Although Mercedes Gonzalez Reyes — my mother — passed away last year, she still wished me a happy birthday.

She did so by visiting me in my dreams.

Three days before my actual birthday, I dreamt my mother telephoned me early in the morning, as she traditionally had done so on my birthday, every year. “Hi, Ma,” I replied sleepily in my dream. (I’d never been a morning person.)

Mercedes Gonzalez Reyes
Mercedes Gonzalez Reyes

In that dream, she told me she wanted to be the first to wish me a “Happy Birthday” and then, she sang her usual Spanish-accented rendition of “Happy Birthday.”

In the past, when my mother was alive, we’d always end up laughing after she ended the song with, “…Happy Birthday, dear mijo, Happy Birthday, to you!” Then, she usually wished me a great day and then would tell me to go back to sleep. I usually did fall back to sleep, with a smile on my face.

My mother passed away at the age of 76 years. How she passed is another story, but I wanted to share a little about how she lived.

Rather than preach or lecture us, my mother showed by example. I am the person I am today because of the values my mother instilled in me, although to her chagrin, I was a very independent child.

In the last hours of her life, she still amazed me. Although she was in unimaginable pain, she still thought about others. She’d tell me to go home, get some rest, but I’d smile back take her soft hand in mine, and whisper softly, “Forget about it,” while holding back tears. Then, she’d smile and close her eyes, perhaps reassured that she wasn’t alone.

As I passed many hours at my mother’s bedside on the sixth floor of White Memorial Hospital in Boyle Heights, I’d look out the window, into the neighborhood that I’d known most of my life.

My mother passed away in the early morning hours of July 5, just after all the Fourth of July fireworks had lit up the night sky. It was as if the vecinos, the neighbors, with every bottle rocket they shot up into the night sky, were all celebrating the life of this very special person — my mother.

It’s been seven months since my mother passed, and I still have this void. I will never have another conversation with her, never laugh with her, hear her sweet voice or kiss her soft, chubby cheeks — at least, not in this physical realm again. I miss her dearly.

But as we saunter into the Year of the Monkey, I wanted to thank every one of you who supported and helped me and my family cope through this difficult time with your generous text messages, emails, sympathy cards, telephone calls, and simply your kind words.

A great big THANK YOU from mi familia to the Rafu kazoku. Mucho gracias, domo arigato and mahalo.

Mario. G. Reyes is Rafu’s photo editor. Ochazuke is a staff-written column. Opinions are not necessary those of The Rafu Shimpo.

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  1. Las Mananitas (sung by all to you):

    Spanish original followed by English translation
    Estas son las mañanitas que cantaba el rey David.
    Hoy por ser día de tu santo, te las cantamos a ti.

    Despierta mi bien, despierta, mira que ya amaneció
    ya los pajarillos cantan la luna ya se metió.

    Qué linda está la mañana en que vengo a saludarte
    venimos todos con gusto y placer a felicitarte.

    El día en que tu naciste nacieron todas las flores
    y en la pila del bautismo cantaron los ruiseñores.

    Ya viene amaneciendo, ya la luz del día nos dio.
    Levántate de mañana mira que ya amaneció.

    This is the morning song that King David used to sing.
    Today being the day of your saint, we sing it to you.

    Wake up my dearest, wake up, see now that the day has dawned
    the sparrows are singing, the moon has finally set.

    How lovely is this morning, when I come to greet you
    we all come with joy and pleasure to congratulate you.

    The very day you were born all the flowers first bloomed
    and in the baptismal font all the nightingales sang.

    The dawn has come my darling, and the sunlight is here for us.
    Rise up and shine with the morning and you’ll see that here’s the dawn.