This morning I lost my beautiful mother, Aida Salas Bustamante Rundquist, to a long and horrific battle with cancer. It doesn’t seem fair that my mother, who had a massive heart attack about 8 years ago and almost died then, should have to endure something so much worse. The full impact hasn’t hit me yet, as I was not with her at the end (because I live in another state), but I know that in my family, there will be a huge void that will not ever be filled. For 42 years, my mother was the heart and soul of the little house on Sanford Dr in Culver City, CA, and though my siblings and I don’t agree on much…on this fact I’m sure we can agree.
Though I was not with her at the end, I did visit her often during the span of her illness and my kids, husband and I were able to spend last week with her for one last time. There is a flood of memories rushing through my mind right now, so indulge me for a moment…
(My mom, my brother Edgar and me. I love my mom’s late 60’s, early 70’s style!)
My mom was proud of her Mexican heritage, but she became a proud American just shortly after I graduated high school, when she applied for U.S. citizenship in the 1980’s. I remember attending the ceremony and watching my mom proudly waving her American flag. It was very important to her to be able to vote in this country. Up until the last 3-4 weeks of her life, she was up to speed on all of the crazy election stuff that’s going on right now. I know she will miss being able to vote in this upcoming crucial election.
My mother came to this country not knowing a lick of English, but quickly set out to learn, often utilizing American soap operas to do so and befriending hippies to practice on! It would have been really easy for her to just stick with Spanish, since she was living in Southern California and the fact that my dad spoke fluent Spanish (due to his mission for the Mormon Church), but she wasn’t content to do so. She set out to learn to speak, read and write English successfully. Sometimes though, she would have a mix up (much to the amusement of her kids). For example, in high school, Ingrid and I went with friends to see the movie “Footloose”. She later asked, “How was the movie, “Shoelace?”. When we kids pointed out the mistake, she just laughed at herself. Sometimes she would just crack herself up and it would take quite a while for her infectious laugh to stop.
My mother was also a KICK-ASS cook. Two times a year she would make her famous tamales for Halloween and Christmas and shared them with the neighborhood. It got to the point where the neighbors were anxiously waiting for her wonderful tamales. Her salsa also, cannot be rivaled…I don’t care what anyone says!
(Playing with my sister, Ingrid, at a beautiful park in Inglewood, CA)
My mom had a bohemian, artistic, romantic and passionate heart. I have vivid memories of her singing at the kitchen sink while she washed dishes. She also taught herself to sew (without a pattern!) and we kids benefited with the BEST Halloween costumes. Through her talents, we were able to transform ourselves into Indiana Jones, Alice In Wonderland, Snow White, Spiderman, Batman, Jaws, Princess Leia and so on. (Mom and me. That’s Venice Blvd. in the background)
My mother was a complex woman, who took pleasure in the very simplest of things. She loved to paint and garden and took great pride in her front and backyard creations. She also LOVED a good burger and a good mambo! I think that the two things that hit her the hardest about her illness was the fact that she could no longer keep her garden up to her standards and she could no longer enjoy the food she loved. She also missed being able to play hostess, which she was so good at! Anyone who came to her door was treated as if they were royalty and were fed as such!
My mother also had unconditional love for her children. Even when we chose to do, say, or live in a way she didn’t agree with, she continued to love us unconditionally. In fact, despite my mother’s heart attack, my mother did, in fact, own a perfect, loving, empathetic heart. My mother has a strong faith of the Mormon (LDS) church and when she was younger she served in callings for her church. As time passed, though, she preferred to fly under the radar when she served humanity and practiced the true love of Christ. She often went out to dispense blankets and coats to the homeless, not shirking to give out hugs too.
(A park in Inglewood, CA)
(With my first born, Keegan James)
My dear mother, I will not see you put in the ground in a hermetically sealed box because you are not in there. You live on when I look at these faces…the faces of your beautiful grandchildren who you have left a permanent and beautiful mark on.
You live on in the people whose lives you touched. You live on when I hear Chloe talk excitedly about a plant or cooking. Your life print is so strong, that the memories I have of you in life are stronger than the memories I will have of your death, I am certain. I’m no longer a practicing Mormon, but for you, mom, I will hold on to your belief in the afterlife, and instead of viewing your death as an end, I choose to view it as a beginning. And instead of saying “goodbye,” I shall say, “Until we meet again.”