Memento Mori: Reflecting On Life and Death

I’ve gone to three different Catholic funerals in my life. I’m not particularly fond of funerals because I find it too heavy for me. Each time I go to pay my respects, it has me thinking about my own life and death.

The first funeral I went to was when I was 16 and attending to pay my respects to another classmate who passed. John died very unexpectedly. He was a star student , an amazing athlete, tall, handsome, kind and loved by everyone in school. Little did we know, he was born with a heart condition that he believed was corrected. One day in October he was jumping rope as a warmup, went into cardiac arrest and died.

I remember everyone in my grade, nearly all 300 of us, went to the wake. I didn’t even know John all that well but thought it was right to support my friends who did. There was a line outside the funeral parlor to enter the viewing. It was so long that people passing by would stop us and ask what we were waiting for, curious about the spectacle. I’ll always remember the look of confusion on their face when we said it was for the passing of a friend.

John looked beautiful like an angel; his hair never looked more red. Somehow, they always look truly at peace when they’re laying in their casket.

At 16, I never faced death before and was not prepared for it. I felt the sadness and grief in the air and I could of cut through it with a knife. I had to leave the wake early because I was sobbing uncontrollably and upsetting everyone around me. I felt the sadness of everyone grieving and it filled me to the point where I was just sobbing for everyone else. His life was cut so short! If only he wasn’t jumping rope, he would have lived!

That day I learned that life isn’t always promised and that it could be taken from you in an instant. It seemed so unfair. In my eyes, John was least deserving of death.

The second funeral I went to was for my neighbor Jim. He suffered with Alzheimer’s. He was in his 80s when he went. I thought it would be easier, his death was very expected and he suffered a long time with his disease. But it wasn’t.

He was an Irishman and as I reflected on his life, I couldn’t help but feel blessed to have known him. He lived a long life and often spoke to us kindly in his beautiful Irish accent. The day of his funeral I longed to hear him speak again, it was so mesmerizing. Even though he and his wife had been in the US for decades, he still carried a heavy accent. I remember playing with his grandson and watching him mow his grass from our front window.

This time I felt a sense of true loss, here was someone I knew and saw every day for years. And now he was gone.

Silent tears rolled down my face at the funeral as the priest gave his homily reflecting on Jim’s life. I knew he was in heaven with God, no one lived a more humble and god-loving life. Yet I still felt sad that he left us.

They held the reception in his family’s backyard. I listened as his family told stories about all the things Jim did in his life, how kind and exceptional he was.

It’s funny, even in death you can be celebrated. It had me thinking a lot about my own death and the future for my parents. They were getting older and even though death is expected at the end of old age, I realized it was never welcomed. There will always be a sense of mourning and loss.

Most recently I went to my Husband’s grandma’s wake. Grandma P’s death was also expected. She was sick and going through a lot physically in the end of her days. It gave me a lot to think and pray about. She was more aware that she was dying.

She was also blessed to have so many children. All five of them came to her side. Aunt B was the one who had cared for her all these years.

Aunt B asked her, “Are you scared?”

“Yes.”

“Don’t be, we’ll be with you. We won’t leave your side.”

The thought that you can be aware of your impending death is terrifying. The thought of saying goodbye to everyone you love saddens me. I pray she went in peace.

Her wake was small yet beautiful. My father in law put together a slide about her life. It was amazing to see how many lives she touched and how much she meant to so many people. I realized her 84 years of life was not meaningless but rich with purpose. With five of her grandchildren, including my Husband, she played a huge role in raising them. I left with a sense of peace, knowing that she was truly with God and that she was in good hands.

A Catholic funeral is quite beautiful but also very expensive. In some cases it can be compared to the price of a wedding. The casket, funeral services for the wake, funeral and reception, flowers, burial site and tombstone can reach upwards of $15k-20k for standard services.

But can you really put a price on remembering the life of a loved one?

For Catholics, death is the biggest event of our lives. We believe that our life is a journey, with death being the final destination. That, with God’s Grace, we’ll be reunited with our merciful God. It’s not a live for today ideology but one that hopes for a better future.

Memento Mori in Latin means remember your death. It’s the concept that our death is inevitable and we should prepare now for what comes after. I’ve learned that our lives are truly precious no matter what age we are. And though it makes me sad to think my mother’s, father’s or even my own death, I know there’s a peace on the other side and that life doesn’t end with death.

Check out my other posts

Blood Is Thicker Than Water: The Power Of Family

My Best Friend Ghosted Me

My Experience With Achalasia

I don’t really remember how it started but I’m pretty sure it progressed quickly. I described it as a “stuck” feeling. It was hurting me, so my parents took me to the doctor. I remember doing all these tests, first an x-ray and then an endoscopy.

