enter. Oh, and someone please remind me to tell Fr. Stan how to pronounce his name; he had a bit of a problem with it today. :D I'm going to miss Fr. Stan when he gets transferred to another parish in a couple of days. :(

Oh! And, for those who ask me on a daily basis how dad's doing: I talked to my mom about an hour ago. He ate all his oatmeal and drank all of his coffee... and was able to hold it down. Yeah!!! He's doing so much better than yesterday too. If there was ever a day for him to be alright, it's today. :D

Okay, that's enough stalling. I hope everyone has a great, blessed day... and that some of you don't overdue it with the food at picnics today. lol. As always, thanks for reading and God Bless. :D

Friday, July 3, 2009

Bl. Pier Giorgio Frassati Giveaway

I like to occasionally give away things in honor a saint or blessed's feast day, especially if I have a special devotion or gratitude to that particular saint. I'm pretty sure y'all know how much I admire Bl. Pier Giorgio Frassati by now so it should come as no surprise that I will be giving away a couple of books written by his sister, Luciana Frassati. The giveaway include the books My Brother Pier Giorgio: His Last Days and A Man of the Beatitudes: Pier Giorgio Frassati (which I hope to write a review for some time this weekend) as well as some prayer cards.

Just like the St. Dymphna giveaway, all you have to do is DM (on twitter) or email me the answers. The winners will be randomly selected and notified on Sunday morning. The contest starts as soon as this post goes up and ends at the end of Bl. Pier Giorgio's feast day (Saturday night at 11:59 p.m. PST). Sound good? Great. :) (Oh, and for the record, I am willing to send it anywhere as long as you tell me where to send it. Yes, even if you're in Australia or somewhere in Europe.)

1) Who beatified Bl. Pier Giorgio?
2) What was the date of his beatification?
3) He is often called "a man of the Beatitudes." What are the 8 Beatitudes?
4) Which order did he join, at the age of 21?
5) True or false: His body was found incorrupt in 1981, 56 years after his death.

Good luck to all!

That's all for now. I need to get ready to visit dad. He's finally at the convalescent hospital where my mom works. He was doing very well yesterday, acting very silly/funny from the anesthetic they gave him prior to the dialysis, but he's been in a lot of pain today. Hopefully they'll get something stronger for him since the medicine they gave him earlier didn't do the job. I hope he feels better soon. Did I mention he's been able to eat solid foods and drink liquids again? That's always a good sign! :)

Again, good luck to all! Thanks for your continued prayers for my dad, especially those who've begun novenas and prayers to Bl. Pier Giorgio for his intercession. :D God Bless!

P.S. Look out for a St. Maria Goretti giveaway that I've been wanting to do since last year. :)