Soul-Searching For The Meaning of Life

“The wise use of intelligence requires more than academic intelligence; we need soul-searching and deep reflection to live a more balanced and meaningful life.” ~  Dr. Paul TP Wong

Life, what is it? Besides breathing and living, what is it? Why are we here? What are we here for? All these questions popped into my mind just a few years ago when life began to change for us.

As a child, it never occurred to me to think about life. I’m sure, like many other children, I was anxious to grow up and be an adult never thinking about the responsibilities that come with it. Then, it happened. I became an adult with everything else that follows – love, children, college, work… is that it? Is that all life is about?

When I reached the “adult” age I didn’t have any of the above questions. I guess I was too busy being a wife, mother, and employee which left me drained enough to keep me from wondering what life is. Then everything changed. From running around every day dropping off children at school, work, pick up children, doctor’s appointments, children’s extra-curricular activities, church, homework, etc; to only go to work. Well, there’s still doctor’s appointments, church, and work but it’s not that running around as before like a headless chicken.  

So now what? Now that I have the time to sit and think about life I began to question it. With the questions arose curiosity. What is there beyond these oceans? What kind of life do other people around the world live? I only knew what I had seen on TV, read in a book or learned in school. All of a sudden I felt like if I were in the Jim Carey movie called The Truman Show. I always thought that I lived in the best place in the world and never doubted it. But, what makes us think such a thing? It was time for me to explore what life is all about so I began soul-searching.

Prayer and meditation were the basis for my soul-searching. I have always believed in God and in prayer. I prayed every day and still do. But, after I began meditating did I realize that, while I prayed every day, I really never sat down to listen to God. So when I meditated I began to silence my thoughts and only listen. That is when I finally awakened. I loved the comforting peaceful silence that goes along with the meditation which has opened up a whole new outlook on life and answered some of my questions.

I began by doing things I had not done before – nothing illegal or bad. I wanted to explore the world, go beyond the ocean walls. I wanted to learn about other countries, their people, culture, and traditions. I wanted to meet new people and connect with like-minded people. I realized that life is not only about living to work. But only if we stop overworking ourselves, complaining, fighting or worrying and think about life will we awaken enough to see all the beauty this world has to offer and we’re missing. There is so much to do in life, so much to see and discover and so little time.

So, if you’ve reached the stage in life where you’ve slowed down, take some time, not only to pray but to meditate and listen to God speak. You will realize that you were not put on this earth only to work, but to discover the beauty of Life.

How Many of You Dream While Taking a Nap and What Does It Mean?

It is not uncommon for me to take a nap when I’m home. It’s a boost of energy for me. Today was no exception. I was off from work and working on my blog when I felt sleepy so I laid down for my nap and fell into a deep sleep. I don’t ever recall dreaming when taking naps but today, I had a dream. The dream was nice but at the same time disturbing. I wasn’t planning on sharing it but since it hasn’t left my mind, I figured I’d share it. Maybe putting it out there will eliminate it from my mind. I don’t know much about dream interpretation but here it goes.

In this dream, I came across various family members and friends which I have not seen in a very long time. The first one was a friend I had more than 30 years ago. Debra was a special friend. We spent a lot of time together, went on day trips, parties and she would sometimes stay overnight at my house. The last time I saw Debbie was between 1990 and 1991. She was the same Debbie I last saw, with her beautiful huge smile, so sweet and impeccable manners. We hugged and talked for a little bit but I don’t recall what we talked about and then we parted ways.

Then I came across a cousin, well my mother’s cousin actually. Lydia was a loud woman but so nice. Her outgoing personality was still prevalent in the dream. She received me with a huge hug and kiss. We talked for a little then we parted ways. Again, I don’t recall what the conversation was about.

After Lydia, I came across my uncle Alex. Tío Tinito, as we lovingly called him, looked just the same as the last time I saw him. Young, healthy and handsome. He received me with open arms and greeted me with a hug. We chatted for a bit, said our goodbyes and went our separate ways.

Then my grandfather appeared. I did not recognize him at first since the last time I saw him I was very young – probably a teen but I’m not sure. He did look the same as what I remember. He approached me, gave me a hug and told me he was my grandfather. I do recall responding that I knew who he was. The conversation was short, but just like the above, I don’t know what it was about and he was gone.

