Category Archives: Grief

How I dealt with grief

Being Grateful For Life Today to Celebrate a Birthday Tomorrow

Begin to look within, which starts by being grateful that you are alive today and maybe you will be able to celebrate another birthday.” ~ Debbie Centeno

Photography courtesy of Juan Pablo Arenas

Our Expectations

Yesterday, September 8, I attended two different events. The first one which was during the day was a memorial service/celebration of life and the second one, during the evening, was a birthday. I’m pretty sure you probably think that the memorial service was an older person, while the birthday was for a younger one. That’s okay because it is natural to feel this way.

But, let me clarify. The memorial service/celebration of life was for a 12-year-old child. A sweet boy who didn’t have a chance at living a normal life because of a devastating condition he suffered. A child that, we all expect to be able to run around, play sports, enjoy the many activities and attractions for children. To grow into a young man, fulfill his childhood dreams, become a good citizen and have a family of his own.

The birthday party we attended was for a 70-year-old person.  She is a healthy woman that raised three great children who surprised her with this celebration with Mariachis and all. Even though there have been some struggles, as we all have struggled in our lives, but she is blessed to reach the age of 70.  I do wish her many more years of health and happiness. So, what’s your point? – you might ask.

See the Irony?

As I mentioned above, some might be imagining an elderly’s memorial service; it’s just natural. From a very young age, we learn that when we grow old, we will die. We don’t think about dying at a young age – especially being a child. We are not conditioned even to contemplate the idea of a child dying. So it always comes as a shock. However, when it’s an adult person – especially elderly, it is expected.

Personalized Crystal Gifts

Never Take Life for Granted

We are here today and don’t know about tomorrow. We must be grateful for all we have. I have heard so many times how people complain about not having enough money; not having the latest fashion; not having the new technological gadget they so much want; how someone made them lose their temper, and so on. Every day I hear more complaints than gratefulness.

I’m not talking about my family environment; I’m talking about everywhere – anywhere. If you turn on the news, it’s 95% bad (and I think I’m modest here); the same goes for social media. While driving to work early in the morning, I see it on the streets. People in a rush to get to their destiny, some blocking others from going into their lane. Others are driving too close to vehicles in a menacing way. Then there are the ones we interact with daily either while shopping, eating out, work and even socializing! Do they realize they have another day to live? Maybe they should take one-minute a day to be grateful for the gift of life. This action will emanate positive energy into the world, which will, in turn, bring positive things into their lives.

My Point Is

We must focus on living the life given with gratefulness thus enjoying what time we have on Earth. Everyone has struggled. There are good times and bad times. Learn to look for the good in the bad moments and life will be more comfortable and enjoyable. Some might be thinking, “Well you haven’t gone through any struggles!” My response? Yes I have. Just like any other human, I’ve struggled. My biggest heartbreak was the loss of my oldest son. But I did not let it define me. I learned how fragile life is and I learned to be grateful. I learned to take a negative situation and turn it around by looking for the positive in it, thus making me a happier person.

Happiness Begins Within Ourselves

I urge you to reflect on this and make a better life for yourself. Happiness begins within ourselves. No one can make us happy. Begin to look within, which starts by being grateful that you are alive today and maybe you will be able to celebrate another birthday.

Many blessings to all, may you live a long, abundant life.


Diary of A Grieving Mother’s Heart

by Debbie Centeno

Ten years of journaling my grief, anger, sadness, and joys now available in Kindle version and paperback on Amazon.

He Was God’s Child and I Was Chosen as His Mom

I Found the Book

While clearing out some clutter in our home office I came across a book called, Food for the Soul – A “Best of Bereavement poetry collection.” I opened it to the page that affected me the most and began to read. The one that answered my questions and made me realize that I was very much-loved especially through my grieving. So I decided to share my story with you.

The book came in the mail during the first few weeks after my son’s death. It had no sender name or information. At that moment, I was grieving heavily and was upset that God had taken my child from me. I questioned God why did He take my child? What had I done wrong? My tears were tears of desperation. These tears came from within my heart and soul. The cry that was heard from afar as the pain tore through my entire body. I needed that cry, I needed to let it out. It was within that time frame when I received this book.

