Mee-teeta (Mom)! Today is my 53rd Birthday, and for the first time in my life, ever since I can remember remembering you will not be here retelling me my birth story. I remember when I was a little girl late in the afternoon of my birthday you would cradle me in your arms and say “Es precisamente la hora, ven dejame contarte tu cuento de nacimiento!” (“It is precisely the hour, come let me tell you the story of your birth!”). Then I grew up and from the time I went off to university and from there, onward into my own life, no matter where I was in the world, I could count on you to figure out when it was 4:25 p.m. in my time zone and I knew that exactly at that time on the 18th of January the phone would ring and it would be you with your sweet, cheerful, lilting Spanish voice saying “Es precisamente la hora, ven dejame contarte tu cuento de nacimiento!” And no matter where I was, or what I was doing, I was once again a little girl cradled in your arms listening with wide-eyed wonder to my birth story. But on 19th April 2010 you passed away and for the first time in my life I will not have the gift of your “happy birthday” phone call. How will I manage to get through from one side of 4:25 p.m. to the other side of 4:25 p.m., today 18th January 2011, without hearing your cheerfully, lilting voice on the phone?
It is nine months less one day since your passing, and as I write this I have realized that you left this world almost exactly 53 years from my personal creation day, and I want to ask you: “How are nine months of your death related to the nine months before my birth?” I think that if we were really having this conversation you might answer: “Nine months of human time on either side of the door of life, be it birth or death, are really the same but very different. Remember? So that you wouldn’t be afraid of death, I used to tell you “Nacimos un dia, para morir otro!” (“We were born on one day, to die on another!”).”
“Yes, Mee-teeta, that is a very good straightforward answer and I do remember that as I grew from time to time we did have this conversation about the passage from the spirit world to this material world and back to the spirit world. Yes, of course it is comforting to know what you thought about this issue of passage back and forth. Still, I miss you so!”
Knowing you as I do, I suppose that then you will say: “Hija, mi primogenita, recuerdate, ‘el muerto al hoyo el vivo al reton~o’!! No te me pongas triste, celebralo bien que es tu dia!” (“Daughter, my first born, remember,‘the deceased to the grave; the living to continued blossoming!’ Don’t go getting all sad, celebrate it well, it is your day!”) Of course, in order to get me to break out in happy laughter you will then add — “Ran-Can-Can, suenan los timbales!” (Tito Puente) and “Azuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuucar!” (Celia Cruz).
And of course I will laugh and I will remember that you used to say: “Nacimos un dia, para morir otro” (“We are born on one day, to die on another”). This was always your straightforward and simple explanation about life and death. I was always comforted by that sentence because in its simplicity and with the accompanying explanations you taught me at different ages throughout my life not to be afraid of growth and change. And so for the first time in my life, ever since I can remember, remembering, in my heart with full attention to detail and memory I am sure that at precisely 4:25 p.m. in Jerusalem, as I sit quietly facing the western sky and watching the setting sun, I will hear you tell me my birth story…it will be the same but very different.