The last person to approach me was the wife of my cousin, Ivette. She looked glorious – just her crazy loud self that we all loved. She came over to me hugged me with a loud “PRIMA” escaping her mouth. We talked for a bit and then she was on her way.

So, remember when I mentioned above that this dream was nice but disturbing at the same time? Well, it was nice seeing all these people again and having spent time with them. The disturbing part is that they are all dead. I’m not afraid of the dead, but dreaming with people that have moved on from this life, well, it’s not exactly fun. I don’t know how to interpret dreams, so if anyone of you knows, can you give me an insight into what this means? Or is it insignificant? I’m not worried but I am curious so your feedback is greatly appreciated.

 

Helping Other’s Feel Better While Healing

I might get some heat because of what I’m about to write, but you know what? If I can help someone else feel better while healing, then it’s worth it.

A little over a year ago, I underwent a partial knee replacement surgery. While the surgery was a success I was given a prescription for pain. I began taking the painkiller every 3-4 hours as instructed and they worked. But, when the doctor said he could not authorize me to drive until I was off them I knew I had to endure the pain somehow. That night, I decided I would not take the pill; but I could not sleep because of the pain. At that point, I considered taking it and that’s when I realized this is how people become addicted! I wasn’t about to go towards that route so I got up and took acetaminophen. It didn’t work but I continued it for a couple of days. I switched to ibuprofen and nope, that didn’t work either.

My son, seeing me in constant pain and little to no relief, brought me CBD Oil and explained the benefits to me. I was not thrilled nor convinced. In fact, it bothered me that he would think I was going to take such a thing. “Are you crazy? No! I’m not taking that!” But he was insistent that it would help me and I would not feel any highs or lows or whatever happens when drugs are consumed. With no remedy in sight other than returning to the addictive painkiller, and needing to get back to work, I reluctantly decided to try it. But first, I wanted to do research. According to what I read, CBD does NOT contain the tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) which is the ingredient that causes the “high” effect. CBD Oil is used to reduce pain and inflammation, among other things. I read article after article with most of them talking about the positive results and little to no side effects. After a couple of days researching and reading I decided to give it a try. Still, with skepticism, I took less than the dose recommended before I went to sleep. Low and behold it worked. It was the first night, after stopping the painkiller, in which I did not have to wake up every 3 hours to take another dose of acetaminophen or ibuprofen. The next day I was fine until around 10 a.m. – about 12 hours after taking the CBD Oil. At that time I took another dose of the CBD Oil. The second night I increased the dose to what was recommended. Thereafter, I only took one dose before going to sleep. I went from taking painkillers every 3 hours to taking CBD Oil once a day! Autosave-File vom d-lab2/3 der AgfaPhoto GmbH It was funny to hear the doctor ask me if I needed another prescription for painkillers and when I responded that I did not he asked, “Are you sure?” He was surprised to hear that I rarely took the painkiller but I never told him why. I was no longer in pain after about a month of my surgery, therefore, I stopped taking the CBD Oil.

But it didn’t stop there. Right after the surgery, I began to experience ankle pain on the same leg which was operated. At first, I blamed it on the surgery. I just had surgery on that leg so it was normal for my ankle swelling. It made sense, right?  Well, it turns out that it was not related. Unbeknownst to me of how it happened, I had two torn tendons. While taking the CBD Oil, I didn’t feel the pain but as soon as I stopped taking it the pain returned in my ankle area. I had to return to the doctor and was prescribed another painkiller, a CAM  boot for 6-weeks followed by physical therapy. I didn’t fill the painkiller prescription. I was so happy with the results of my knee after taking the CBD Oil that I preferred to take the oil instead.

 

As of today, I am completely healed. Other than my immediate family, I didn’t tell anyone what I was taking until one day I came across an old friend. We began talking and he told me his wife was having a real hard time with fibromyalgia. He said that most days she could not get out of bed and was suffering from severe pain. I debated whether to tell him or not but decided to give it a shot. I explained to him how it had helped me. He told me he would speak to his wife and asked for information on where to get it. About two months after that encounter I saw him again and the first thing he did was give me a hug and say, “Thank you, thank you, thank you!” I asked, “For what?” And then he explained that his wife began to take the oil. She was feeling better than what she’s felt ever since diagnosed with fibromyalgia and was back to work. I also shared the info with another person that I know is suffering from fibromyalgia as well. And I’m happy to report that she got back to me with great news.  She tried and it’s working. She told me she had not had a good night’s sleep, without pain, since before being diagnosed with fibromyalgia over 2 years ago until she tried the CBD. I am so happy for her.

