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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.

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

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?


 

Dreams That Comfort and Are Full of Sorrow

I had a dream. It involved my husband and three children. In the dream my children were still young – about 9, 8, and 7 years old. They looked just as they did back then. Richie was just as curious and extrovert, my daughter with her big sweet cheeks and a tremendous appetite even though she was thin, and my youngest was his loving and hyper self. I don’t know what the dream was really about. All I remember was that we were happy to be together and that my husband and I enjoyed watching our children run around, play and then come running to us with big hugs and kisses.

Even though I enjoyed my dream and was happy, I realized that it was just a memory, a beautiful memory that will always live with me. My heart feels partially happy, but there is an inevitable, non-healing hole where sadness seeps through.

The part that Richie took with him when he left this world and that I know will never seal again. Whenever I enjoy a moment of happiness, it becomes bittersweet because my thoughts always turn to, “If only Richie could enjoy this,” or “ Richie would have liked that,” and sadness takes the place of the hole. I can’t patch it up because nobody will ever be able to take his place. I know my two other children and husband feel the same way.  We only have our memories to live by. While many say that I should think of the good times we spent with Richie, it doesn’t mean that those memories will make us happy because sadness will immediately follow.

I had a dream last night that brought me happiness, but in the end, it also brought me sadness. Even though it’s been more than 10 years, I realize that it doesn’t matter how long it was.  My son will always be in my heart, and I will miss him forever.

Rest in peace my son. Mom loves you.


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.

 

Ugly Cactus Type Plant With Large Limbs

A few years ago, my Mom gave me a plant that she could no longer keep.  It was growing too big and climbing up the walls of her apartment complex.  I accepted the plant and brought it home.  It was planted in a 12” green planter.  It’s an ugly cactus type plant with large limbs that look like tentacles which attach themselves to whatever is nearby.  I placed the plant at the very back of our yard out of my sight.

One day, while working in the yard.  I looked at the plant and thought of throwing it away (see photos below).  It is so ugly, and the limbs are just dangling everywhere.  I did not know what to do with the plant.  I figured that I’d at least let my Mom know I didn’t want the plant, so I left it where it was until I spoke with Mom.  However, later that day while browsing through Facebook, I came across an article on a Dragon Fruit plant.  The article caught my attention because the plant on the photo looked a lot like my ugly plant with tentacles.

The plant in the article was called a Dragon Fruit Tree.  Dragon Fruit is an exotic fruit which is difficult to find and quite expensive.  Ancient Chinese legends say, “The Dragon Fruit was created thousands of years ago by a dragon in battle.  During the battle, a dragon blew a burst of fire containing the fruit.  The Chinese believed that those who consumed the pulp of the dragon fruit were given the strength, and immortality of the dragon.  The health benefits and delicious flavor of this exotic fruit are legendary.  Dragon Fruit plants are easy to grow in containers as long as you provide a strong support structure.  Dragon Fruit offers excellent nutritional and health benefits.  It is packed with high concentrations of antioxidants that boost the immune system.” (http://dragonfruitplants.com/index.html).

After reading about the Dragon Fruit plant, I decided to keep it and changed its container.  I re-potted the plant into a larger 22” pot and had my husband build a trellis for it.  From that moment on I began caring for it differently.  I was curious to try the fruit. I had never seen the fruit before, nonetheless tasted it until my trip to Spain.  While in Barcelona we visited La Boquería market which is known as one of the best markets in the world.  While strolling through the aisles of fresh fish, meat, vegetables, and fruits, there it was, fresh-cut Dragon Fruit ready to eat!  Of course, I had to taste this exotic fruit that I had the privilege to own in my backyard.  I was so glad I kept the plant.  The fruit was delicious and refreshing.  What a delight.

Fast forward a few months now, I saw that my Dragon Fruit tree was blooming.  I anxiously waited for the flower to open and every morning walked outside to check on it.  Then one night I happened to glance towards the Dragon Fruit tree, and it had the most beautiful big white flower.  It turns out that the Dragon Fruit tree will open its flower during the night.  I only saw it open for two nights though.  I’m not sure if it had been opening before I caught a glimpse of it.  Right above the flower was a bump where the fruit began to grow.  Every day it became larger and started ripening from a beautiful green to a bright pinkish-red.  And, every day I checked to see if it was ready to harvest.

The day finally arrived when the Dragon Fruit was ready to be picked.  It was soft to the touch, so I tucked on it a few times, and it came right off.  I rinsed it out and carved into to it.  Its rubbery red skin peeled off very quickly.  Its soft white flesh was full of tiny black seeds, and it was just as I expected – a delicious sweet taste that melts in your mouth.  It was well worth the wait.  Lucky me there were four more on the plant ready to blossom and ripen.

My little ugly-looking plant with tentacles turned out to be a beautiful Dragon Fruit tree which I am proud to own.

 

After transplanting into a larger pot.
The first bloom
Dragon Fruit in full bloom
Close up of Dragon Fruit bloom
Bloom gone, fruit bearing
Beginning stages of ripening fruit
Mid stages of ripening fruit
Fully ripened Dragon Fruit
Ready to eat!