Sorry to be away from this space– my mamacita died suddenly last week. I plan to be back to the blog in early July but thought I would share the eulogy I delivered at her funeral here in the meantime.
Thank you so much for being here today.
When our family moved to Fort Jackson in 1975, it would have been easy to assume that this was going to be just another place we lived. After all, our parents had left Puerto Rico—their homes, parents, and siblings- because of our dad’s work with the US military and home seemed incredibly far away.
But if there is any one thing our family has learned in the last forty years and that each of you here today confirms it is this, home is not just a place. Home is a feeling. Home is showing up for one another. Home is making way. And you all, over and over again, and most of all today have made sure that this little family of five never felt that small. Thank you for creating home with us, for insuring that we were never alone, for being a soft place to land for us over and over again.
Over the last few days, we’ve been blessed with the opportunity to hear so many stories about our mom and as we’ve heard the stories, we’ve been able to appreciate over and over again just who she was in this world and what she meant to people.
If you have spent any time with our mom you know that she was the family story teller and so it is only fitting that we tell a few stories about her.
People have talked about her perseverance, work ethic, and deep faith which were taught to her by her parents on a beautiful farm in Quebradillas, Puerto Rico. There, mom grew up with her five brothers and one sister and in between school, mass, and tending the farm, she learned how to sew and crochet and developed her profound love of the outdoors, people, and animals. Those loves stayed throughout her life. We couldn’t go anywhere—Carowinds, the Zoo—without mom coming home with a few surreptitiously gathered cuttings that she would nurture into thriving plants. All over our yard and home you can trace mamacita’s travels by looking at her plants.
Mom also developed her love of all animals—from birds to dogs on that beautiful farm. She fed that love by turning her back yard into a natural habitat so she and dad could watch the birds come to eat and nest and by raising the world’s most loved dog. Lady Spencer doesn’t just have her own spot in the bed. She has the blanket that mom crocheted for her, her own pillow, and a personal chef in mom. For the last week, Lady Spencer has been at the front door, waiting for our mom to come home.
Mom’s first friends- her brothers and sister- taught her exactly how to be such a good friend. They were inseparable as children and remained close despite all the miles between them. Over the years, we had the wonderful pleasure of getting to know our aunts and uncles and cousins when we would visit Puerto Rico and then also when mom and dad hosted our cousins here for summers when they were older. Mom never let distance get in the way of her relationships and she stayed connected to the brothers, sister, nieces, and nephews she adored. We have been so blessed that she made sure we had those relationships in our lives, too.
Our dad likes to say that his and mom’s wedding was arranged. They met in 1962 when mom worked as his mother’s secretary and his mom arranged a lunch between the two of them. For more than fifty-years, they held hands every night as they slept. Over and over again, we witnessed their devotion to each other as they experienced and endured world travel, job changes, sicknesses, and joys. We will always be grateful for their example of commitment.
Mamacita was fierce in her love and she was fair. She had a profound sense of justice that made her want to help people she had never met and also watch the lastest episode of Caso Cerrado (a Latino version of Judge Judy).
She was friendly and generous. Wherever we went, she could strike up a conversation with someone effortlessly and make a new friend. She loved to celebrate life and crocheted baby blankets and sewed dresses—from prom to bridesmaid, party to wedding- for so many people. She always took snacks out to the post woman and the trash men and once asked dad if she could give the trash men bottles of wine from the wine rack for Thanksgiving. “Of course,” dad told her and off she went to put together gift bags for each of them. A few days later, dad discovered that mom, the teetotaler, had indeed given two of the men very nice bottles of wine but the third guy did not receive that gift. He got a handle of Wild Turkey.
One of mom’s greatest gifts was her compassion. She took profound care of those who were suffering or weak or vulnerable in some way. She had a delightful sense of fun and the ability to be incredibly present. These traits served her well in many roles but no role was more important to her than that of grandmother. To Gabriel, Gracie, and Abram, Mom was not just their Abucita. She was a best friend. When she laid eyes on them, they knew that she was really seeing them and they knew that no one else and nothing else was more important to them. If there is anything that our babies know about their abucita it is this: she loved them more than anything, wanted nothing more than to be with them, and believed in them infinitely.
We hear it all the time but gloss over the truth of it. Life can change quite literally in a moment. It doesn’t owe us notice. We hear that cliché so much we become numb to its truth and, yet, here we are right now because of it.
On Thursday night, mom said to our brother, “Come here. Give me a hug. Tell me that you love me.” It wasn’t a request she ever made and, of course, he did it.
Less than twenty-four hours later, she was in the hospital.
There were things our mother always told us: wear an undershirt, tuck some emergency money in your wallet that you never use unless you’re in trouble, don’t drive on an empty tank, but here is the most important advice—when it comes down to it, your people—the relationships you have—are the only thing that sustain you so look out for them, take care of them, and tell them you love them. Thank you, Abucita, for teaching us such fierce love.