Even though it was the CBD Oil that helped them both, not me, I still feel so happy for them and vowed that I’d share my experience to whomever I knew was suffering from an illness and needed a natural remedy. Granted, it is not something you can share with everybody. Not everyone has an open mind and may still consider it illegal. I’m a 55-year-old woman, and I can assure you, and anybody that knows me can also assure you, I am not a drug addict. I’ve never even smoked a cigarette! However, I will continue promoting CBD Oil because I am living proof that it does work and no one should live in pain!

We Exhumed and Cremated Our Son’s Body

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Photo property of Angie Radillo

At work, I had a conversation with a coworker. It was an uncommon topic, maybe morbid to some. We talked about death. I told him how I never thought about what I’d do if any of my children died. Would I cremate or bury my child? Of course, it’s not something we, as parents, talk about or even think about! We believe, or should I say, expect that our children outlive us. That’s not the way it is and there are so many decisions that we are not ready for if we outlive our children. My coworker had a different experience when his dad died. He had the opportunity to sit with his father beforehand and write what arrangements his dad preferred. When the time came they were able to grieve and not dwell on the arrangements.

When my son died, we didn’t know what to do or where to go. Granted we were in a state of shock but had it not been for my boss at that time, who happened to be a pastor, we were clueless. From what funeral home to have the wake, to the casket type, color, memorial cards, clothes for the deceased, etc. there were so many questions that we were not ready for. After looking at what was available we made our choices. Frankly, I just agreed at whatever. I was too consumed with grief to focus on those things. I think my husband made most of the choices and I just went along with it.

Richie_1

After the burial, I felt worst. I felt as if I had abandoned my son in the rain, cold and heat. Many might say it was just a body lying in a grave, but for me, it was more than just a body. He was my son. I felt so tense. The tension ran from my shoulders up towards my head and extended through my arms. My jaws were clenched so tight that my teeth hurt. My chest ached with every breath I took. Nothing helped the pain I felt. The Xanax numbed it but did not take it away. I cried every single day – in the morning, in the afternoon, while driving, while showering, at work, before going to sleep – at any time. I just wanted to bring my son back home.

Almost a year after his death, we, as a family, decided to exhume my son’s body, cremate him and bring him home on the first anniversary of his death, July 9. And, on the year after he was buried, July 12, we brought his ashes home. We had a small gathering with some family and friends to celebrate his life and the Pastor did the blessing of his ashes. We also enjoyed Richie’s favorite meal, dessert, and drinks.

Richie's Urn

I know that many people didn’t agree with what we did. There were too many opinions on the matter, especially from different religious groups. But I didn’t care. The important thing was that I felt at ease and content with my decision. It was as if the weight was lifted off my shoulders. My jaw relaxed, and I was finally able to breathe without feeling the pain in my chest. Plus, I truly believe that the Lord would not have given me the peace I felt once we cremated Richie’s remains and brought him home if it were not meant to be or if it were wrong.

That was when we realized that we needed to have a plan. It’s a gruesome topic for some but if you think about it, it’s better to have a plan in writing than to try to figure things out at the last minute while grieving. Like my coworker said, it helps to avoid confrontation within the family on what needs to be done. Should you be buried, or would you prefer cremation; where to be buried or where to scatter the ashes; what music to play and so many other questions. If we plan these things ahead of time we will spare our loved ones from the agony of having to go through this. In the case of the loss of parents, it will avoid any conflicts that may arise if one sibling prefers cremation while the other wants to bury the deceased parents. The siblings would just have to honor the parents wish, as simple as that.

Yes, it might be a gruesome topic to talk about but for the tranquility of all involved, it should be discussed. What are your thoughts?


 

Not Just An Ordinary Day

La Pieta by Michelangelo

The image above is the sculpture of La Pieta in the Vatican sculpted by Michelangelo. It shows the Virgin Mary holding the dead body of Christ after his crucifixion, death, and removal from the cross, but before he was placed in the tomb. It is behind a plexiglass to avoid damage to the sculpture, hence the glass union line from top to bottom. I chose this image because I can relate to the pain Mary felt with the death of her son.


