I try not to get too emotional about things. I try. But I'm not successful. I typically can keep myself together, but when I get a glimpse of God's love, it overwhelms me. And I break down.
Today we get to celebrate my mother's birthday. My best friend! My queen! I am the woman that I am today, because of the example set before me through her. Everyone that has met mother can attest to her gentle, kind, yet sharp way of rebuking you. She does it with so much love, that you'll walk away feeling all fuzzy on the inside, only to realize she done cut you all up with the truth. But her goal is always to challenge whoever she encounters to do and be better. To be wiser. To be stronger. To laugh harder. To trust God no matter what it looks like. To love intentionally. And if you're a woman, to enjoy being a woman.
She taught me to always take care of myself. She was the perfect balance of independence, but strong enough to submit to partnership. Now, she takes submission to a whole 'notha level! Bless her heart and all her parts! But I love the way that she serves and loves so willingly and selflessly. She genuinely finds joy in it. I try to talk to her about standing up for herself and "No" being a full sentence. Instead, she reflects the beauty of her "yes" with so much grace and poise. And somehow, she manages to still remain calm, cool and collected. She's like NEVER stressed. How does she do it?! She baffles me. I tell people all the time, a literal tornado can be swerving around her and she'll calming look at everyone and say, "it's ok. It'll eventually settle. Trust God. It will all work out" while smiling and trusting God. Incredible.
But the most incredible thing my mother ever went through brings me to tears ever moment Z and I get to spend with her. You see, my mother was told 4 years ago that there was nothing that could be done for her and she should go home and enjoy the last few days of her life with her family. Just 4 years ago, while I was pregnant with my baby girl, my mother's mom (Mama Antigua) transitioned and was healed from brain cancer on the other side of heaven. And shortly after, we were told that my mother wouldn't make it either. Just 4 years ago, I faced the possibility that today, I would be remembering her, not celebrating with her.
I will never forget how the doctor, seemingly without much consideration, sent my mom off to die. What else could be said? What else could be done? She was too sick to get a liver transplant but also too sick to treat what they called stage 4 cancer from severe cirrhosis of her liver. Not my mom. Not my mom Lord! Please not my mom!
And the truth is, I wouldn't wish it on anyone else in place of my mother. My heart always goes out to anyone who has lost a parent or is going through the eminent loss. Theoretically and biblically, I know it's appointed for man to die once. But mentally and emotionally I just wasn't ready. I didn't want for mom to miss seeing her first grandchild grow up and for Zinai to grow up making memories with her. So I wept. I wept inconsolably. I begged God not to take my mom. To heal her the way that He healed me just years before from cancer. I wanted the miracle for my mother. If He could do it for me, surely He could do it for her, again!
But things were not looking good at all. My mother was about 3 times her regular size from the swelling because her liver was operating at less than 4% and could not process out toxins. She her natural skin color, lost her hair, eyes were yellow, could not eat, sleep, walk or do much on her own. This was the woman that I saw God practically move mountains through prayer for us growing up. This was my super-shero. My mom showed up, even when we didn't want her to, because we wanted to be "grown." I always said that God would just lead her to where we would be (this was before cell phones and beepers ya'l!) There was no tracking devices! Mmmmk!
I remember my dad asking God to allow her to stay and to take him instead. He mobilized churches to intercede for my mom and we bombarded heaven. But things got worse before they got better. I go into labor immediately after Thanksgiving dinner and 2 days later was giving birth to Zinai. My mother, practically immobile, made her way to my bedside. Thereafter, we spent Christmas and New Year in the hospital. With Zinai being newly born, I breastfed and pumped to ensure that Zinai was ok while Shaun stayed with her, and I would run to the hospital and stay the night to ensure mom was ok and the nurses were tending to her properly. I couldn’t' imagine letting my mom walk through this and me not be there. Thank God for my brothers, dad, aunt, cousins and an entire village and church family that helped alleviate with prayers, food, and scheduling visits. Mom was never, ever alone. We kept praying and believing for a miracle. But God didn't heal my mom the way I thought He would. He didn't miraculously heal her the way He did me, He chose to do things HIS way.
My mother was sent home to die. My father and us refused to accept that as the final answer. My mother had an episode whereby she needed another (of many) blood transfusion and there wasn't enough time to get her to our preferred hospital in New York or Hackensack. So we went with the nearest hospital in Newark, NJ. We were all terrified and opposed because it was a doctor there that sent her home to die. But it's funny how the very things we reject because of a bad experience can be the very things God uses to change our lives forever for the good.
She was rushed to the hospital. There, they took a chance to place my mother on the transplant list despite the odds against her. Within the week of being on the list, she was called! There was a match! We all rejoiced and rushed to the hospital to be with her. Once we arrived, we were informed that someone else in greater need of the organ was ahead of her and the organ was granted to them. You can imagine our devastation. We were livid. I was already on the phone getting ready to tear up someone, anyone, for my mother! Before I could take off, she had us all gather to pray for the family that just lost a family member in order for that organ to become available and for the patient and family who was blessed to receive the organ. She had us pray to ensure that the organ she desperately needed to live, would not fail the patient it was given to. Wait. What? Just writing this has me in tears. My mother taught me at that moment, no matter how grave our personal circumstances, believing and asking God for someone else beats begging God for our own.
We went back home; back to prayer. Believing God for a miracle. Less than 72 hours (3 days later), my mother was called in for another match! This is the crazy part - typically people last years on a donor's list before they could ever get a match. My mother was called twice for a match within the span of one week of being on the list! That was unheard of. So while the miracle didn't happen the way I imagined God would do it, He worked miraculous through the very system that sent her home to die.
We gathered up the prayer warriors and mom went in for surgery. I was pacing the floor. Asking a million questions. I couldn't sit. But as I went at one point to pray in front of the Operating Room door, a gentleman comes out. Immediately I recognize him. He went to my church then! He says to me, "Ana! What are you doing here?" I let him know that it's my mother in the operating room. He immediately reassures me and says, "Oh Ana, your mom is doing so great and I didn't even know she was your mother and I was praying her as the Doctor is operating on her." Pause. This man didn't even know my mother and was praying for her! God is so strategic! He was part of the OR team. I just happen to believe that God is SO in the details. And that this same man would be someone that I knew?! Come on! From that point on, he would come out occasionally to give me reassuring updates during the 12 hours of operation. When mom was transported to the recovery room in ICU, he would always come by to check on her and make sure she had everything she needed. The recovery period scared us all, because we'd thought it was finally all over. But that recovery period was profound. That'll be for another post!
But today, I share a portion of my mother's story because every moment I get with her, is a moment that I get to be grateful for God sparing her life and allowing her to see Zinai grow up and now her second grandchild, Adrian (from my brother Dr. Enmanuel Mercedes). Sure it's a bit selfish. I'm sure God didn't keep her alive just for me. But I am so grateful that we can still make memories together and celebrate. My mother is such a blessing wherever she goes.
Since her transplant, she has advocated for organ donation, she has been interviewed by Univision and she has shared the hope she has always had in Jesus Christ - the one that is into every detail of her life. So today I get to say Happy Birthday to her while she is still here. I thank God for extending her life for however long He deems.
My next goal is to help her write her book and send her to Israel (her life dream!) But I hope that this post blessed you all and help me say HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO MY QUEEN!