An endoscopy is a procedure where they put a small camera down your throat while they look at your throat and esophagus. I was only 10 years old. I had to be awake during the procedure with no anesthesia since I needed to swallow while they viewed my reflexes. Nothing came up in the tests.

Th stuck feeling happened more often as time went on. It was actually food getting stuck at the bottom of my esophagus as I ate . My parents, not knowing what was going on, were frustrated. They didn’t know the cause and were beginning to wonder if I was making it up. They tried to coerce me to eat. They begged me, pleaded with me and eventually…hit me so I would stay at the table and eat.

When food would get stuck in my chest, I would have to wait until it passed, otherwise continuing to eat would be agonizing. Eventually, I figured out how to force myself to throw up to help relieve some of the pressure from the food blockage.

By the time I was 11, I was throwing up regularly. At meals, my parents watched me like a hawk to make sure I ate; they were still skeptical it was a physical ailment and they shamed me for not eating normally. To them, I chose not to eat. So I found excuses to leave the table and threw up in secret. If I had a lot of trouble eating and used up all my excuses to go to the bathroom, as soon as they left the room, I would throw up in a bag, hide it and dispose of it later.

Eventually they caught me. They found one of my bags of throw up.

11 year old me just didn’t know how to deal with it. The tests said that I was lying, that I had no physical problems. So why did eating hurt so bad?

So now my parents knew I was throwing up to relieve my pain. Except they didn’t really know how much pain I was in. To them, I was just choosing not to eat and throwing up. I felt their eyes judging me as I left the table to “use the bathroom.” I could smell their disgust towards me.

These were the hardest years of my life. The pain got worst and by 12 years old, I couldn’t go a meal without pain and that stuck feeling. My parents and I fought while my sisters watched quietly. One day, they demanded that I stay at the table. “Don’t you dare get up!” they said. I squirmed and writhed in pain as I felt the pressure of the food and my own saliva build up on top of each other. I remember my parents threatening me as my eyes rolled back and I started to faint from the pain.

Eventually they took me to see a psychiatrist. Because of my young age, they thought I was anorexic and bulimic. You would think that a psychiatrist would actually know I was in physical pain. But she diagnosed me with depression. She proceeded to tell my mother that she was the cause of all my problems and put me on Zoloft.

Well, shortly after my therapy stopped. My mom didn’t like hearing that. I was better off anyway, looking back, that psychiatrist just wanted to collect on the exceptional insurance that my dad’s work offered.

The following months were more of the same. More doctors, endoscopies, and barium swallow procedures. The barium swallow was the worst. It was like getting an x-ray done while drinking this nasty chalky drink. I did these tests a few times and nothing was coming up. Honestly, I think the doctors just didn’t know what they were looking for. My esophagus hadn’t been working well for years.

The puberty years are so hard and I had to be sick through it. It kept getting worst and worst. By the time I was 13 years old, I had cried so many times over it and was even considering suicide. It really messes with you to be told that you’re crazy. I’m sure my parents felt a lot of guilt after learning it was actually a physical ailment.

Lesson to parents. If your child tells you they’re in pain, BELIEVE THEM.

When I was 14, I finally saw a specialist that was able to properly diagnose me.

I had achalasia.

Finally, I knew what was wrong with me. It felt like a weight being lifted from my shoulders to finally know it wasn’t all in my head. Achalasia is a rare esophageal disorder that caused my sphincter to tighten abnormally and close the opening to my stomach. The stuck feeling was actually called an esophageal spasm. And food and liquids weren’t able to reach my stomach.

By the time I was diagnosed I looked so sickly and terrible. I struggled to eat every other bite. Fluids were getting blocked. I remember I hated taking pictures and was afraid that people thought I was anorexic. I threw up every meal and several times a meal. The pain never passed unless I threw up. The pressure of the food increased and increased. It hurt so bad because I kept it secret from other people at school, so when I had an esophageal spasm, I would just hold it instead of throwing up. It gave me anxiety to eat at restaurants, go to theme parks, or at my friends’ houses. Achalasia literally ruined my life for those 4 years.

Once I was diagnosed, it didn’t get better right away. They did a dilation procedure. This procedure required me to go under general anesthesia while they placed an instrument down my throat; it expanded at the site of tension to weaken the abnormal muscle. That worked for a few weeks but the spasms always came back. We did this procedure at least 3-4 times. But the abnormal muscle just kept getting stronger and made it more difficult to eat. Then I took a turn for the worst. In the end, I needed a feeding tube inserted through my nose since I couldn’t eat a thing. I was so thin and weak, just basically waiting to die. My face was gaunt and my arms like twigs. I had lived with it for so long now the spasms were constant; I felt happy if I could get liquids down. I grew to hate eating in general.