July 9 is just another day, not a holiday nor a recognized day of some kind, but just another ordinary day. That is for others but not for me. July 9 marks the “angelversary” of my son’s death – 11 years now. Time sure does go by fast. But, unlike the saying, “Time heals everything,” guess what? It doesn’t. There are things that cannot heal, and the loss of a son/daughter is one of them. At least for me.

It is not that I dwell day and night on the fact that my son died. Nor do I live anticipating for this day to come, or his birthday. It’s something more and it’s uncontrollable. It’s the love we, as Mom’s, so strongly feel towards our children. Simple things can trigger the emotional rollercoaster, some so simple as looking at a calendar.

Last week while sitting at my desk at work, I was getting ready to update my calendar with future tasks reminders when it struck me. Right there in front of me was “Monday, July 9,” which caught me by surprise. It was there, glaring at me, tearing me apart. It felt like a dagger straight between my ribs and into my heart. All the memories of that night flashed through my mind and the tears started to build. What were just mere seconds of staring at the date on the calendar felt like hours. Our last conversation, our last hug, and the last “I love you” swept through my mind. The smile that I had before seeing the date just melted away. I felt the sadness building up. But I didn’t speak to anyone about it and I didn’t text my husband as I usually do when I feel the sadness creeping over me. I just turned towards my son’s photo sitting on the credenza hutch behind me and whispered “I love you and I miss you” and continued to work. The more I tried to concentrate on my work, the more the thought of my son crept into my mind. I could see his beautiful face just smiling at me. It was as if he were telling me, “Mom, it’s okay. I’m fine.” And I know he is okay but, try to explain it to my heart which doesn’t understand it. My heart only knows that there’s a permanent hole there which cannot be healed.

Grieving Mother Free Loving Memory Cards to Share

I don’t think there is a grieving mom who can say that she has healed after the loss of her child. Oh, I’ve had a person tell me that I will heal because based on her experience, after losing the love of her life through a divorce, she has fully recovered. Yes, she compared her divorce to the loss of my child. I wish it were that easy, but it’s not. She was able to rebuild her life with a new husband, but grieving parents cannot replace a son/daughter and that love does not subside. It’s impossible for it to subside because each child is loved unconditionally. Grieving parents may or can have other children, but each child is their own person. Therefore, no one child can replace another. There’s nothing – absolutely nothing – in this world that can replace the loss of a child.

I know I will continue to grieve for the rest of my life and it’s because of the immense love I feel for my son. I also know that it’s okay to feel the way I do. I feel that my grief makes me work through the everyday battles we come across. I use it to make me stronger because, my thought is, if I am going through life without my son, I can get through anything. For me, there has been no worst pain. And I know that every time I feel that grief, it is a sign of what a loving mother I was to my child and still am to my other two children. This strength I owe to the Lord and am grateful to Him every day.

Memorial Jewelry
Memorial Jewelry


So, will I work on Monday, July 9? I don’t know. It all depends what my heart is feeling on that day. I will prepare to stay home and celebrate his life with my family – maybe cook his favorite meal and remember all the great times we had together. Yes, July 9 is an ordinary day for everyone else but not for me. It is a commemorative day which will stay with me for the rest of my life, and I thank the Lord for not abandoning me in these moments.

To my son in heaven, “I will never stop loving you or forget you. May you rest in peace.” ~ Love Mom


Diary Of A Grieving Mother’s Heart 
by Debbie Centeno

Throughout these past years, I wrote about my journey through grief. My ups and downs, rants, joys, struggles and what I did to reach the peace I now feel. Diary Of A Grieving Mother’s Heart can be found on Amazon in both, paperback and Kindle version.

A Mom Never Stops Grieving

Today I had an emotional moment at work. I was in my office when I overheard a conversation between a couple of co-workers and the volunteer. They were talking about a teenager who was learning to drive. As I heard it, I began to imagine my children and when they learned to drive, especially my forever 20-year-old angel in heaven, Richie.

Richie was 16-years-old when I began to teach him how to drive. At that time, we had a Dodge Caravan so that was what he began with. He didn’t have his learner’s permit yet but since he was so anxious to learn, I began giving him lessons. Thank God I did. Little did I know that those lessons would someday come in handy.

