OCHAZUKE: For My Mom

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By MARIO G. REYES

Although Mercedes Gonzalez Reyes — my mother — passed away last year, she still wished me a happy birthday.

She did so by visiting me in my dreams.

Three days before my actual birthday, I dreamt my mother telephoned me early in the morning, as she traditionally had done so on my birthday, every year. “Hi, Ma,” I replied sleepily in my dream. (I’d never been a morning person.)

Mercedes Gonzalez Reyes

Mercedes Gonzalez Reyes

In that dream, she told me she wanted to be the first to wish me a “Happy Birthday” and then, she sang her usual Spanish-accented rendition of “Happy Birthday.”

In the past, when my mother was alive, we’d always end up laughing after she ended the song with, “…Happy Birthday, dear mijo, Happy Birthday, to you!” Then, she usually wished me a great day and then would tell me to go back to sleep. I usually did fall back to sleep, with a smile on my face.

My mother passed away at the age of 76 years. How she passed is another story, but I wanted to share a little about how she lived.

Rather than preach or lecture us, my mother showed by example. I am the person I am today because of the values my mother instilled in me, although to her chagrin, I was a very independent child.

In the last hours of her life, she still amazed me. Although she was in unimaginable pain, she still thought about others. She’d tell me to go home, get some rest, but I’d smile back take her soft hand in mine, and whisper softly, “Forget about it,” while holding back tears. Then, she’d smile and close her eyes, perhaps reassured that she wasn’t alone.

As I passed many hours at my mother’s bedside on the sixth floor of White Memorial Hospital in Boyle Heights, I’d look out the window, into the neighborhood that I’d known most of my life.

My mother passed away in the early morning hours of July 5, just after all the Fourth of July fireworks had lit up the night sky. It was as if the vecinos, the neighbors, with every bottle rocket they shot up into the night sky, were all celebrating the life of this very special person — my mother.

It’s been seven months since my mother passed, and I still have this void. I will never have another conversation with her, never laugh with her, hear her sweet voice or kiss her soft, chubby cheeks — at least, not in this physical realm again. I miss her dearly.

But as we saunter into the Year of the Monkey, I wanted to thank every one of you who supported and helped me and my family cope through this difficult time with your generous text messages, emails, sympathy cards, telephone calls, and simply your kind words.

A great big THANK YOU from mi familia to the Rafu kazoku. Mucho gracias, domo arigato and mahalo.

Mario. G. Reyes is Rafu’s photo editor. Ochazuke is a staff-written column. Opinions are not necessary those of The Rafu Shimpo.

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