Tia's Last Lesson

My phone rang at 7 in the morning 2 weeks ago. It was my mom. I answered the second I saw her name come up on my screen, worried why she was calling at such a time.

“Hello?” I say, anxious to hear the response. “Hi baby, sorry to call so early,” she replied, “but, tia is the hospital.” There was no need to say which tia because I already knew. My Tia Lola, 88 years old, sassy, stubborn, a Audrey Hepburn hair cut with the matching beauty and poise.

I knew she was sick. I had seen her two days before. She looked okay, but she said her stomach hurt and it had been for a couple of days. She couldn’t keep any food down but we ignorantly assumed it was a stomach virus. We suggested a doctor but we forgot we were asking a wall.

The last thing I told her when I was leaving that day was “don’t worry, you’ll be okay. You’re strong! I’m sure it’s nothing.”  She smiled slightly, nodding. “Yeah mija, we don’t know what’s wrong...she’s probably just dehydrated.” We hung up, going on with our day as if we had time. No one knew we didn’t.

Two hours later I got another call. It was different. The tone, the urgency, the message. She was more than dehydrated. She was undone. Her stomach was failing her, nothing could stop it. The next day I was able to go home. I wanted to see her for myself because I couldn’t believe someone so strong and almost unbreakable could, well, break. It was worse than I could imagine - she wanted to die.

My Tia was a lonely woman, she didn’t have many friends, didn’t have kids of her own. She lived a simple and quiet life. But her love of God got her through those days. When I walked into her hospital room she was praying to God, begging him to take her home with him. Her time was up. Maybe she was ready but gosh we weren’t. In a way, that made things easier. It’s hard to hear someone beg to live when you know they can’t. But, it’s harder to hear someone you love beg to die. That day, she wasn’t talking much. Just praying. But, later on, she started talking. Almost, knowing that she needed to say everything she could until it was too late. The clock was ticking.

She told all her secrets, all her stories. The good and the bad. Her time on this earth was coming to it’s bitter end, but she was happy of time spent here.

What I learned most from my Tia was to stop keeping secrets because life's too short. Time is completely hidden from us, unfortunately there is no warning when our final hours are coming. That is why we must live for everyday. We cherish every moment. Whatever we believe in, we fight for because one day we won’t be able to. Whoever we love, we tell them how much we love them right then and there because we might not be able to tomorrow.

That is why I am writing this. So her lesson will never go untold. 5 days later, my Tia passed away. At 9 o’clock in the morning. Just after Sunday Mass. She didn’t die alone. She was surrounded by love, support and her family. She left at the perfect time. Maybe not to us, but to her.

Time will never be my friend. I will always want it to slow down, want it to rewind. But, maybe that is the beauty of time itself. No one can control it. My tia is living her best life, in heaven, watching us. Watching time go by.

One day, we will all be up there with her.

It’s just a matter of time.