The heller myotomy was a godsend. It was a miracle. It was the final option for me. The surgical procedure cut through my abdomen to get to my esophagus; it cut and weakened the muscle that was giving me problems. When I woke up and tried to eat, I cried as I realized I was fixed. I could eat again. I remember my parents and I being so grateful, we gave the doctor chocolates at the follow up appointment.

Thankfully, I’m 99% better now. I’ll never be fully cured of my achalasia, but I don’t get spasms that often now. Maybe once a month or at most a handful in a month. I forgave my parents for how they ignorantly gaslighted me and shamed me for my sickness. But I still hide my spasms from everyone. Old habits die hard.

Why I Started Blogging

I actually started blogging in 2012, I was running an Amazon beauty business and kept a blog on the side as a way to promote. I had learned about SEO, online ads and how to put together a website through WordPress. When I started blogging it was surprisingly easy.

It was a beauty blog and I would write reviews about the products. People would find my blog through SEO and follow. It was slow going and there would be days when I would get 0 views and other days I’d get 20.

I learned everything I needed to do and yet I gave up too early. In 2012, I had prenatal depression and in 2013, I had acute postpartum depression. I just didn’t have the motivation to keep up with it, even though it was showing signs of success. I quit my blog. So I forgot about my blog for a few years and even went back in 2015 to make sure I closed my old blog out and shut it down. I couldn’t stand the thought of my failed blog sitting in the blogosphere and languishing. I had lost my motivation for blogging.

So I stopped writing for a bit and focused on what made me money for some time, real estate.

But writing was never far from my mind, I always went back to it as a way to cope with my hard times and secretly I wished to make a living off of blogging. One can only hope.

I’ve written a few posts on my current job and how miserable it has made me at times.

Status Update: I’m Still Not Vibing At Work

Dealing with Toxic Work Culture

The thought of working there and until I retire at 65 seemed too daunting. I can barely make it through a days work, let alone several decades of working. I long to work for myself and be my own boss. And more than anything, I long to be able to spend time with my children and family. But what kind of job would let me do that? How would I be able to put money and food on the table?

My thoughts went back to the time when I wrote my first beauty blog. If I had kept up with it, chances are I would still be doing that full time at this point. I’m literally kicking myself for quitting. But there’s a quote that I love, “The best time to start was yesterday and the next best time start as now.” So even though I messed up by quitting too early, I could still start again and build another writing portfolio. Hating my job actually inspired me. So I picked up everything I learned with my first blog, and began rebuilding with a second one.

It’s been challenging. When I was writing my beauty blog at 22, I didn’t have money to invest in my blog. What I did have was time to write and spend on it. But now at 30, I’m literally trying to scrape time together to pull out a 1000 word post. My husband needs me, my children need me and there’s housework waiting for me.

Right now I’m on maternity leave so I’m home all the time but what happens when I go back to work? I’m praying that I have the motivation to keep this up because this is really what I want to do and I’m already strapped for time.

My mother is only getting older; I wonder what I will do when she needs help getting around the house and running basic errands. I dream of a life where I’m writing full time and can be there for her. I look ahead to the future and I want to see a life where my work is flexible. My children are getting older and they’ll want to go to do after school programs, play dates with their friends and school trips. I’m going to miss all that because I’m working and commuting a hell of a lot.

My work continues to motivate me to write, like most jobs it’s always changing and trying to be more productive. Now it’s my compensation they’re trying to change by adding another employee to take a cut of the commission pie. It has me thinking that nothing is really secure in this world and I need to find alternative ways to supplement my earnings. It feels so demeaning that I’m doing a great job and seeing my earnings slashed because upper management wants more productivity for less.

So blogging gives me hope. Hope that I can change my life, rely less on my job and be happier. It allows me to do something I love- write! And best of all I get to connect with other writers and people who love to read.

Though there are days I get like 5 visitors and it seems like I’m writing to myself, I hold out hope that I’ll find a clan that appreciates and finds my writing helpful.

So I’m in this for the long haul. With the good and the bad. Even when I don’t have time, I’ll carve it out. Because I need to have this hope that blogging can change my life.