I was not well health wise and there were times when out of the blue I’d develop a high fever with chills. But life had to continue. My husband worked, I worked, and the kids needed to get to and from school. During the 6-month period that I went through medical treatment, I continued to work as much as I could. Some days after leaving work to pick up my children from school the fever and chills would kick in. I felt so sick. I remember a few times arriving at school to pick up my children and my wonderful 16-year-old son, Richie, would ask me if he could drive us home so I can rest. The first couple of times I didn’t allow it. But one day I could not take it any longer and asked him to drive us home. He was happy to do so and drove the 14 miles from school to our home. I remember sitting in the passenger seat and staring at this amazing young man and how he stepped up to help his mother. I felt so proud of him. He got us home safe and I will never forget his beautiful broad smile of pride. I, too, was proud of him. I don’t remember if I told him at that moment, but I know I told him many times afterward.

As the memories of the past came to my mind, I felt that same pride for him, but at the same time the tears began to flow, and sadness filled my heart. It never fails to happen. Memories of my beloved son bring me happiness but sadness too. And I can’t help it. But it’s okay. As my husband and co-worker reminded me today, I will never stop grieving the loss of my son for as long as I live.


Diary of a Grieving Mother’s Heart

A Mother’s Day Reflection

128de10c7c7d37db502f7cfa400fea67--angels-in-heaven-i-miss-you

Mother’s Day is this Sunday. I don’t have to look at a calendar to know that the feelings I’ve been having these past few days are a product of grief. I look at my beautiful daughter and as I listen to her speak I can’t help but feel so proud of the beautiful young lady we’ve raised. A smart young lady who graduated college and is on her way to a successful life. She is loving, sweet, funny, determined and drop dead gorgeous. I thank God for giving me the daughter I always wanted.

Then I look at my youngest son, the one who gave me such a headache growing up. The one who got a detention 3 out of 5 days of every week in school. The one who some teachers said wouldn’t amount to anything but is now a successful young man who rose to a management position in less than two years after graduating from college. And I feel so proud of him, of his wisdom and charisma. He is still hyper but super funny, sweet and a handsome young man. I thank God every day for giving me such a wonderful son.

9d6a95bf366aa37d1282a32e9b6e38bd--loss-quotes-angel-babiesAnd, I can’t help but think about my oldest son, Richie – my forever 20-year-old angel in heaven. I think about him daily. I miss talking and listening to him just like I talk and listen to my daughter and younger son. I miss hugging him just like I hug my daughter and younger son. And when we go out as a family, I miss having Richie sit among us. Many times, I wonder if he would have gotten married, had children and completed college. Many times, I wonder what it would’ve been like if he were alive. Richie was a good young man, so I don’t doubt he would’ve continued the right path. Sometimes I just imagine what it would’ve been like. I don’t know if it’s normal and if any other grieving Moms imagine or experience the same. I think about all the good times, the bad, the happy and the sad. I think about our conversations, his silliness, his childhood and all the little things about him that never left my mind. It’s a mixture of happy and sad feelings and sometimes happy and sad tears. I miss him so much.

08d0b5b0662d5b72aa5fb4cf489d04c8Know that even though you see me smile and laugh, I have a hole in my heart that will never heal. Know that my happy face and smile is a mask to cover up the feelings of wanting something so bad and knowing that there is not even a glimpse of hope of getting it, other than when I die. Know that when I see other mothers surrounded by their children, the feeling of not ever having that takes over me. I can’t help it, but I smile. I smile because I feel happy for that Mom and I wish her only the best. And I pray that she will never have to experience this heart wrenching pain that will change her life forever. But, at the same time, I’m grateful. Grateful for the children I have now with me. Grateful for the wonderful son God gave me. Grateful for the time He allotted for me to spend with my son. And grateful because, even though Richie is not physically here with me, he is in spirit.

So, on this Mother’s Day, make sure to hug your child and let them know how much you love them. Make sure to allot time for your children because you never know when it will be the last. Mom’s love unconditionally so let them know. Me, well besides smothering my daughter and youngest son with love, I will continue to pray that no other mother experiences the pain of losing their child.

