by Cat Gonza
I am great at memories: a school with blue doors where I sat on a pink square rug labeled with Catrina written on tan masking tape. I remember seeing nakedness for the first time. My gateway, my Life, uncovered; her addictions saturating her pupils, leaving smears on her checks.
I remember the pain choosing between the impossibility of what I wanted most and the reality of what was important for me to survive. After only five years, I saw my life in two extremes: dancing with my mommy and pleading for my safety.
I was too short to see grace flooding my life. I could only see the orphan.
August 27. One birthday made for celebration evolved into a continual source of grief each year as I became aware of my longing for covering. My companion, a monster, clenched tightly to my abdomen. The battle waged on as I viewed Mother’s Day as a crime the entire country would annually commit against me.
My memory allows me to feel the ache, standing in the shower after news that felt so unreal. Perhaps I was unaware of my freedom to grieve. The ounce of hope from the loss of my brother was the image of touching HER again.
I suppose I expected restoration to occur exactly as it had in my internal world. This self directed, beautiful scene of holding her and dancing once more repeated itself in my mind.
Fingers fumbling, my buttons fastened themselves together over my pounding heart. Entering into a room of sorrow, each person apart from Hope, stole the breath from my lungs, introducing an untitled fear. The very thought of this loss inspires others to jump into fire for their beloved.
Even still, the deeper pain crept further and further into my heart as I sat in a room full of others, identical to me, but still not the one who I longed for.
Yet, here in this place, I find a Father. For me, he’d choose death after experiencing life. “Who for the joy set before Him endured the cross…”
Delight flourishes as He stays to finish the dance. His moves are delicate and ferocious. He holds my being. It is beneath him to turn his face in search of something more enticing. His passion could set an ocean aflame. “His eyes are darker than wine, and his teeth whiter than milk.” An even deeper beauty, a grand gateway, one who gives life to my Life and wipes her cheeks with his breath. He covers her nakedness before laying her to rest.
There are many folds to anyone’s story. When we create, a single fold is revealed. I will now explain the fold above. I was born in Corpus Christi, Texas to Celia Villalobos—a woman so authentic and unafraid to talk about her mistakes. When I was only five years old, I decided it was time to leave her. She had terrible battles with various addictions, and it didn’t seem that she would win with me in her care.
I moved to be with close family friends, and two of my older siblings arrived shortly after. I spent most of my life internally debating whether or not she loved me. I could think of her in one moment and succumb to three hours of sobs full of longing for my mommy. One of my older brothers was killed in Summer 2008. I refer to that day in my piece as the day I allowed myself to imagine being with her again only to leave with an even greater ache in my heart.
I gave my life to Jesus one month before I turned 19. My heart began to burn for my family. I ached for my greatest message to be Love. I reached out to an older sister and found my mother’s contact information.
Over a ham, egg, and cheese taco from Taqueria Jalisco #1, I told her I loved her and that I was proud of her freedom as she cried about the day I left her. The more I learned about Jesus’s love for me, the more I wanted my mother to know my love for her and made it my first priority to go to “Jalisco’s” with her every time I was in Corpus Christi. Now, I am 24 years old. My mother passed away the morning after my 23rd birthday knowing Jesus is Lord. Her funeral was marked by hope, and although the ache ebbs and flows, I am filled with hope as well.
Cat Gonza works for a local nonprofit to reach nations around the world. She lives in Waco, Texas, where she lives with five roommates and their two dogs. They are passionate about making their home a gathering place for local young adults to enjoy each other’s company while playing games and great music together!
One thought on “The Joy Set Before Him”
Loved Cat’s article…I found it both stirring and enigmatic. Stirring because her gift of expression evokes the commonality of grief and loss; enigmatic because I wasn’t sure what the triggering events were. However, her followup contribution was very clear ending with such strength and hope. No doubt many will be inspired by the raw exposure of her private pain and the triumph she shares so poignantly.
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