Lisa's Last Birthday Gift
by Shirley Gutierrez
(Seal Beach, Ca USA)
On July 15th, 1955 my youngest daughter Lisa was born, the last of 3 daughters. As with any mother, life was busy & I sometimes wondered, “what was I thinking!” Their father’s job kept him away from home a lot so the girls & I had a very close relationship. Lisa was a very busy girl both when she was a child & as she grew up. She always kept you on your toes.
Every few years each of the girls had a birthday party. It was never a problem finding a gift for Lisa. She seemed to like everything both as a little girl & as a grown-up. All my daughters were a pleasure for me but of course Lisa was special, she was the last one “the baby.” She had a wonderful sense of humor, always loved life & was fun to be with. She had many friends (including her sisters who were her best friends.)
Unfortunately as time went on, her health became a problem. Her father had a genetic kidney disease, polycystic kidneys, which was undiscovered until after we had all 3 girls. Lisa inherited it as did her oldest sister, Linda & both girls had kidney transplants. Because of the anti rejection drugs they needed because of the transplants neither of them had a healthy immune system & were unable to easily fight normal illnesses. However, I never heard either of them complain or ask, “why me?” Lisa was very active & had jobs which took her all over the world. On one of her trips she met her husband who was working for TWA Airlines & planning to soon retire. He was quite a bit older than she & after dating for a year or so, they married. Later in their marriage they bought a house in southern France still keeping their home in Laguna Beach, Ca. Because of airline privileges they flew “stand-by” traveling back & forth several times a year. She was “home” with us often spending time with her sisters & me. We saw her nearly as much as if she still lived close to us.
Partially because of her weakened immune system she developed pancreatic cancer which was devastating news to all of us. She had surgery & we were so happy, mistakenly believing she had beaten the disease which we later discovered is rarely the case with pancreatic cancer.
In June of 2009 she came "home" to us for what proved to be her last visit. It was obvious she was not doing well, she had lost a great deal of weight & it had been a difficult trip for her. Her husband had asked to accompany her on this trip but for whatever reason, she insisted on coming alone. She spent a week with one of her sisters & then came to my house to spend another week. At this point she was spending her time in bed most of the time but still planning to go home to France & her husband as soon as possible. While at my house & from her bed she was making arrangements to leave when she became very ill & needed to go to the hospital. It was at this point we discovered the cancer was back & she was terminal. After a few days in the hospital her sister, Lana, went to pick her up & the two of them came to bring me the bad news.
From that point on it became even more important to Lisa to get back to her own home in France & her husband, David. By now it was summertime & she was not having any luck booking a flight on stand-by. After 2 days of trying, I said "Lisa, why can't we just purchase a full fare ticket?" She said, "Mom, it is very expensive to buy a one way ticket at this time of year." Her birthday was July 15th & I said, "I didn't know what to get for your birthday this year, I'll buy the ticket." I would have always done anything for her which would make her happy. She called & booked a flight for July 6th. She said, "mama, you don't know what a relief that is, thank you."
On July 6th she got out of bed, showered, washed her hair & applied her make-up. She looked like my beautiful daughter Lisa always did. At 10 AM two of David's friends arrived to take her to LAX for her flight home. Before she left I said to her, "sweetheart, I'll try not to cry when you leave." She said, "Mom, I won't cry either." As she went to the car where the friends were waiting, we kissed for the last time & she got into the car. We were both of course, on the verge of tears. As they drove away, Lisa & I both knew we would never see each other again but we didn't cry. When she was gone I came back into the house where I could let the tears fall & I have cried for 2 years.
Seven months after Lisa died my oldest daughter, Linda also died of cancer. I will cry forever.
I am so grateful to have had my 3 beautiful daughters for as long as I did. I wouldn't have wanted to have missed it.