Check out my other posts

The Power Of Positivity

My Favorite Motivational Mantra

The Horror of Finding Mold In My Apartment

This is the worst thing that has happened to us in a while. I don’t know which is worse having bedbugs or having mold? Both are pretty intense to have in your apartment and are nightmares to deal with.

This is the second time we’ve had mold in our apartment. I’m not talking mildew from leaving your shower on too long. I’m talking about full on mold attaching itself to half our furniture in our master bedroom and some of our furniture in our second bedroom. I’m crazy for not moving the first time but who wants to move in the middle of summer when you’re broke and made no plans on moving? Looking for apartment is the biggest pain.

As far as I know it’s not toxic. It’s just a lot of mold. The kind of mold you would find on a piece bread.

The first time our apartment went through this, it was a disaster. We had been living in the apartment building for less than a year and I had noticed that the apartment was kind of getting damp and a sort of musty smell. None of our towels were dry, not even when we hung them out, and our home was feeling really hot and humid. I had noticed that there was a piece of wood on the floor in our bedroom that was damaged and getting darker. Still, it was summer, we figured it was hot and that’s why the apartment felt this way. We weren’t that sick, I was getting congestion and occasionally losing my voice but I wasn’t connecting the dots as to why. Then one day, my husband decided to look behind the furniture while he was cleaning and found a whole giant colony of mold.

It was disgusting. Upon taking a deeper look, it was under our bed, behind our vanity dresser and in our second bedroom where my then 4 year-old daughter slept. It was coming up between the floorboards, getting in our clothes and in the air. We realized we’d been living with it for months.

I immediately contacted our landlord and expressed our concern over the health hazards of living with mold. They were accommodating, we didn’t have to pay one months rent and they paid for our dry cleaning and laundry service. They seemed responsible and brought a professional company to remediate the mold issue. It took one month for us to be out of the apartment to correct the mold. They ripped up the floors, brought giant industrial dehumidifiers to clean the air for better air quality, re-patched the floors and scraped out all the mold.

In the meantime, we were three people living in a one bedroom. It was such a nightmare! We had to clean the apartment top to bottom to live in it, sleep on an air mattress and within a month move again. When we returned, our bathroom had been re-done and our floors re-patched with new planks. We were grateful. We felt that the company had done enough to ensure that the apartment would never get mold again. So we stayed.

And from 2017 to 2019, there weren’t any issues. At that point I had gotten renters insurance, just in case. I made sure we took short showers during the summer so not to add to the humidity and I ran our dehumidifier on high while we were at work. This worked for a bit. But this year we were more careless; with the new baby I didn’t want to use the dehumidifier and dry her out. Somehow, I feel like I could have prevented this.

But the mold issue goes beyond using our dehumidifier. Mold thrives in wetness and warmth. Without a source of water, there would be no issue. Considering that there’s significant mold in two rooms in the house, there’s a serious underlying moisture problem that was never addressed the first time.

One thing you need to know about our apartment is that it’s beautiful. It’s huge with over 1300 sqft, working fireplace, galley kitchen and foyer dining room. The ceilings were high so we were able to get a large entertainment center. For the rent it’s a really, really, really good deal. And when we moved here, what we were paying was already at the top of what we could spend so moving to a different apartment at this point is just not financially feasible.

Now with the second incident of mold, we have a six year old child and newborn infant. It seems unsafe for us to stay when we know that this mold is a reoccurring issue.

We could move to another apartment, but there just aren’t that many options. Everything reasonable or nearly comparable is $300-600 more rent than what we’re paying now. Plus a potential brokers fee. There’s a housing shortage where we are.

We’re considering possibly staying after they remediate and just hustle and buckle down so we can get a down payment on a house. The maintenance on the house would at least be in our control, but it’ll be at least six months before we have a good enough down payment.

Just goes to show how hard it is to be a homeowner, even with interest rates low, the costs are enormous: with 20% down payment, 2-5% closing costs and buffer money you’ll need to maintain your day to day expenses. It seems so out of reach.

Now I know how people who are living in Flint, Michigan feel, they can’t sell their homes because of their tainted water situation and most are not in a financial position to buy a new home so where do you go?

Maybe it would be better for us to stay in our moldy apartment. But then I wonder, what would happen if five years from now either of our children get sick with cancer? We would always hold it against ourselves that we didn’t put our health first.

So what to do? We’re caught in this sick sort of moldy limbo of needing a new place and not being able to afford a move. ?

