November 11, 2014

Feeling Grateful when Life is Hard.


My mother lives her life as if it is a wonderful gift, despite the many challenges.

With a constant smile and good humor, at 97, I am convinced that she knows the secret to a happy life.

“If you don’t heal your pain, you organize your life around it’.” ~ unknown

Born in 1916, she was one of eight children, raised in rural Central Puerto Rico.

She was poor, malnourished, and had limited education–yet she is, without a doubt, one of the smartest people I know.

She worked for a dime a week cleaning the home of a prominent family where she was often beaten. She married twice, once to an alcoholic who would come home in the middle of the night and threaten her and the children and second to my father, who left her for a younger woman when I was five.

She worked in a cold factory in The South Bronx to feed us. We never heard her complain. She never drank or smoked and was not easy to anger.

My mother has loved and lost.

She’s endured poverty, the loss of her husband and worse—the loss of a child.

Through it all, she has maintained an open heart, a good sense of humor and incredible faith and hope.

How did she steer away from the darkness of unhappiness, when there seemed to be such little light at times?

There is no one real answer to that, except that there is a feeling of peace all around her.

My mother will not be around forever, which leads me to relish the gift of her presence now.

As she’s gotten older, she is less restricted by her past conditioning. She is more childlike in her willingness to embrace everything and everyone. She encompasses a wonderful openness to truth and therefore, shares more honestly.

Her wisdom has nothing to do with intelligence or education. Her wisdom is ethereal.

Manifested through strength and a quiet understanding of life through experience.

In 2001, I lost my first love and best friend in the World Trade Center. Just a few months later, my beautiful niece died suddenly from complications in surgery. Only three months after, my sister, Lilly, died after a five year battle with cancer.

These incredibly sad and significant losses brought harsh awareness to the fact that all things come to an end.

Both bad and good things end—making room for something new.

My sister was exactly the age I am today. It is the one event in my life that reminds me to live life with great appreciation. Every day I wake is a gift.

There are not many guarantee’s in life, but there is certainly one—life can be heartbreaking, challenging and often painful.

However, it can also be profoundly glorious.

We have a choice: we can take a posture in life that it is half-full or half-empty.

The problem is that, inevitably, bad things happen no matter what your posture is.

If we can somehow manifest a way to see beyond what’s in front of us, we may just open ourselves up to the fact that life is a precious gift.

My mother has lived a simple life. She has never had a checking account or even had a credit card. She has lived in the same apartment for over 35 years. She has never needed more than what was in front of her.

She is a simple, beautiful woman who, through much hardship, has learned that the most important things in life cannot be bought.

She taught me that there are but a few things in life that are essential to our happiness and everything else is a mere luxury.

Her blessings come in the shape of her loved ones, her friendships, her health and the small day to day things that give her life meaning. Her blessings are having a home, food, warmth, laughter and the love of her family.

It is not easy to feel grateful when life is hard and painful but taking time to reflect on what we do have and not focusing on what we don’t, can help us feel gratitude.

This month my mother will turn 98 and as we gather to celebrate her life, her beautiful face will light up as she watches her children, her grandchildren and her great-grandchildren walk in the door.

Her smile will reflect a woman who knows, that what is truly important in life, can only be measured and attached to the people we love.


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Author: Maria Arroyo Fazio

Editor: Ashleigh Hitchcock

Photo: pinterest, courtesy of the author

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