This is a Spanish expression with no literal translation into English. We have it in Portuguese and we use it when we don’t really want to say goodbye to someone, when we know it’s not likely we’ll see each other again but still we want to leave that door open; it means maybe one day we’ll be together again.
It is something we say when we lose someone we love and the thought of a new meeting somewhere in another dimension gives us comfort. I believe that’s what my friend Rosario is feeling today, as she says goodbye to her mother who passed away yesterday.
Rosario is my dear Spanish friend of many years. She lives in Madrid but was born in a small city near Burgos, the historical capital of Castile. She went away to university and settled in Madrid where she has lived ever since, but she is very attached to her native city. Her mother lived there and so do most of her relatives and best friends. I have been there a number of times, the last of which for Rosario’s great fifty costume party for which we all had to dress according to the Roaring Twenties with the typical low-waist dresses, long pearl necklaces, feather headdresses and cigarette holders. The men wore black as gangsters or wore white suits as in and The Great Gatsby. In the end we all sang karaoke and it was a truly unforgettable party, superbly organised by Rosario.
Mother and daughter
I believe I met Rosario’s mother on one of these occasions. She was a petite elderly lady, dressed in black as widows of older generations do in most countries of Southern Europe; she had a look of determination about her that showed she was still very much in control, regardless of the limitations imposed by her age.
Over the years she decayed, and I could see Rosario was increasingly worried bout her. She drove the 250 quilometres from Madrid to her home town every other weekend, sometimes every week as there were always issues with her strong willed Mom. Whenever she was there she spent most of the time keeping her company, even if in the last years her mother dozed most of the time. How often I called and she told me she was with her mother, making the most of a time she knew wouldn’t last.
And it didn’t. Yesterday, as I was preparing to come to Madrid and enjoy the catch up dinner we always have when I’m around, I got her message telling me her sad news.
Now Rosario is a strong woman, who has been through tough times always with a fighting spirit. It was terrible for her to see how her mother was losing her faculties – don’t I know it too well myself – and of late she could not tell the extent of her mother’s grasp of the situation. Even so, the loss of a parent is always a terrible blow, no matter how old and frail they are. Fortunately we tend to remember our parents as they were when we were growing up, our pillars of strength, the guiding hands that led us through life’s challenges, the shoulders we could always come back to, the sound advice we loved to listen to even when we didn’t follow it…the rocks that were always there for us, the unconditional love and support, the persons who would sacrifice all for our sake and feel happy just because we were happy too… I know Rosario’s mother was all of this to her, and many other things, some good, some not so good – in the end no one is perfect, not even mothers, but their love in unending and one of the few certainties we can have in this world. Rosario has always said how grateful she was to her mother, for her hard work and uncompromising sacrifice for her children, so that they might study and have every opportunity in life.
A word to my friend
Dear Rosario, I cannot be with you in this difficult moment, but I am certainly with you in spirit and I keep you close to my heart. Losing a parent is a pain that will never go away; there will always be that emptiness inside you. But Rosario, you have your memories of the devoted mother she was. When I lost my father, and older friend sent me a few words I have never forgotten: “When you lose someone dear, don’t think of what you have lost, rather be grateful for the privilege of having had that person in your life”. You will grieve, but you will be grateful for all your mother meant to you. And you will cry, because you must, and then you’ll dry your tears and try to smile and, if only for a moment, believe she has flown to a better place, a dimension where there is no pain or old age, where maybe you can one day be together again, and that’s when you will say to you mother Hasta siempre.