She is my greatest influence.
All I have become, all I have accomplished is due to the influence of my mother. Her name is Velia Martinez. She is the daughter of Ezekiel and Angel Galicia. She is now 90 years old and her health is deteriorating rapidly. Recently I was able to travel to Chicago to see her. She still remembered me, but her brain is deteriorating at a rapid pace. The end is near. When I left Chicago, I knew that this was my final kiss, the last time I would see her. That is, of course, barring a miracle.
My mother and father raised us in the City of Chicago. In the early years we lived in the inner city. After my mother orchestrated the sale of our home— as we fled the violence of the inner city and especially that of the Latino neighborhood— we lived in and moved to the suburbs. She insisted that we speak Spanish in our home– a decision that would aid me greatly in the years to come. Her wisdom was sound. She was very serious about our education and enforced good grades with an iron fist.
Her gifts, and therefore the lessons she taught my sisters and I are many. They include: to fear God; to live sincerely; acknowledging the good and the bad; to never gossip and to be determined. She was a quiet teacher, (unless she was angry) one who led by example. There is so much to tell, so many memories, so many good moments and bad ones too.
Death will not be kept waiting. Sooner or later we all will have our meeting with him. Knowing this makes my mother’s demise no easier. I am very fortunate that I was able to return to the home where I was raised and spend a few days with her. Many of my friends— especially the ones who were born in foreign lands— do not have this option. They know full well that when their parents die, they will, most likely, not be able to attend their funeral, much less return to say goodbye.
The results of my mother’s last doctor visit were bad. She is deteriorating much faster than was known. Initially, we suspected that she might not live through all of 2018. But now it seems she may not survive to the end of this year. During my visit, I found myself vainly hanging on to any little morsel of hope that she would last a little longer.
My children are scattered throughout the United States so I called all of them and told them to prepare for their grandmother’s death. Life is an unforgiving taskmaster. Be it new birth, successes, failures or death— life does not stop. So we must all prepare as best we can and only hope we can be there together with the rest of our families when the end comes.
We will gather and remember. We will celebrate and mourn. We will become acquainted at a much deeper level and a few days later we will return to our regular lives.
As for me, I know my duty.
I will speak at her funeral. I will carry her casket and I will weep. She was my greatest teacher and I will sorely miss her.