September 16, 2005
My mom's birthday just past. She would have been 60 which is hard to imagine. She was only 45 when she died, 21 when she had me. In my mind she is always young, although always still my mother, the adult. Her voice rings clear in my head and I'm sure it will remain so when I am an old man. The Mexican side of me holds death close.
My grandmother had 10 brothers and sisters, nine of them preceded her in death, and yet she always spoke of them as if they were guests expected at any moment. She would catalog stories of their lives, but would always end by noting their burial places often lamenting the fact that they were not together to more easily talk in the afterlife. From the age of 3 until I was in my 20's at the end of every visit she would whisper, "hug me tight because this is the last time you will see me in this world." She would often press pictures of herself in my hands so that I wouldn't forget "when I am gone."
My mother's pictures, letters, and other small things scattered around the house do not provoke melancholy, but instead remind me how much I have to live up to for my own son. It is a strange bargain knowing that the more we give of ourselves, the more open we are to pain, but the more alive we become.
Octavio Paz, one of my favorite poets writes, "To the inhabitant of New York, Paris, or London death is a word that is never uttered because it burns the lips. The Mexican, on the other hand, frequents it, mocks it, caresses it, sleeps with it, entertains it, it is one of his favourite playthings and his most enduring love."