Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Ode to my grandmother - 1915 - 2012

My grandma (AKA La Loyita) with my cousin Carmen
With my grandma (Mami Elodia) @ her birthday party few years ago.

Buenaventura Elodia Barrios (1915-2012) - she lived 96 years :)

I loved my grandmother. I grew up seeing her every few days since we lived around the block from her. She always made me giggle and squirm because she always wanted to chew our chins with her gums lol. It amused her to no end :) She was always smiling and laughing at something. She was full of love and joy for all to see. She was loud and vibrant right up to her passing this past weekend 3/24/12. The whole family is hurting from this loss. Was it a surprise? No, she had been recovering from constant bouts of pneumonia all stemming from strokes she suffered a few years ago. And she was 96. Her immune system was not strong but her spirit always was. Every time I stopped by for a visit she would tell me a story from long ago. She remembered her childhood in Guatemala, her abusive husband (who always drank and gambled the money away), and her escape from my grandpa to the Capital to start a new life and the struggles that ensued.

She never wished my grandpa any harm. Never really spoke bad about him, even though we all knew he was not very nice to her and she ended up fleeing with only the clothes on her back and the youngest kids with her. She was a mother of 11 so that showed the drive and perseverance she had to make a better life for her and her children.

The oldest children never bore any resentment towards my grandma like you see nowadays for any little thing. They supported her move; they never lost contact. They even took care of their father and in time created their own lives and families. She never looked back and did what she had to do to make ends meet with her kids.

While she lived with my grandfather, she did odd jobs to stay afloat. She was a candlestick maker, a mender of clothes, sold nick-knacks, etc. any job she could find she did. I really wish I had recorded her when she told us her stories. I remember listening intently, fascinated by her life and achivements. She never gave up! She never gave up hope for a better tomorrow. And best of all she never lost Faith.

What makes her passing extra painful is the fact that she was the rock that held our extended family together.  Because of her we all gathered yearly for her birthday making it our family reunion. We all bonded and were able to catch up with each other once a year which was always fun. Our family, all us cousins and aunts and uncles and kids etc all live far away from each other. She was the driving force for us all to unite in Los Angeles to celebrate her life yearly. Don't get me wrong, we all visited with her on our own weekly, monthly etc  but it's not the same. Once in a while you got lucky and got to see an aunt or cousin visiting at the same time but it wasn't the same.

I hurt because I loved her but I feel relieved in her passing because I know she was tired. She cried every once in a while asking why God wouldn't take her yet. That's heartbreaking to hear. I'm at peace knowing she's in a far better place now. Running down the fields and enjoying the cool breeze. She hasn't walked in a few years now due to a stroke. We also had not taken her outside in the yard in the past year because she was very weak now.

I also hurt for my mother, my aunts and uncles and my cousin Carmen, whom my grandma always considered her youngest child. The pain they feel is not the same pain I feel. I know that. It hurt me deeply to hear my mother cry on the phone that she "had no mommy". Nobody should ever feel that but I know that is not realistic.My grandfather Jacinto died in 2001. I had the pleasure of meeting him for the second and final time in Guatemala a few months before his death. My mom and her sisters and brothers cried and mourned his loss then too, the past pain erased, but its not the same pain I see with the passing of Mami Elodia. A mothers love cannot be substituted.

I'm not looking forward to her wake and funeral next week. I don't want to say goodbye. I don't want to see everybody crying. I will feel helpless. I will try to be as strong as my grandma was in life and help my mom with anything she needs. I will be have to be her shoulder, her rock, those days.

Mamita, I love you. I will always love you and cherish the 35 years I had with you. Luckily I took a lot of goofy videos & pictures of you and those around you in recent years and will never forget you. You touched all our lives. Gave us strength and filled us with joy. Your faith in God never wavered and it showed. You were blessed and because of it and so were we.