As I Lay - A Musical Machinima Tribute to my Abuela, (Cello and Video)
When I created As I Lay my grandmother, mi Abuelita, lay dying in hospice. I had visited her the day before, with my sister visiting from Ohio, coming to say her last goodbyes. I let them have that final embrace, that final hug. I never gave her one. I didn't realize that would be my last chance to truly say goodbye to her.
I was foolishly working on a second master's degree at FIU. I had earned an MM in Music Technology and thought that an MFA in film and video would prepare me for a life as an academic traversing between visual and performing arts. I didn't realize that the economy would collapse, that professorships as a means of survival would soon end but for the select few, and that life had a different path for me entirely that existed almost entirely online as I moved from state to state with my then new husband.
I had skipped a lot of school to be with my grandmother that semester. She had been an integral part of our family, the kind ready with delicious homecooked arroz con frijoles from the old country, the kind that hugged her grandkids, spoiled us, and provided a net of safety and security. And now this social, giving woman was alone in a hospital bed.
I visited her the day before she died, that Wednesday, the day after I made this film, carrying her favorites from Pollo Tropical (a fast Cuban fast food joint ubiquitous in South Florida) and a photo album, so we could reminisce and laugh and enjoy each other.
But it wasn't meant to be.
She lay in her bed. She didn't get up, not even at the smell of fried pork and fried bananas. I sat by her. Time passed. I attempted, poorly, to read her Biblia in Spanish. It agitated her, she started to thrash around wildly. I didn't know what to do. The nurse said that at this state she was trying to communicate with me in her own way, but her brain wouldn't cooperate. I don't know. I don't remember if I hugged her. I want to think I did. I know I shed tears as I spend the afternoon in her room.
An old pastor, a friend of hers for years, sat with me at one point, looking at the photos as I shed tears, spending the time with me that I should have spent with her instead of making this inane film for class. But I thought I had time, even though maybe I didn't, and I knew this, and maybe this was a sad memorial to her, trying to make sense of snippets of memories that had slipped away because I knew it was too late.
I was in class Thursday morning when my husband got ahold of me. Abuela had passed quietly in her room. I hoped that the nurse had left on the peaceful music station on the TV, the one with the waterfalls just rushing by, constant, neverending, never forgotten.