He Threw the Last Punch Too Hard

When I was nine, my mother fell in love with another man and left our family. The man she left us for turned out to be violent: he beat her so badly that she suffered permanent brain damage and had to be moved into an assisted living facility at the age of forty one, where she still lives today. Of her five children, only my younger sister has visited her regularly over the years.

I have early, fond memories of my mother as a beautiful, passionate, vivacious, and fiery, Guatemalan Sophia Loren. But since she left, I have had tremendous feelings of abandonment and rage towards her. Her actions led me to judge her as an impetuous, selfish, reckless and negligent mother. I resented what she did to herself and to her family. I carried so much anger, yet whenever I saw her, I was overcome with pity and sadness. Just looking at her hand gnarled from the brain damage brought forth more emotion than I could bear. For these reasons, I have virtually ignored my mother in an attempt to distance myself from my own pain.

But pain ignored does not disappear and over time I came to realize our relationship needed healing. Thankfully, through graduate work in Spiritual Psychology and work I did with a healer, I was able to dissolve the judgments I carried about my mother and myself and begin to forge a relationship with her.

I feel our connection without fear as I create photos meant to take me out of my comfort zone. These photos tell my mother’s story of isolation, loneliness, abuse, connection, compassion, forgiveness, family, humanity, grace, joy and above all, love. I didn’t need to travel the world to deepen my spirituality. My greatest teacher was in front of me my entire life. I just couldn’t see it was my mother; a true Bodhisattva. She forgave me for not visiting her all those decades without uttering a word. I forgave her for leaving me and our family. Forgiveness happens when you care more about the love in a relationship than the logic of your ego. I no longer pity my mother. She continually inspires me teaching me to live by my heart, not my head. The love I feel for her has broken my heart wide open.

This is an ongoing project with the goal of bringing my mother back to Guatemala for the first time since she left fifty-three years ago. No one from her original family there has seen her since she moved, including a brother with whom she was once very close. Her only sister hasn’t seen her for more than fifteen years. I believe the story will continue to develop when I photograph her and her family in her homeland.

My mother has been living in an assisted living facility for more than thirty five years. A few months ago I asked my mother, “Que quieres”? “what would you like”? “Que todo la gente este bien.” Without hesitation she answered, “May all people be well.”

A few days ago I asked her a question I’ve asked of myself. ” que te gustaria, mas que nada en el mundo”? “What do you want more than anything in the whole world”? ” que todos nos queramos.” “That everyone love each other.” To which I whole-heartedly agree.

The elusive need, motive or tendency at the root of self-expression is truth. May these photos inspire someone else to leave an abusive relationship before it’s too late.