Personalized Memoroal Jewelry

I opened the book wherever – not at the beginning. It happened to be page 44 where there’s a poem by Edgar Guest called,  To All Parents. As I read, I felt the hand of God touch my soul and I understood many things. Even though I was still grieving I was able to understand many things in my life and my anger diminished. The more I reflected on the poem and compared it to my life, the more the anger diminished. My selfish attitude began to transform into one of gratitude. Yes, it is hard to understand how could I feel gratitude after my son’s death. Maybe, after you read the poem, you too will understand.

To All Parents by Edgar Guest

I’ll lend you for a little time a child of mine, He said.
For you to love the while he lives and mourn when he is dead.

It may be six or seven years, or twenty-two or three,
But will you, till I call him back, take care of him for Me?

He’ll bring his charms to gladden you and should his stay be brief,
You’ll have his lovely memories as solace to your grief.

I cannot promise he will stay since all from earth return,
but there are lessons taught down there I want this child to learn.

I’ve looked the wide world over in my search for teachers true,
And from the throngs that crowd life’s lanes, I have selected you.

Now will you give him all your love nor think the labor vain,
Nor hate Me when I come to call to take him back again?

I fancied that I heard them say, Dear Lord, Thy will be done.
For all the joy Thy child shall bring, the risk of grief we’ll run.

We’ll shelter him with tenderness, we’ll love him while we may.
And for the happiness we’ve known forever grateful stay.

But should the angels call for him much sooner than we’d planned,
We’ll brave the bitter grief that comes and try to understand.


Diary of a Grieving Mother’s Heart
by Debbie Centeno

The death of my son was the worst thing to happen to me. For the six months that followed, I felt numb, depressed and lonely. I didn’t want to continue living. Even though I had my daughter and younger son, it did not make me feel any better. I did not know what to do to make them feel better. How could I continue on without him? What would I do to become whole again? I had two choices. I could either succumb to depression or live for him. I decided to live for him. I decided that I wanted to do what he could not and so my journey began. I learned a lot from my son through the memories of our conversations. Even in death, he was teaching me what I did not know. I learned to live from my son. And, with this journey also began the spiritual connection between my son and me.

We Exhumed and Cremated Our Son’s Body

Quotes-Life--Sorrow-quote--9748
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!

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!

I Have a Lucky Monkey

I have a yellow monkey. It has a button on his head with 3 special words. He is 10 years old. It’s from one of those vending machines where you pay $1.00 and try to grab the stuffed animal with a claw. It is not an expensive or good quality stuffed animal, but it is special to me and I will tell you why.

When my son Richie (RIP) was alive, he would constantly say that he was going to win the lottery because he had the lucky numbers in his head.  One day, we were sitting at the dinner table eating our meal. The TV was on the news channel. The news anchor was commenting on the lottery jackpot winner when out of nowhere Richie mistakenly said, “I’m going to win the lottery because I have the lucky monkey in my head.” The way he said it so seriously was too funny and we all burst out laughing. From that day on, every time Richie said that he was going to win the lottery, we would mock him by saying, “…because you have the lucky monkey in your head?” He didn’t like it, but he laughed with us anyway. Richie passed away and never won the lottery.

On Saturday, May 10, 2008 and about a year and a half after Richie’s death, my husband was working the night shift at a local restaurant that had one of those vending machines. According to his account and another employee, my husband happened to see the yellow monkey trapped underneath quite a few stuffed animals. He claimed that it just caught his eye and he could not stop thinking about it. So, when business slowed down, he approached the machine and placed his $1. He was determined to grab the yellow monkey. His coworkers told him it was not possible because it was trapped too far down. My husband insisted he was going to grab it, so his coworkers placed a bet that he could not. My husband’s focus was entirely on grabbing that yellow monkey. It took a few dollars but he was able to grab it.

So, why is it so important to me? That Saturday night was the day before Mother’s Day. I was still grieving heavily the death of my son. When my husband arrived the next morning (Mother’s Day) from work and gave me the monkey it made my day. You see, the 3 special words on the button on top of his head read, “Worlds Greatest Mom.” It made my day. My husband was lucky to have been able to grab the monkey from where it was located. I felt as if it were a gift from my son in heaven – he sent me his lucky monkey through his dad and for that, this yellow monkey will always hold a special place in my heart. He’s my lucky monkey.

The Happiest Moment in My Life

I was asked to write an essay on the happiest moment of my life. I always thought that the happiest moment in my life had been the birth of my children. It was undoubtedly one of the happiest moments but I discovered that there was another instance which involved my family as well. Unfortunately, it was following a tragic moment in my life, however, it helped me find the peace that I needed.