 

I still conserve the last Mother’s Day card he gave me.

Happy Mother’s Day to all!

 

 

 

I Feel So Blessed

I feel so blessed. After the release of my book, Diary of a Grieving Mother’s Heart I didn’t know what to expect. I was a bit frightened, but if I wanted to reach those grieving the loss of a loved one, I needed to be brave.

You see, everything in my book is based on my experience and I have witnesses for most. The only thing I omitted was some names to protect privacy, but it is a true story. For some, it might be a bit controversial because it doesn’t agree with their religious views. But, I know that for those who are grieving the loss of a loved one, it can be a sign of hope and that is my goal. If I could help one grieving soul get to that place of peace that I am in, then I am happy. This was what pushed me out of my comfort zone and I don’t regret it.

I’ve received so many beautiful message via instant messaging on Facebook, e-mails, text messages and even calls of people, that were truly touched by my book. According to their accounts, some read it in two hours or less because they couldn’t put it down, while others had to pause for a few minutes, hours or days because they felt it really touched them to a point of tears. Some said I forgot to mention they needed tissues to read it.

I’ve been told that it really brought a new perspective in life to them. Other’s mentioned that they were unaware of what NOT to say to a grieving person and are guilty of saying the wrong things – all out of good intentions though – they just didn’t know. Every time I receive feedback from my book it makes me so happy that I get emotional.  I took a leap and published it not knowing what to expect.  I didn’t know if the responses would open up that wound, but I never doubted that, just as God pulled me through my grief, He would make sure to shield me on my new endeavor. That is why I feel so blessed!

Traveler Wows is Born!

My travel experiences have been wonderful.  From airports, airlines,  restaurants, hotels, sightseeing to different cultures and most have been wonderful. Therefore, I thought it’d be best if I created a travel blog where I can share my journeys.

My new blog is called Traveler Wows. “Why that name” you’re probably asking. It wasn’t easy coming  up with a travel blog name.  It had to be easy to spell, catchy, related to travel and most important of all, it had to be available. Every thing I tried was already taken. I spent almost two hours researching for a name that was available, catchy and travel related.

After a while trying and frustration kicking in, I began thinking about my trips. Every time an amazing image, like the Colosseum, came across my mind, I remembered my reaction, as well as my family’s reaction. The word I mostly heard was, “WOW.” Then I began to think of all the delicious first-time meals we had and what was the first thing  said when presented with such fabulous plates and it was also a “WOW” moment. But, it didn’t end there. In order to take a break from the researching, I then began checking my e-mails when I came across one from a travel company which was offering a last minute trip to India for $699! WOW, that was a great deal but we needed to act soon. At that moment, I told my husband about it and his reaction was, “WOW.” That’s when it hit me.  The word “WOW” needed to be part of that name. I finally knew what my new travel blog would be called and that’s when Traveler Wows was born.

A “WOW” Moment

At Traveler Wows you will learn about my trips and experiences. I will share the stories of the good and bad. I will provide tips and suggestions on restaurants to visit, hotel reviews, airline reviews, landmarks, how to avoid the lines and much more. My goal is to WOW you with Traveler Wows!

Overwhelmed with Joy

courtesy of pexels.com

I finally released my book, Diary of a Grieving Mother’s Heart, on Amazon. I didn’t know what to expect and frankly, I was a bit worried of people’s reaction. I know that should not bother me. Part of putting myself out there is accepting all constructive criticism – good and bad.

This book is not a figment of my imagination. It entails all the love I have for my son, my fears, joys, sadness, faith, anger and method of survival to get to the place I’m at now. It wasn’t easy or fast and there were many ups and downs. But, just hearing and reading what my family, friends, coworkers, acquaintances and even strangers have said about my book have left me overwhelmed with so much joy.

I feel that I’m at a good place right now. Don’t get me wrong, I still do grieve my son. I miss him every day. But, I’m at a place of peace where I can talk about him with a smile and I can view photos of him and feel his love. My main goal for this book was to be able to reach as many grieving mom’s as possible. I want all grieving mom’s to know that the spirit never dies, and if there is any way that I can provide that glimpse of hope to a grieving mom, then I’ve accomplished my goal which makes me happy.

Blessings to all!

Life is 10% what happens to us and 90% how we react to it. ~Dennis P. Kimbro

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