If you open your "ojos"

I was talking with a dear friend about a visit I had taken to see my Viejita one weekend.

With many people celebrating Easter today I thought it would an interesting story to retell.

I had driven to visit my Mother and Sister over the extended Memorial Day holiday

last year - as I did often.

My Sister was still nursing a torn ligament in her ankle and my Mother continued

to battle what she called “her annoying stomach ache” but in reality was,

the uterine cancer she had been diagnosed with the Spring before.

Late that Saturday evening we were sitting in the living room reminiscing

about our relatives and family members back in our village

– especially my favorite Uncle and my Grandfather who had passed on.

My Mother at 94 years of age tended to remind us jokingly and often

(something she had done for the past 20 some years) about how she was

“living on borrowed time”.. brought up the subject of “el Cielo”

Spanish for - Heaven.

My Viejita looked around the room and said, “You two need to realize that heaven

is not exactly what you think.”

My Sister looked over at me and gave me one of her retired teacher raised

left eyebrow gesture.

After all, this was coming from a lifelong Catholic and I must add very devoted

Christian lady.

We didn’t know what was coming next, so I gently took her hand and asked

the inevitable question, “So Viejita (I’ve always called my Mom – my little old woman),

what do you think Heaven looks like?”

She said jokingly, “Well I have had a lot of time to think about it, this past century.

I know with some certainty that there are no golden escalators, like at that Mall

where we sometimes go.. you know where you go up and up?"

I also don’t think there is anyone peeking down on you from those big white

fluffy clouds high up in the skies, no, no.. not even your favorite crazy Uncle”

- she meant my dear Tío Arnoldo.

She went on and in the next few minutes began to share her wisdom on her

version of “el Cielo”,

“Mijos (abbreviated for “mis hijos” – or my children) Heaven is taking

this “borrowed time” and spending this special time – with everyone we Love”.

Looking around the room she said, “I think Heaven is here in this living room.

Not there, as she pointed slowly to the window… on the outside of the house,

and peeking in the window”.

She then took a breath, and thought a moment and said,

“Heaven is spending time in my garden and listening to my music,

(older ballads she tends to play loud because of her poor hearing)

with all my Nietos (Grandchildren) or even listening to their loud

“thumping and yelling” music they like”.

“Heaven I think is sitting here watching all my Grandchildren yelling and laughing

as they watch los Vaqueros (Cowboys) on TV run around after each other all

afternoon long on Sundays”.

(She meant the Dallas Cowboys which we are all big fans of).

She leaned towards me and then smiled and said, “Heaven is going through

our old boxes of pictures and almost feeling like we are there with all those

people we took those pictures with.

My Mom thought for a minute as if searching her memory to find the next

nugget and said, “Heaven is also about forgiving someone you quit talking

to a long time ago, because… who knows why – it was probably something foolish anyway”.

My Sister nodded for she had just mentioned a falling out with one

of her daughters-in-law earlier.

“Heaven is the sudden arrival of all those birds (morning doves that she feeds

daily in her backyard) when they come to visit me each morning”.

She than added, “You know I don’t even mind those loud chirping black crows”.

“Heaven is when I can pray peacefully in my favorite chair (she was joking about

her wheelchair), or relaxing after a nice warm bath in my flannel robe”.

“I think Heaven is remembering loved ones at a moment that you were

the happiest in life.

Like when I first met your Father and raising all thirteen of you.”

(Today only eleven of my brothers and sisters are still alive).

“Heaven is thinking of them as if they were still the young (guapos)

beautiful people that you married”.

Then she added with her constant sense of humor…

“Not fatter or with less hair on their heads as they look now

– I will always love your Father, I don’t think real love ever grows old”.

“Heaven is having a sunny day so perfect that it warms up this cold house

in December and you wish it would stay that warm forever”.

“Heaven is watching La Gitana (The Gypsy a 10 lb. tabby) sleep.

How I enjoy just watching her stretch this way and that.”

“I know Heaven is out on our front porch…as I sit and rock on that old rocker,

and watch the cars go bye”.

“Heaven is remembering all the good times we had as children

– all those special Sundays with your Abuelitos, Tíos and Tías,

brothers and sisters, primos and all our neighbors.”

She looked around and then asked us to come closer, “You know what I have

come to know after all these years?”

She gently tapped my hand and smiled at my Sister and I,

“God is a smart man, He has given us a small part of Heaven right here

in our home, and he reveals “Los Cielos” to us one little piece at a time,

if you just open your ojos”.

I gave my Viejita a hug… and told her that she was so right…

I am so glad she shared her description of heaven that Saturday…

a memory I will love and cherish forever.

She made us realize that it’s was easy to forget that we all had a piece

of Heaven on earth.

Have a beautiful Easter!

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