Written by Lisa Ruiseco
“They say it’s our life experiences that shape who we become”.
I am ten years old, resiliant, hopeful, playful, and looking at life filled with only possibilities. Growing up we lived in an area that backed up to a canyon and it was here where we would spend much of our time playing and riding our bikes. All I could think about was wanting to be a veterinarian when I grew up. I loved every creature that cross my little feet whether it be lizards, bunnies or puppies. If they were injured, they instantly became my patient. When the unfortunate accident arouse, I would excitedly, rush home, apply mecuricome, a little gauze reinforced by whatever tape I could find and nurture them in the most special way. My mother would yell as she saw me approaching the front door, “your not keeping that as a pet”! Once they were healed and knowing my mother’s limits, I would reluctantly let them go. I never worried, for I naively assumed they went back to where they came from.
As I grew older, my interest in caring for animals began to include people. By 11th grade I had my sights on nursing. I had the opporturnity to take a Nursing Assistant class that gave me the chance to train and work at our local hospital and nursing home which led to a job at a nursing home run by Catholic Nuns. I became certified and this afforded me the opportunity to work with all levels of need. I was caring for people, worked in a clean environment where people truly cared, and intstantly gained 24 new grandparents.
I fondly remember a wonderful women by the name of Adelaide who I was instantly drawn to. She was American Indian and had the most gorgeous salt and pepper hair that fell down her back. She was widowed without children, and had recently been treated for breast cancer. Adelaide was angelic, graceful, kind and was my first experience with cancer. Each night I would eagerly get all of the other patients to bed then I would go into her room and brush her hair as she shared stories of ther life and heritage. I hung on to her every world as she told stories that took me to times and places I had never been. It was in these moments that I realized wisdom truly came from life experience. After a year or so, cancer took over her body. One quiet summer evening, I was getting everybody ready for bed and let her know I would be back to sit with her. In those minutes she passed and when I returned, I knew my life would never be the same. I felt sadness in my heart, nobody had ever touched my life the way she had.
In 1983, I graduated from San Pedro High School. I attended Los Angeles Harbor Jr. College, full-time, which has a highly regarded nursing program. I worked 32 hours a week at the nursing home and had a new boyfriend who became my husband 10 years later. School was never easy for me and I always found it was difficult to focus. While in college my mother, at the age of 45 was diagnosed with terminal lung cancer. Life at home was turbulent and I always felt the burden of being the responsible one since I was the oldest child. I was instantly thrown into care taking mode. With 3 months to a year to live, I did what was expected. I had a younger sister, brother and a hands off alcoholic step-father who I recall so vividly being drunk from day one of the diagnosis. Relieving all burdens from my mother, I took charge and told her she had nothing to worry about! It was the most difficult year of our lives. In my weakest moments, I reminded myself I never wanted to look back on this time with regret and when things were really tough, I would repeat “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger” over and over and over again. My mother lasted a year and a day from her first learning of her diagnosis. We had one day of hospice and she died in the hospital. I remember wanting so badly for her to die at home, but realized I didn’t have the resources or the capacity to do any more. Within 6 hours, she was gone.
That evening I came home from the hospital exhausted and weak and asked my step-father to leave and never come back. He did as I requested! With no assets other than a home with a mortgage and 2 younger siblings I knew I needed a better paying job and school would take a back burner. My 6 years at “Little Sisters” would come to an end. I went on and had several jobs in the medical field, but never seemed to make enough. Fortunately, within a couple of years an amazing job landed at my door that would later provide me with more than I could have dreamt of…But what was missing?
Years went by, I married, divorced and never graduated college. There have been countless times when I have wished I had, but have been grateful for the job that has provided me with security and the flexibility to pursue my dreams.
After a 5 year marriage that didn’t work, I checked out and checked in with my spirit. One evening I was sitting in my one bedroom apartment after the divorce and thinking “this is the first day of the rest of my life”. I made a promise in that moment I was going to honor myself first, always! “ This was something new and never experienced by any women in my life. I continued and asked myself, so what was missing, which seemed to be a reoccuring question. I had so much work to do, but the answer was loud and clear, I missed people and caring for them. What could I do about it? I prayed for direction and insight each night as I laid my head to sleep.
Finally, one night I had a dream! Massage therapy would be next on my path. With the promise to be open, I trusted my dream and enrolled in and attended massage school at night and on weekends. Within 6 months I became a Massage Therapist and a Reiki Healer in hopes to work with pregnancy and infancy massage. After graduating, I attended one networking meeting that lead me to where I am today. Cancer, hospice, terminal illness and death and dying became my specialty. From the moment I saw my first client, it felt so right and I never looked back. Something unexplainable happens when you walk into somebody’s life and become whatever they need you to be in that moment.
By trusting and honoring I found my place in the world. No, it wasn’t a vet, but just as good! As I look back in my life, education or not, I believe for me, where I am is exactly where I should be. I am blessed for my life experience and all it’s ups and downs.
With endless gratitude and love to all the special souls that have touched and shaped my life, it’s because of you that I have become.
…and so it is, “it’s our life experiences that shape the people we become.”