A Powerful Message from Day of the Dead – Take Care of Yourself, The Parent – Elizabeth Perez Azerad, M.D.

A Powerful Message from Day of the Dead

Take Care of Yourself, The Parent

Elizabeth Perez Azerad, M.D.

RIISE Multicultural Advisor


I’ve suffered a crushing few weeks recently. In spite of my careful planning, a complex presentation that I gave about Mexico left me feeling like nothing more than a sombrero and a piñata. My beloved mother-in-law remains in the hospital due to post-surgical complications. One of my college-aged daughters called long distance tearful over an issue that I know only she can fix. Finally, the specialized school of my learning-disabled son called to tell me that in spite of their best efforts, he is falling further and further behind his peers.

Fearing a loss of control I recognize that at best THE ISSUES THAT I CAN FIX WILL NOT HAPPEN OVERNIGHT and frankly, the majority are beyond my control. What makes my problems any different from yours? Nothing! THIS IS LIFE, and that’s why I’m writing to you as a parent to say that WE HAVE TO MAKE SPACE TO CARE FOR OURSELVES before we can care for our children, friends and loved-ones.

I don’t think it’s coincidental that my problems seemed to mount at the end of October. We often hear that we are not given more than we can bear and so it is that I felt bolstered this weekend as I celebrated Day of the Dead, one of Mexico’s most important festivals celebrated since Pre-Hispanic times. During the holiday, families gather to welcome the souls of their dearly departed to an annual visit home. At moments when I feel the most dejected, depressed and exhausted, I often hear the words of my deceased Mexican Grandmother call out to me. Sometimes it’s a whisper of loving support, at other times, of mocking criticism. This year as Day of the Dead approached I heard her yelling, ‘When it rains, it pours so ¡Cuidate! Take care of yourself!’


Day of the Dead display for my grandmother and her brothers

Day of the Dead display for my grandmother and her brothers

In honor of mi Abuela, who not only raised me but also shared a bedroom with me until I was a teenager, here are the steps I’ve taken recently to Take Care of Myself, the Parent.

1) CONNECT WITH A SUPPORTIVE FAMILY OR FRIEND, in this case my sister. After patiently listening to me unload about the stressors that seem to pile up around me, she mentioned a movie called Eco de las Montañas about a Huichol artist, Santos de la Torre, whose mammoth tile mural hangs in the Palais Royal Louvre metro stop in Paris. A creative genius who lives a tradition life with his indigenous tribe in Jalisco, Santos de la Torre’s work reminds me that there is more to share about my cultural roots than images that are reinforced and often cheapened by our modern media. Connecting with my sister not only educated and supported me it increased the knowledge that I can share with others in the future.

Santos de la Torre’s work that adorns the Paris metro stop

Santos de la Torre’s work that adorns the Paris metro stop

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2) DON A PIECE OF ARMOR, in this case, a tarnished silver and copper bracelet given to me by my mother. It depicts a simple village scene reminiscent of my grandfather’s birthplace in Nuevo León, Mexico. While wearing this piece I am reminded that my forefathers and mothers suffered many hardship in an effort to improve the lives of their children and grandchildren. I am one of the beneficiaries of their efforts. Knowing that they persevered gives me the strength to maintain my focus and push forward to creatively solve problems and keep a level head.


Bracelet depicting village scene

Bracelet depicting village scene

I couldn’t call myself the RIISE Multicultural Advisor without admitting to you that I often turn to other cultures looking for knowledge, wisdom and beauty. Recently I made a commitment to focus 2 hours of my week learning and practicing the ancient Korean martial art, Tae Kwon Do.   Loosely translated as ‘The Way of the Foot and the Hand,’ Tae Kwon Do combines meditation and physical training to teach practitioners self-defense, discipline, agility and strength. In a typical class we stretch, meditate and endure grueling hi-cardio drills. Then the real learning begins when our instructors ask us to memorize complicated striking and kicking routines that challenge our muscles, balance and mental focus.


Tae Kwon Do gear with a board I kicked in half

Tae Kwon Do gear with a board I kicked in half

Parents and friends, I really want to challenge you to make some time for yourselves both mentally and physically. Stress and aggravation are normal parts of our day but we can’t allow them to impact our health or relationships with our children, friends or loved-ones. We can’t help others before helping ourselves so please begin to think about ways that are meaningful to you as you care for and support yourself to a healthier you. The smallest steps can lead to a positive outcome: a promise to take a peaceful walk each day or fully enjoy a game with your children, phones off! Little changes, continued, can lead to bigger changes and happier, healthier selves to share with our loved-ones. Finally, please share your thoughts and plans with me. I promise to be supportive.

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  1. Robin
    Posted November 4, 2014 at 9:49 am | Permalink

    Very powerful. Thank you.

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