Written on September 19, 2018 (9 days after being diagnosed)
Papi. I wish I could recall the exact moment and date that I was told of this memory because if you know me, I am all about dates and numbers. I know that God communicates with me through them. When my father fell ill, my memory took me back to conversations that we had in the past. One of my favorites was the story of the first time he saw me. He came to Rochester from Puerto Rico, and I was about 6 months old. He held me, looked into my eyes, and he said “Hi!! I’m your dad!” And I just laughed and laughed. I look to that memory that I was told about as a reminder of the love of a Father.
I miss my dad. He was such a significant part of my life, especially growing up. I miss his smile and his voice. The way his eyes disappeared every single time he laughed; just like mine. I miss his storytelling, and the way he used to turn everything into a joke and make those around him who were listening, just laugh. I wasn’t raised with him, and I can’t tell you that we had to closest relationship, but one thing was for sure, I absolutely loved being in his presence. He was so strong, and so special to so many people. I was the only one of his 6 children that never was raised or lived with him, but his love was always so pure and genuine, despite the distance.
Before I was born, mom went through some hardships in her life and marriage with my dad. At 8.5 months pregnant, she had to make the difficult decision to leave Puerto Rico, and she ended up in Rochester, NY pregnant with her three kids. Soon after, my dad also made it to New York because he asked to bring my brother back with him, and that in itself just broke my mom’s heart. The details of that conversation are very vague to me, but what I do know is that once the conversation was over, and my dad left, mom was heartbroken. Completely and utterly heartbroken, on the ground sobbing like never before. He not only left New York, but he was leaving my mom’s heart.
I was born with this strong gift of empathy. I know it’s a gift and unique to me because people just don’t get it. Empathy is the ability to feel what others feel at a magnitude that it almost feels as though I have just stepped in that person’s heart. This ability to feel empathy is a gift and can also feel like a curse. Sometimes a person with a strong gift of empathy is also called a burden bearer. The problem with burden bearing is that if you are not trained on how to manage this gift, it becomes a heavy burden. A burden bearer is given the ability to feel the wounds and pains of others. The skill with being a burden bearer is remembering that the purpose of carrying other’s burdens is to know how to pray for them. We are to receive, feel, and then pray and give that burden right back to the Lord. It’s when we don’t, and their sadness and their broken heart becomes intertwined with our own heart that causes us to suffer greatly. Empathy and compassion are so intertwined, they cannot be separated. Burden bearers have a supernatural ability to share in the joys of others. I didn’t always know that what I have was a gift. I can be at a coffee shop, a restaurant, or a grocery store, and my eyes will settle upon an individual, a stranger, and all of a sudden, my heart begins to ache. A blanket of sorrow falls over my heart for just a moment, and it moves me to pray, “Be with them, Lord.” I love God, and He always has a purpose, but there are days when I just have to ask God, “God, what is the purpose?”
When I was in my mother’s womb, I felt mom’s anguish, her fears, every heartache, and pain. I not only heard her heart beat, but I felt everything that she was feeling. She was never alone. I was there with her. I was there with a purpose, a greater calling. As my body was being developed and formed in utter seclusion, so was my heart (Psalm 139). Her life experiences throughout her pregnancy helped to develop the gifts God had already placed in me, and the kind of soul that I would have.
When Papi left New York, he left a trail of sadness and heart break. It wasn’t his fault. It was his time to begin a new chapter, and it was the beginning of my mom’s as well.
The next day, on a wonderful Wednesday morning, it would be time for me to break out of her womb, and make my grand entrance, which only two people were a witness to, and it was not my father.
I have this baby book that mom made soon after I was born. It’s an old pink baby book, and when you open the first page, there it is. El “Arbor de familia del bebe.” It’s a family tree that she put together. It’s beautiful, detailed and a constant reminder of those who came before me; my ancestors who paved the way for my family. The following page is by far, the most meaningful and significant, especially today, 35 years later. I spent years going back to this baby book, just to read that page. Whenever I felt sad or lost, I would go to my parents’ room, looking for the book, just to read the passage that was written for me. I just felt and knew that it had so much significance, but I didn’t know why or how. And for that reason, I have kept this book close to me throughout these 35 years. Words that were given to her by God, as guide, as a lighthouse, and as anchor for my soul. Oh Mama, you had no idea that your little girl would go through some of the most traumatic and heartbreaking experiences that a girl should never have to go through. Yet, Mami, the simple act of writing the words that you did, when you did, has always kept me grounded. No matter the storm, no matter the devastation, I have always looked to those words as a reminder of my worth.
The first sentence that she wrote in the book was “Cana was a witness to this beautiful birth.”
Wow, just reading those words makes me close my eyes and be completely in awe of how great, wonderful, and perfect God has been and will always be.
You see, on the day I was born, it was just mom. My dad was gone. He had left back to Puerto Rico. My mom’s aunt, Titi Cana was the witness of my birth. Why is that so significant to me?? Why is that small detail important? Let me explain.
Before I was admitted into the hospital, Titi Cana arrived in Florida from Rochester, NY. She had planned a trip down to visit South Florida. On September 11, 2018, when I received the devastating news that my fight was against cancer, Titi Cana was there. Not only was she a witness of the greatest day of my life, my birth, but now, God brought her back into my life to be a witness to one of the saddest days of my life; the day I was diagnosed with Cancer.
Talk about a huge God Wink. The way He can seamlessly orchestrate our lives in such a way that if we surrender our hearts to Him, I mean truly trust Him, He can be found in so many details of our lives. He moves like a perfectly, synchronized symphony that is worthy of being honored and praised. How can I ever doubt that there is a Lord, a Heavenly Father who has always kept me in the palm of His Righteous, Loving hand?
The next part she wrote was, “You shall be named Jessica-in Hebrew means A gift from God, Amanda- worthy of love.”
My name is Jessica Amanda, a gift from God who is worthy of love. She continued to write, “Because of the circumstances in which you were born your name shall be special just like you are. Always be proud of your name and yourself.”
Have you ever thought or realized the significance of YOUR own name? In the scriptures, the names of the heroes of the Bible always had meaning, and sometimes, after a real-life changing experience, the Lord would actually change their name into an even greater one that would reflect a new beginning, a new chapter, and a greater purpose. I encourage you, to seek and find the meaning of your name. Embrace it, be proud of it, and let it speak to you.
This world is meant to do everything possible to try to keep us from seeing and realizing our importance and value in this world. It’s can tear us down and present us with obstacles and experiences that will challenge your worth, value, and significance in this world. Don’t let it. Know your name and own your story.
Knowing the circumstances in which I was born has helped shape me into the person I am today. I have fought and struggled my whole life and knowing the circumstances in which I entered the world has help me fight and keep pushing. It’s just me. It’s who I am. It’s the life I’ve lived. A beautifully broken, torn masterpiece that has been painted with the beautiful faces of my boys, so much laughter and fun, heartache, tears, hardships, and even disease. But it’s my story. It’s the story I’ll tell of the battles He’s won. Every. Single. Time.