On July 5, 2018 our youngest daughter, Teresa Isabel, was unexpectedly called beyond the veil. Wife, young mother, daughter, sister and more. Here it is almost a month later, and I am still not quite ready to share public, written words. Those will come in time, but for now our son Gabe has graciously given permission to repost the brief eulogy he delivered at the Mass of Christian Burial for his sister. (original eulogy posting, obituary).
Eternal rest grant unto her, O Lord.
Unsettled Memories: In Memory of Teresa Hams (1986 – 2018)
July 10, 2018
Written by Gabe Lozano, Brother
From an early age, Teresa was colorful, stubborn and charming; or more plainly, she could be a pain in the butt, but tactful enough to get away with it.
At age five, she was sharing a bed with one of her older sisters, Rebecca, who was seven at the time. Each night after falling asleep, she would “accidentally” and repeatedly kick Rebecca, pushing her off the bed and onto the hardwood floor. Lacking an appetite for such nonsense, Rebecca finally asked Teresa about switching spots, so that she could safely position herself against the wall. Hating this solution, Teresa instead talked Rebecca into an alternative approach: lining the floor with stuffed animals, which she noted would solve the problem by creating a softer landing.
That kind of behavior was certainly not unique to Teresa’s childhood, and perhaps nothing speaks more to this than her 16th birthday. With both our parents out for the evening, Teresa had a friend over, but was supposed to be babysitting our 12-year-old brother John. Undeterred by the responsibilities of babysitting and absence of a driver’s license, she grabbed the keys to one of the cars, swore John to secrecy, and headed out with her friend for a bit of joyriding. Teresa was a terrible driver, so to nobody’s surprise, she plowed into another car and racked up more than $11,000 in damages that day.
For her role in this, she earned a one-year grounding, but like most things, the crackdown didn’t fully stick. Knowing that our Dad participated in similar antics as a teenager, she was able to convince our parents to loosen the rules. Under the revised rules, she was still unable to go to off-site social events, but anything on their property was fair game. And again to nobody’s surprise, she took full advantage and turned my parents’ driveway into a common hangout and party spot.
Thankfully for all of us, as novelist Anaïs Nin once stated, “We do not grow absolutely, chronologically. We grow sometimes in one dimension, and not in another; unevenly. We grow partially. We are relative. We are mature in one realm, childish in another. The past, present, and future mingle and pull us backward, forward, or fix us in the present.”
What was difficult to understand at the time, but easily apparent in retrospect, was that Teresa possessed and was nurturing an incredible aptitude for understanding the needs of others. At times, she applied these skills to soften the blow of her self-imposed chaos, but as she grew older, this became the basis for becoming a steadfast wife and copilot to Mike, tireless mother to Isabel and Lewis, and caring family member and friend to many.
Our Mom’s description of this transition is one of my favorites. As she tells it, when Teresa moved back home, they were dreading it. So one day Teresa is sitting there with my parents and the topic of elderly care came up. Without hesitation, Teresa firmly stated, “Don’t worry Mom, when you get older, I will take care of you.”
When Teresa left the room, Mom turned to our Dad and said, “That’s exactly what I’m afraid of.”
But sure enough, years later our Mom underwent a major knee surgery and was unable to take care of herself during recovery. For that period of time, Teresa stepped up as one of her primary caregivers–massaging her knee, applying lotion, performing mundane chores around the house, and assisting with many other basic needs.
Recognizing such an emergent pattern in nearly all of Teresa’s relationships and actions, we began calling her Mini Mom; given the reverence we have for our Mom, this was an enormous compliment. Her upgraded classification was forever solidified when we witnessed firsthand the amazing mother she became, first with Isabel and then with Lewis. And as they say, once you’re lucky, twice you’re good.
So as we begin to process our lives without Teresa, I suspect it’s impossible to imagine how we fill the gaps left behind. Who checks in daily on her friends and family? Who becomes our parents’ caregiver when they age? Who becomes the full-time champion for her kids? Who tends to her husband’s broken heart?
I don’t have any answers to these questions, but stumbling through today with this uncomfortable new reality, I’m reminded of a theory that suggests the future is nothing more than unsettled memories. Under this theory, all potential outcomes already exist, but most versions are simply yet to be experienced. I’d like to think this means there are perhaps versions of the future that include Teresa in it, and if we close our eyes tight enough, we can once again experience her care and the gaps left behind won’t be so big.