Category Archives: Spirituality

My beliefs and experiences

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 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!

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.

Emotional Harp Concert

Today, I had the pleasure of seeing harpist Jan Jennings give a solo concert with her beautiful gold harp at the Morrison United Methodist Church. Jan is an award winning professional harp player in the Orlando area with more than 25 years of harp playing.  She played Silent Night, Hark, The Herald Angels Sing, Silver Bells, Winter Wonderland, I’ll Be Home for Christmas and a few others.  It sounded so peaceful and angelical. Now I see why angels are often portrayed with harps.

Jan’s golden harp

Jan’s harp was gold and stood tall on the chancel. With its golden sparkle it looked majestic – such a beautiful instrument. She spoke about the harp giving us basic information. Did you know that harps have pedals just like a piano? I didn’t know that – well, there really isn’t much I know about a harp anyway.  I also did not know that the harp is one of the oldest known instruments of all times.

Returning to the concert, it was very relaxing and quite easy to immerse myself in the music. It really hit me when she played “I’ll Be Home for Christmas.” All of a sudden it was like I was seeing my forever 20-year-old angel in heaven standing next to her. Tears began streaming down my cheeks. It was overwhelming. I’ve had my son, Richie, on  my mind quite often lately. These emotions have a life of their own striking when you least expect it, especially during the holidays. But, I am grateful to the Lord for giving me the chance of experiencing his presence at the concert with such a beautiful song. And I am thankful to Jan for playing it so beautifully.

Bless be all during the holidays and every day.

Ten Years of Grieving

I know the true meaning of motherly love. I know what it is to love deeply. I know the true meaning of missing someone so bad that it hurts. I know because I experience it every day.

It’s been 10 years since my son, Richie, passed away. I know many people expect me to be over his death by now and quite frankly, I thought I’d be too. But that’s not the case. Every day I wake up with the intention of living life to the fullest for my son. Every day I thank the Lord for choosing me to be his Mom. Every day I thank the Lord for giving me good children. But every day my heart aches to hear my son’s voice again, to spend time with him and hug him. And, as the holiday’s approach it gets harder.

My children, son-in-law, husband and self.

A few weeks ago, my family and I traveled to Italy and while there, my husband and I renewed our wedding vows in the St. Mark’s Basilica in Venice. It was a special place and moment. Richie loved Venice and wanted to visit the “streets of water” as he called them when he was small. But that was not meant to be. So, when our family vacation fell during the same week of our 33rd wedding anniversary, we thought it’d be a great opportunity for us to solidify what we promised 33 years ago. It was sort of a tribute from us (my husband, daughter, son and self) to my oldest son, Richie.

St. Mark’s Basilica in Venezia

It was a small service held on the same day I got married, November 22, at 11:00 a.m. Monseñor Giuseppe Camilotto performed the service and blessing. Afterwards, my children and son-in-law walked up to us. Mons. Giuseppe pointed to them and asked, “I vostri bambini?” I signaled that only two of them were and showed him my necklace with Richie’s photo and let him know that my eldest died. Monseñor placed both his hands over his chest and with deep sorrow gave us his blessings and a hug. You could see the sorrow he felt. Of course, it made me teary eyed. He then addressed those attending the service letting them know it was our 33rd wedding anniversary and that two of our three children were present and the oldest died. Everyone was very polite, showed their affection and congratulated us. We then proceeded to light a candle for Richie. It was a beautiful moment, but it didn’t stop the roller coaster of emotions from emerging.

Husband and I with Monseñor Giuseppe Camilotto.

Last night I had a dream with Richie. In my dream he was alive but missing. I desperately searched high and low to find him. I wanted to hug him, kiss him, talk with him – just spend time with my son – but I couldn’t locate him. I didn’t know where to look. Then, I had a mere glimpse of him standing up spraying water onto a car. He was thin, frail, balding and had a horrible case of acne on his forehead. He looked nothing like my son but in the dream, he was. However, I was not able to get to him. It was as if I was peeking through a hole at I don’t know what or where and that was it. Usually dreaming with my son makes me feel happy and helps me ease the pain a little but last night’s dream did not. If anything, it made the feeling of missing him worst. Yes, I know I need to think of the happy moments. But unless you’ve experienced the loss of a son/daughter you would never be able to understand these feelings. Heck, even I don’t understand them.

I’ve found that writing about my feelings and experience helps me relieve the pain for a while. If I don’t I will continue to have these tears building up and rolling down my cheeks. Could it be because the holidays are around? Maybe, but then again, a mother’s love has no limits, time or age. At least mine don’t and I don’t anticipate to stop grieving ever. If at 10 years the pain is still there and the wound in my heart has not healed, it will never heal. But all in all, I am thankful to the Lord for giving me such wonderful human beings to raise as my own and a loving husband.

Missing my son… love you so much.

Lighting a candle for Richie
Lighting a candle for Richie
Lighting a candle for Richie
Lighting a candle for Richie.

God Always Has My Back

The holidays are fast approaching and for those of us who have lost a loved one it stirs up emotions. That has been my case these past few days. But today, God cheered me up and made my day a wonderful one.

The church is one of the sponsors for the Salvation Army’s Angel Tree Program. One of the church volunteers, Marjorie, was looping a string on the Angel Tree tags to hang them on the tree. I was curious, so I stopped by her desk and asked what she was doing. She went on to explain the program  and how it works. She mentioned that each tag has a child’s name with information such as  age, favorite color, their needs with sizes and their desired Christmas gifts. The tags are hung on a Christmas tree and members and friends can select them, purchase the gifts, and return the gifts to the Angel Tree. Maybe I’ll grab one I thought and proceeded to my office.

Once in my office I called my husband and told him about the Angel Tree Program. We decided to participate.  After our call ended, I thought about my angel in heaven. He’s been on my mind a lot lately.  God knows how much I miss him. “I can’t get Richie a gift, but I can get a gift for a young child and make their Christmas a happy one,” I thought.

I returned to the reception area and asked the volunteer, “When can I grab my Angel Tree tag?” and there it was. The tag read “Ricardo,” not “Richard”, but “Ricardo.” It was staring right at my face on the very top of the pile, I just stared at it in shock. The volunteer was oblivious of what was happening. She said, “Well I found a little girl’s tag if you want it.” I responded, “You know what, I’m going to take this one right here.” Look at the name, it says Ricardo. My son’s name was Ricardo” and I proceeded to explain to her what had just happened. She smiled at me and said, that’s God’s way of letting you know your son is always with you and that you can indeed get a gift for Ricardo.

Tears were already filling my eyes. I felt that God was listening to me and letting me know that Richie is always with me. God always has my back. Thank you Lord for such a beautiful message.

If you’re interested in adopting a child for Christmas visit  https://www.tsamm.org/angeltree/adopt.dpi.