Tuesday, October 7, 2008

A Birthday Wish

Ms. Martinez (name changed) had a birthday yesterday. 

I met Ms. Martinez for the first time about a year and a half ago. She was 88 lbs, and so dehydrated we couldn't find a vein to stick. All of her hair was gone, and she had an old floral scarf wrapped around her little head. Her eyes were completely sunk in, and she could barely stand to greet us when we walked in the room. (No matter WHAT we said, and how hard we tried, she ALWAYS stood to greet us when we came in). The most disturbing thing about Ms. Martinez was her color. Let me tell you, we see lots of "colors" on a daily basis, but Grey is not one of them. Her little body was so poisoned by cancer, and the chemo, that she was literally grey. 

We immediately fell in love with this little lady. No matter how sick, how nauseated, how frail and tired she was, she was always the picture of kindness, and there was always a sweet sparkle in those sick eyes. She spoke Spanish only, and mine wasn't that swift at that point as I hadn't been in El Paso very long, but she made me feel like I came straight from Mexico City. She would sit patiently while I found the right (or close to right, or flat out wrong) word, and then speak extra slowly so I could have a shot (be it a long shot) at understanding. 

Last week I came across her chart while up to my nose in paperwork, and just happened to notice that her birthday was October 6. That evening, at the grocery store, I ventured into the Spanish language card section. It was at this point that I realized that I know absolutely NO proper Spanish. It became very apparent to me that this was not going to be as easy as I thought, so I started with the pictures and narrowed it down to, oh, about twenty. I moved on to words I knew like "esposo, esposa, hermano, hermana, hija, hijo", "husband, wife, brother, sister, daughter, son, etc.... And then there were four. So I picked the two "prettiest" ones and decided to have one of the girls at the clinic "censor" it  in the morning and translate so I could pick one.

Turns out they were both sweet and appropriate (pure luck) and we chose the one that said something like "If the sun is bright,  the breeze is pleasant, and your day is perfect then my wish for you on your Birthday has come true" (definite paraphrase) and then had a little verse from Proverbs at the bottom. It was SO SUPER cute, we all signed it, and I made lots of little hearts on the envelope. 

We pulled up to Ms. Martinez little apartment, and it could not have been a more beautiful day for her. After we opened the gate (and avoided the neighbor's dog) she spotted us and was headed down the front steps to greet us. I have to say that she smile on her face when she saw the card was one of the most rewarding sights I can remember. She was THRILLED! She was full of hugs and kisses and " Gracias' " and was so surprised to see us. 

She took us on a tour of her three room apartment. Not three bedroom, three room. Her living/bedroom, kitchen, and bathroom, all full of knick-knacks, pictures, rosaries, crosses, and knitting. She was so proud to show us her sweet little "casita". 

It will be  forever a sweet memory in my mind and heart. You see it was an extra special birthday for Ms. Martinez. For the first time in four years her cancer is in remission. She is 113 lbs, has her beautiful little head of hair back, her natural tan color, and those bright eyes that never gave up. 

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