Those who knew my mom know what a tiny person she was. Those who knew her well know what a giant she really was. What she lacked in height she made up for every other way.
My mom was born near Seville, Spain (or Sevilla as the locals prefer) just before the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War. Her first memories were of war, destruction, hunger and separation of family as my grandfather found himself serving many miles from home. She would tell us stories of running with my grandmother, who was pregnant with my uncle at the time, trying to find cover as enemy aircrafts showered bullets all around her.
After my grandfather was released from a POW camp, he was reunited with his family and together they dealt with the aftermath of years of war and the reality of a new, hard lined fascist government. My mother learned at an early age the meaning of the words strength, sacrifice, loyalty and hope. These words embodied the woman she became.
Together with my grandparents and uncle, my mother moved to Northern Africa and then Barcelona in the hopes of finding a better future. It was in Barcelona where my mother had her first three children, my older brother Juan, myself and my younger sister Isabel. Again in search of a better future for her children, my mother made the difficult and courageous decision to move across the Atlantic to Canada, to begin a new life at the age of 41 with her family. Shortly thereafter my younger brother Miguel was born.
Growing up there wasn’t anything my mom wouldn’t do for us. She sacrificed everything to make sure we had what we needed. She made it her personal mission to make sure that we got an education, something she was never able to do. When we asked my mom what she would have studied if she’d had the opportunity, she told us her dream would’ve been to become an astronomer or an astrophysicist, as she was always fascinated with the heavens.
Even though I know my mom loved us very much, the true apple of her eye was her grandson Lucas. When he was born it was as if 20 years had been removed from her. Whenever he was around her whole face would light up, we’d hear her laugh in ways we never did before, and of course he could do no wrong. Having ice cream and potato chips for breakfast was perfectly acceptable because that’s what he asked for. When Isabel would call saying that Lucas wanted to talk to her she would just start to glow and walk a little bit taller. Becoming a grandmother she achieved her goal, to see the next generation. When Shawn and I told her that we had decided to adopt a little girl from China, she had that giddiness all over again. The prospect of becoming a grandmother again, this time to a girl completed her. Just a couple of weeks ago we received a package from the adoption agency and my mother excitedly called me at work to tell me, telling me perhaps this was the package telling us it was time to pick up our daughter. That’s how thrilled she was about being a lla lla.
My mom was the strongest person I know, even though she never thought of herself that way. She was strong because she had to be, it was that simple. Despite the fact that she buried her parents, a sibling, a spouse and worst of all, a child, she still managed to smile and remember them with happiness.
These words, sung by Josh Groban best describes how our family feels about my mom.
You raised us up, so we could stand on mountains
You raised us up to walk on stormy seas
We were strong, when we were on your shoulders
You raised us up, to be more than we could be.
We will all miss her smile, her willingness to find the good in everyone and her generosity of spirit. The world has lost one of the gentlest souls there ever was, Shawn and Mark have lost their mother-in law, Lucas his grandmother, my cousins have lost their aunt, my aunt her sister-in-law, we have all lost our greatest champion, biggest cheerleader, but Isabel, Miguel and I have lost our mother. While we know her spirit lives within us and those she touched, we will always miss her physical presence. We will always think of her now during both the rough times but especially during the good times.
Adios mamá. Te queremos mucho.