In life she was a legend; in death her legacy will continue through her spirit
Last week I went to my grandmother’s funeral in Mexico. It had been more than six years since I’d last been to the country in which both my parents were born. Every year I’d come up with some excuse as to why I couldn’t afford to go or didn’t have the vacation time to take off from my job. The truth is I wasn’t interested in going.
The reason for that escapes me now, but driving into those celestial Sierra Madre Mountains last week shook me to the core in a way that I hadn’t been in a long while. My soul felt connected to those long stretches of land – that even though more modern still recalled my youth – as if though I had arrived back home. Every mile we drove a more profound longing for embracing the land in which my summers as a child were spent grew deeper. The feeling was so intense that despite over 24 hours of not sleeping I could not bring my body to rest.
As we drove through Saltillo, Matehuala and then into San Luis Potosi the anticipation of arriving into Cerritos made my spirit twitch and turn with nervous ambiguity. Finally we arrived at the small rural area where all of my family descends from (El Sauz, Cerritos, San Luis Potosi, Mexico). Despite the newly paved roads time had all but stood still. My grandmother’s home was just as I remembered. With one significant exception of course – she was no longer standing at the entrance of her kitchen awaiting each one of her grandchildren to file in so she could shower us with embraces and love.
Instead, my mother stood waiting for her seven children and husband to express our deepest regrets for Mamatule’s departure. I never really understood why she was called Mamatule if her name was actually Maria Getrudes Maldonado Torres, but it felt right to call her that. After 96 long years of life that had often been controversial and painstakingly difficult my grandmother lay in her former guestroom looking more beautiful and calm than I had ever remembered. Outside dozens of grandchildren, children, and other acquaintances held each other and tried to console one another from the pain of knowing that she would never again take another breathe among us.
The sadness quickly turned into joy as memories raced through my mind of the many moments we had shared in this beautiful land. There was the smell of chocolate-sweetened coffee early in the mornings, her kisses and caresses every time we got in trouble, the countless summer days we had spent racing across her property, and many other unexpected recollections.
My grandmother was laid to rest on Saturday, January 30, 2010 in the same grave her mother had been decades earlier. While there, my siblings and I also visited the graves of my other grandparents and the importance of this place finally set in. As in life, my grandmother had once again brought us all together in her death. We left that next day before the sun had a chance to peek its head, and while my siblings and I had our share of arguments and altercations while in El Sauz I left that little hideout in the mountains with a new sense of respect for each of my two brothers, my four sisters, my parents, and the rest of my extended family.
I realized that we are all headed toward the same path and that in the end all we can do is accept and love one another. My hope is that when I die half as many people turn out to honor my life, mistakes and accomplishments. Grandmother, until we meet again.