“There are two ways of spreading light: to be the candle or the mirror that reflects it.” ~Edith Wharton
On October 8th as I was going through photos of Mamá for the third day in a row, I was overcome with emotion that caused me to cry uncontrollably. My husband found me in the bathroom taking out my contacts, asked what was wrong, and I simply couldn’t describe what had overcome me. Then my phone went off. I received word that Mamá, my beloved grandmother, had passed away. I told my husband, “It’s as though a bright light in the world has gone out.” And somehow I felt it.
Mamá was one of those people who spread light. And she was a bright light in my world. She taught me to take care of, to serve, and to love others. She also taught me about faith and how to be a strong woman. Not just with words or by telling me how to live, but by being an example.
Mamá came to live with us for a while when I was nine years old. She was an awesome designer and seamstress. I had a little pink sewing machine, I believe she got for me, and she showed me how to make clothes for my dolls while she made beautiful dress creations for family members and friends. She could take someone’s measurements, draw out a design, and make a pattern out of newspaper. She made special occasion, wedding, and bridesmaids dresses. My wedding dress was one that she made. She used her very creative spirit and talent to demonstrate love. When I was ten, she got a place of her own just down the street and we continued to enjoy dinners she made every night. She was an excellent cook. Cooking was one more way in which she demonstrated her love for us. I can still remember the special breakfasts and dinners she’d make just for me. 😊
Mamá was also a strong woman. She was a World War II bride and gave birth to my Auntie Miriam while Papá, my grandfather, was in the Army. I don’t believe Papá made it back until my Aunt was 18 months old. In the 50s, after my grandparents divorce, Mamá went to Secretarial school. Later she learned to drive. She did things that many women of that time did not do. She was 52 when she decided to move to the US, and that’s when she began to learn English! I was 9 and would get on the CTA bus with her to go to English classes. At that age, not knowing English, she learned to navigate the city of Chicago! She demonstrated strength through many experiences and trials in her life, and was a great example to me that has served me well in my own life.
Part of Mamá’s strength came through her faith. When I was 14 I moved into her place. Every night without fail, I watched Mamá demonstrate her faith in God by reading from her Bible Study book. And every night she would pray. I don’t ever remember her not doing that. At church she served in the nursery on a regular basis. She cooked for every occasion and became the “church hostess” in charge of all the cooking for the special occasions. She did that for 25 years, until she was 83 years old! I was about 15 when she started giving a young migrant worker a ride to church every Sunday, even though he was a little out of our way. That young man eventually went on to seminary and became a pastor! And I knew about the boy she sponsored in another country. But a couple of years ago, I found that over time she had actually sponsored three children in other countries when I found their photos and letters. Her heart to serve others reaped many rewards, not for herself, but for others. You might say that was her faith in action.
Mamá made an impact on numerous people throughout her life. She adopted a baby boy at age 37. She had a hand in raising a few of us grandchildren. She told me recently that that was what she was most proud of in her life. Three years ago, at age 86, Mamá was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. The week I spent packing up her things and helping to get her ready to move to my mother’s home, a large number of ladies came by at different times to say how much they would miss her. Each lady was so grateful to her for all the rides to their doctor’s appointments, and to the grocery store, and for all the meals she cooked for the ones who were too sick to cook at times. There was a wheelchair bound lady named Jane, who cried. She told me Mamá was someone who would stop and take the time to be caring and talk to her. I can only hope that I can make the kind of impact on people that Mamá made.
There are so many things that come to my mind that I could say about Mamá’s strength, her faith, her service to others, her loving spirit. But I would be writing a book! So I will leave you with this. As sad as I was at the thought that her light had gone out, I am beginning to smile again. I smile because her light is not gone. Just as one candle can light many candles, Mamá did that with her life. She let her light shine and in doing so, touched many lives, of which I am one. If I, and all the others Mamá touched, can be like a mirror and reflect her light…that will be something to smile about. 😁
“Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.” Matthew 5:16