Discussing past struggles and growth. September 2021. (Photo: Anu Thomas)

When I immigrated there were not many Venezuelans in the United States, but due to the political problems in recent years in my country, you see more of the Venezuelan population. My favorite memories of Venezuela are many.  My father was an important figure in my life.  When I was almost two, for reasons that I never asked my parents about, they made the decision to separate.  My father had custody of me and my older sister. So, I grew up with a core paternal image. He was my mother and father. And he was truly present. I lived with him for 21 years.  When it came time to leave, it was like a part of me was torn away. After about 3 years of being here in the US, I learned that my father had prostate cancer. And so began a painful process for me. I think this is the hardest part for many immigrants – when your loved one is suffering, and you don’t have the ability to travel back to be with them.

I didn’t believe in anything at this point, but in some ways, I think this is when my faith took root – because I need something to believe in. I started to explore Christianity and began to believe. I threw myself into growing spiritually. I started being involved in the church, sharing the Word of God, and also doing really important work in the community with that group, bringing food, administering vaccines, working with youth. I was doing all of this, and it was the key. It helped me in a profound way, to prepare me, not only to deal with my father’s sickness, but also his death years later. 

A lot of times I think we believe we don’t have wounds on our hearts.  That everything is alright.  But it’s like a fish tank.  The fish tank has a filter that makes the water pristine. That’s why the fish are happy in the tank.  But all you must do is go to the bottom, where the sand and rocks are, and stir, and you will see how cloudy the water gets. I think a lot of times, God reaches to the bottom of our hearts and stirs, and it makes us feel many things.  This is what happened with the evolution of my relationship with my mother.  Through the death of my father, I restarted my relationship with my mother, a relationship that had been basically non-existent before.

Based on the conditions in Venezuela, and now that my mother was getting older, she needed help. I made the decision to help her, but I was conflicted. I had to take responsibility for her, even though she did not take on the responsibility to take care of me when I was young.  My faith helped me restore my relationship. I felt that if God could love me without condition, I wanted to love the same way.  This is what transformed my relationship with my mother. Everything is not 100%, and everything has its own process, but my heart is at peace.

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