Category Archives: Spirituality

My beliefs and experiences

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.

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