Sunday, July 28, 2013

Dancing with the Mermaid of Yesteryear

Olga García Echeverría
"For what is it to die but to stand naked in the wind and to melt into the sun? And when the earth shall claim your limbs, then shall you truly dance." --Kahlil Gibran
Last year, the doctors deemed her a dead end, but tatiana de la tierra, who believed in the power of metaphors, created an alternative reality for herself. The cancer cells blooming wildly inside her were not evidence of imminent death; they were proof of a metamorphosis.

tatiana would not “pass away” into heaven or hell. Instead, she would shed flesh and blood and swim back to her divine beginnings, the Cosmic Ocean. During the final months of her life, tatiana of the earth renamed herself Suerte Sirena, blessing her journey with luck because who doesn’t need a little luck when leaving the human body and traveling into the depths of the Magical Unknown.

But before she left us, there was much to do. Among the most critical things was the need to move tatiana from her old Long Beach apartment to a new, quieter home. It was becoming increasing difficult for tatiana to walk up and down the flight of stairs at her old apartment. There was also drama in the building. Cancer is dramatic enough, and a birthing mermaid needs a place of respite, so a group of us volunteered to help transplant tatiana and all her belongings from her old apartment to her new home.

Her new home, spacious, lovely, and full of light, was less than a mile away. Yet to move tatiana was a monumental feat. She had been an archivist at heart for most of her life, and she loved to collect things—pictures, books, vinyl records, muñecas, crystals and rocks, statues of virgenes, Frida paraphernalia, ceramic cunts (to name just a few of her many obsessions). Her home was always a colorful museum housing all the beautiful and bizarre things that she had gathered throughout her life. Piña mirrors to peer into. Giant conch shells to press against the ear. Beaded curtains to walk through.

“I’m going to get rid of a lot of this shit,” tatiana told me one day as we took baby steps through her old apartment. She wasn’t strong enough to move things herself, so she was doing an inventory and giving me a quick low-down of what she wanted to see happen. In the following weeks, she would be instructing us, her family and friends, on what to get rid of and what to keep.
“I want my new home to be very Zen.” She sounded serious, almost committed, and I was relieved. She had so many possessions that “the move” was taking forever. She, her bed, and some bare essentials had been taken to her new residence, and as a result the new place did actually look and feel very Zen. In contrast, the old apartment looked like it had been hit by a tornado. Drawers, closets, and cabinets had been emptied. Walls stripped naked of their frames, mirrors, and maps. Bookshelves gutted. Every room was cluttered with cardboard boxes and messy mounds of unpacked stuff. There was some order to the chaos, but it was still complete chaos.

Perhaps all of us who were lugging boxes and furniture from point A to point B had some degree of Zen fantasies (oh, to rid ourselves of everything, wouldn’t that be wonderful?) but the purging of material things never really happened in that move. tatiana gave away a few things, but in the end she couldn’t part con sus cosas tan queridas. Every time we texted or called her about a particular item, she’d sigh or laugh and get terribly nostalgic, telling us the story of the object’s origins. “Eso lo necesito,” she’d say in her firm voice. “Traígamelo.” And we did. Until everything she had in her old home ended up in her new one.

By the time we finished moving and unpacking, it was July. It was in that month that tatiana’s human body really began to wither, but on a spiritual plane, she grew glittery scales. When her lungs began to wheeze, she sprouted gills. When her legs clung together, waddling and then flapping instead of walking, those of us around her knew that her metamorphosis from earth-grounded woman to free-flowing mermaid was nearly complete. She swam out of her body on July 31st, 2012.

There are so many intimate stories about those final weeks with tatiana. Poor Sirena, she never really got her respite. Her new home in Long Beach was always bustling with people and activity. Her mother, Fabiola, her tías Gladys y LuLu, her primos, her lover, her healers, her friends—we all gathered around her like a tribe because it takes a village to help someone crossover from este mundo to el otro.

Despite the cancer that loomed over all of us like a hideous cloud, we braced ourselves and did whatever needed to get done during that time. We swept away the dust each day, we sorted through boxes, we fretted over the Lucky Mermaid. We drove around running errands, we cleaned, we talked, we cried, we laughed, we fought, we loved, we carried as many loads as we could. It was the least we could do; tatiana of the earth was leaving our world and she was already carrying so much stuff--precious rocks, antique lamps, lupus, Buddha statues, failing kidneys, singing bowls, a fistula, gold bling, Chibcha charms, malignant tumors, handmade tambores, flautas and rattles, and the weight of each and every one of our heaving hearts.

Happy one year anniversary, Suerte Sirena. You are much missed and forever loved.


msedano said...

ave atque vale

Diane said...

Gracias, Olga. I miss her so much, thinking a lot about her especially these past weeks, and your beautiful words made me smile.

Amelia ML Montes said...

te amo, querida tati, querida sirena del mar, del cielo, en mi corazón por siempre . . .

Amelia ML Montes said...

Gracias por tus palabras tan tiernas y cariõsas, Olga. Abrazos----

raw poetry by donna snyder said...

Beautiful. Descansa en paz, Tati.

Virginia Bennett said...

Era fantástica, autentica, atrevida, ú conocí en Miami en los 90''. Le seguí la pista hasta que llego a Búfalo donde fue a estudiar Ciencias Bibliotecarias, luego la perdí hasta que hace unos días por casualidad buscando en Google me entere de que ya no esta con nosotros, tremenda noticia, me impacto pero no me sorprendió pues su salud siempre fue quebradiza. Tu energia maravillosa seguira vibrando en los corazones de los que tuvimos la suerte de compartir contigo.
Hasta la proxima Tati querida.