I was blessed with three wonderful children: two sons and a daughter. On July 9, 2007, at 11:17 p.m. I received a call which no parent wants to receive. My oldest son, Richie, was involved in a pedestrian accident and didn’t survive. He was 20 years old, a sophomore in college and a good son. I was devastated, there is no pain worse than the loss of a child. I have often heard that the worst pain is giving birth. But that’s not true because that pain is immediately replaced with joy after having set eyes on our newborn. With the loss of a child, well, there are no words – nothing to replace the pain. I didn’t know where to turn, who to talk to or what to do.  For the following six months after Richie’s death, I lived in a zombie state of mind taking antidepressants every day. I didn’t want to see or talk with anyone. I became a hermit in my home hiding from my own children and husband. That was until the day of Richie’s birthday.

It was January 8, 2008. Richie would have turned 21 years old. I had requested the day off from work. I needed to be alone with my grief. My other two children were at school and work. My husband was at work as well. I slept in until about noon. I didn’t have any plans so there was no rush to get up. After showering I proceeded to the kitchen to take the antidepressants. I grabbed a cup of water and took out one of each of the pills. As I was about to pop them in my mouth I heard a soft voice very close to my left ear say, “Mom, you don’t need that.”

Those words stopped me from taking the pills. They were so clear. Somehow, I felt it was my forever 20-year-old angel in heaven who had whispered it to me and I found myself responding,  “You’re right Richie, I don’t need them.”

I threw the pills away and emptied the contents of the pill box in the trash can. On that day, I realized that I had a choice. I could live in sorrow and continue to take antidepressants for the rest of my life or I could live a great life for my son. If I were to live for Richie, I had to see the world the way he did. He didn’t worry about things he could not control. He always said there was no such thing as a coincidence. He was a very positive, outgoing person who always found the good in every bad. He wanted to live life to the fullest. That was the day I decided to make a change and I vowed to live for my son. I would do for him what he could not and I would begin by returning to college to complete what he had started. I knew he would be very proud of me. He would have wanted me to take control of my life and live. This was my opportunity to make my son proud of me like I was of him.

My first step was to attend grief counseling sessions. These sessions helped immensely allowing me to vent my frustration and cry away my sorrow without judgment. Then on February 8, 2008, I enrolled in college to complete what my son could not. This was my tribute to him. Even though my son’s major was Business Administration, I chose to major in Accounting. As a full-time student and employee, I dove into my books and was determined that I would, not only complete my degree, but I would do it with high honors. It was also therapeutic for me since it kept my mind busy. On July 2010, I completed an Associate’s Degree and graduated Suma Cum Laude. I didn’t attend graduation because my goal was not yet fulfilled. So, I enrolled again to continue towards my Bachelor’s Degree.  Finally, by July 2012, I had completed my Bachelor’s Degree.  I graduated Magna Cum Laude and I knew deep within my heart that Richie was proud of me.

It was Saturday, November 10, 2012. On this day, I would walk with my graduating class at the Orange County Convention Center. I felt so proud of myself. We arrived early, parked and proceeded to the hall where the ceremony was going to take place. We walked through the long corridor to the hall side by side. There was no one else walking by or near us. It was only my husband, youngest son, daughter and myself. I was at the far left next to the wall, my husband was at my right, my youngest son was to my husband’s right and my daughter was at my son’s right. However, there was a very strange feeling of someone else walking by me. It felt as if my son, Richie, was there with me between the wall and myself. I glanced to my left and saw nothing but I could feel him – his perfume, his big smile, his happiness, his energy – right next to me. It was such a strong feeling and it made me so happy. It accompanied me through the ceremony as well. I felt it again when I was called and walked up to receive my diploma. Richie was there right next to me. I felt it when they called out to all students who graduated Magna Cum Laude to stand up and Richie stood up with me. I knew it was him, my son. I knew that, even though he was not with us physically, he was indeed with us in Spirit. And I knew he was very proud of me.

So, when I think about what the happiest moment of my life was I know that there have been many happy moments. But this was the one moment which made me the happiest. I was happy because I achieved a goal with high honors. I was happy because I was the pride of my children and husband. I was happy because my 20-year-old angel in heaven somehow showed me that he was extremely proud of me. He also showed me that even though he is not physically here, he will always be with me in Spirit. And I was happy because the Lord showed me, once again, that the Spirit never dies just like it states in John 11:25-26; and that makes me happy.