Sunday, August 24, 2014

My Mother...My Greatest Teacher

For much of my life I've looked to women in the world that inspired me with strength, courage, integrity, idealism, compassion, and love. I've read their books or books written about them. I've seen their documentaries and listened to countless interviews. I've kept volumes of their quotes on paper and computer. I am grateful to all these amazing female forces of nature, from Dr. Maya Angelou to Joan of Arch. They have lifted me when I was down and encouraged me when life looked bleak.

As the years have passed I've gotten older and wiser. While I'm still in awe and gratitude to the many extraordinary female role models I've found throughout my life, one in particular stands out among mother.

I had to look no further than her radiantly familiar green eyes to find all of the qualities in any of my heroines. My mother faced challenges in life that seem insurmountable to me. She showed courage and faith in the face of terrifying circumstances and all the while protecting me, her little girl. Here is a tiny bit of my mother's story, I share it for her birthday. I share it to let her know that she is my first, last and best Women's Empowerment Teacher. I share it because she showed me firsthand what it is to be an indomitable woman. I share it in hopes it may inspire you too.

My mother has always been about helping those in need. In fact many would say that is here defining characteristic. As a teen she would leave her home in the city (Havana) for the summer school break. She would travel for hours on a bus until the paved road ended then she would walk for miles on a dirt road until she found the small settlement of farmers she was to stay with for the summer. She was there as a volunteer teacher. She taught the adults and the children alike how to read, write and do arithmetic. She slept in a hammock outdoors and dealt with tarantulas and rats as nightly guests.  

Her wedding was also an ideological stand for her faith. Cuba's government forbade any type of church worship or the worship of God in anyway. Priests, ministers, nuns, clergy and those that wanted to worship were in prisoned and churches were closed. But instead of choosing just a civil union, which was the mandate, she married both civilly and in the church. She and my father risked imprisonment or worse by doing something many of us take for granted. But for my mother her faith was more important than keeping with the statues-quo. As for my father, my mother and her faith were worth the risk.

The country's government had become oppressive and brutal by the time my mom was pregnant with me. Artists, professors, clergy, and any other dissenting voices where put in prison or disappeared into the night. People had to whisperer any feelings of discontent in their own homes. They feared that a neighbor might hear them and would turn them in. It could mean arrest for you and your family. Freedom of speech and freedom of religion were eradicated and those that protested or tried to speak up were silenced and made examples of.

It was into this nightmare of oppression that I was to grow up. My father couldn't stand to think of me growing up without a voice, without faith and in constant fear. He pleaded with my mother that once I was born we all needed to leave the country. He wanted his child to grow up in a free country. My mother was in her last semester of Medical School. In less than six months she would be a practicing physician, fulfilling her life's dream, when the opportunity came to try to leave. I was 2 1/2 years old and my mother a mere 23 years old when we boarded the plane that would take us away to eventual freedom but separate our family for 9 years.

The story from there is long with a multitude of plot twists and painful realizations. I watched my mother face insurmountable fears and humiliating prejudice with grace and strength. She not only found a way to survive but she learned to thrive. She gave her every waking moments to three things; loving God, protecting me and getting my dad out of Cuba.

When things got really hard we'd spend hours at church. My mother knelt in silence with her eyes closed but I could hear her faith and her pleas with my heart. She wrote letter after letter. Took meetings with anyone that would listen to her story. She heard "I'm so sorry for your family's situation and for what your husband is going through in Cuba but I can't help you" for years. She never gave up, on her faith or on freeing my dad. It took her almost 10 years but she finally found a way to reunite us in the United States. We were all finally able to enjoy the promise of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, together as a family.

Our family has grown from that day. I was blessed with a brother, a husband and two sons. While our lives have had their fair share of challenges we are still here and we are still standing. "We are", because of incredibly strong, immensely generous and unconditionally loving mom. She's a great reminder to me and now I hope to you as well, to keep your faith, do your part, share your heart and to never give up.

Thank you mama for all the good you do and for teaching us through your example to live with hope, faith and love.

You can find more information about my Women's Empowerment Organization at:
Website Women's Empowerment:
Website Kadan Martial Arts:
Poetry Musings Blog:

Thank you for honoring the feminine and thank you for visiting. Wishing you peace.