Check out my other posts

Why Integrity Matters

How To Find An Attorney For Civil Suits And What To Expect

Tags: mold in apartment, mold around children, mold remediation apartment, recurring mold, health effects of mold, life with mold

This is 30: Turning 30 Year’s Old

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I’ve been reflecting on my age. This year I turned 30 and was expecting some sort of wow moment but it hasn’t happened yet. I remember being 20 and looking towards my 30th birthday with distain. Wouldn’t that make me middle aged? But 30 definitely isn’t as bad as I would have thought. It’s kind of like being in your 20s but with more confidence, money and grace. There’ll be some things I would miss from my 20s, but 30s has been pretty awesome so far.

I definitely miss being young and flirty. Life got serious for me early when I had my first daughter at 24 and married; but I still enjoyed being carefree, managing to grow my career and being free to move around.

I’ve enjoyed the benefits of being considered conventionally attractive and now that I’m over 30, I definitely notice I’m not as much on the radar. I don’t really need to be as noticed anymore, as a mother and a wife, but you can’t help but miss the days when your whole future was ahead of you and possibilities seemed endless. I’m not someone chasing after my youth but keeping up my appearance was so much easier in my 20s. There was more free time to look after tweezing, waxing, and shaving; beautifying was generally easier. Nowadays, I can go weeks looking like Godzilla. I’ve also cut back on the makeup time. I used to blend, sculpt and contour every day and, goddamn, I was able to look extra flawless after 20 minutes of caking it on. At 30, with 2 kids in tow, I can barely manage to throw on mascara and lipstick.

I don’t miss being broke and unestablished though. That was the worst. For the longest, I could barely maintain a balance of $500 in my bank account. It was so stressful not knowing if I was ever going to make it. I spent years going into debt. Sometimes, I would imagine what my life would be if I had a job that was stable. I always imagined I’d have more in my life; a bigger apartment in a better location. But things aren’t too bad. I’m now more established in my career and could job hop to most comparable companies.

I recognize that the next 10-15 years I’ll be the most marketable based on my experience and age. Just trying to capitalize on that and make as much money as I can, while I can. Then I’ll probably get an masters or law degree if I feel I’m aging out of being competitive. Or I can start a whole second career; to be honest, real estate is starting to feel tired.

Compared to my 20s, the relationship side of my life is pretty stable. From 20 to 23 it was fun to date. Parties and meeting people seemed so exciting like I can meet the love of my life at any time. Nothing happened because I actually met the love of my life at 18, who I married at 24; but the idea that I wasn’t settled yet and living spontaneously was amazing.

I also hadn’t mastered the concept of “all in good moderation” when it came to drinking. I was drinking garbage $5 vodkas like Smirnoff and watered down wine coolers. 30 year old me would prefer Grey Goose and Cranberry or an aged wine.

Being 30 years old, parties are fun. I mean, not in the same way they were in my 20s, but I finally learned how to relax and just enjoy the moment, and that’s pretty amazing. I also learned how to small talk. I’m not socially awkward anymore and I no longer have high expectations that I’ll either be meeting my partner for life or my new best friend. I can just enjoy people as they are and that is a gift.

On the other hand, I don’t miss being naive and unexperienced about life. I spent a lot of time in my 20s not knowing how life works. I couldn’t accept that life was unfair and I wanted to correct it so badly. Questions like: why are there homeless people, why are people so greedy and selfish, and why does that guy ignore me but like her? Now I can accept the answers as they are: the world is complicated and imperfect, not all problems can be fixed and the world doesn’t revolve around me. The world’s darkness doesn’t disturb me like it once did. I guess I’ve gotten used to imperfection.

I have a good handle on what’s happening around me and feel confident that I have enough life experience to handle confrontations/disagreements at work and in my relationships. I used to feel like I didn’t have much to offer and constantly allowed others to walk all over me. I can stand up for myself better now. I’ve also learned how to let things go when they aren’t going my way and not to dwell on the negativity that other people bring. That’s a skillset I wouldn’t trade for anything.

For me, my 20s was about being independent, learning about myself, enjoying my youth and beauty, and trying to get established. My 30s are going to be about gaining security, growing in self-confidence, gaining perseverance and taking my life to the next level. Looking forward, I finally have the resources and experience I need to do those things. There are really no excuses. The next 10 years are going to determine whether I spend my 40s in a midlife crisis or whether my 40s will be the most exciting years of my life. But overall I feel like my best years are just ahead of me.

So this is 30. I’ve made it to the 30 club.

Check out my other posts:

Things I Wish I Knew When I Was 18

How To Make A Change in Your Life

Blood Is Thicker Than Water: The Power Of Family

 

 

 

Tags: Life after 30 years old, 30 year old girl, important life lessons, over 30 years old, 20 years old, turning 30 year old woman, almost 30 years old, I am 30.