While I was supposed to be making potato-leek soup and a baked good to bring to the first annual Friendsgiving today with my BFF’s, I had to back out of those plans when I heard some sad news. The grandmother of Vanessa, my oldest childhood friend, passed away this week, and the wake was today. I was touched when Vanessa texted me to tell me, as we haven’t kept in the best of touch over the years, and I knew I had to go.
First, Doña Juanita, as I called her, was a huge part of my childhood. She used to watch Vanessa and me after school, and I was always over at her house to play. She was a fiery woman with an easy to spark temper, but she also cared about her family immensely, and was one of my dad’s closest friends (I guess great tempers think alike?).
That’s the other reason I felt compelled to go to the wake today. In addition to wanting to be there for my friend, and wanting to pay respects myself, I went because my father can’t, and I know that he’d want to if he could. It was a strange feeling, sort of being there as my dad’s representative. As Vanessa’s mother, daughter of the deceased, introduced me to people and explained how I knew the family, I felt the weight of history. Not just my own, but of a history that existed before I was born, when my father used to have a factory, and Doña Juanita used to work in it, and how my mother and Vanessa’s mother knew each other when they were pregnant with us, which is how she came to be my oldest friend. And now, here I was with Vanessa at her grandmother’s wake; my now-married-and-six-months-pregnant friend with whom I ate the orange juice and Corn Flakes concoction we stupidly served ourselves at her Doña Juanita’s house when we were about six after she made us finish it, yelling at us for wasting food. Crazy.
Also, today was the first time in a long time that I prayed a rosary. I’d forgotten how meditative it is. I have my own rosary here somewhere, and I’m going to find it. It’s a really helpful way to pray. And with thirty or forty people in a room all praying it for the deceased at once? It felt like our hearts and thoughts and energies were all working to send this woman directly to Heaven. Do not pass “Go,” do not collect $200. And we were praying it in Spanish. If it’d been a while since I’d prayed a rosary, it’d been even longer since I’d said prayers in Spanish. Yet there I was, reciting the Our Father and the Hail Mary in Spanish as if I’d never stopped. Yet another part of my childhood that resurfaced for the occasion. It was nice to be reminded of a time when Spanish-speaking culture was more a part of my life, as well as to be around people who remember me from when I was under the age of five.
I’ll be attending the funeral service on Monday morning, because I know my father would’ve wanted to attend that, too. If you think of it, send your prayers/good wishes to Vanessa and her family, as they’ve lost a powerful matriarch. Though, since she was 95, it’s not as if she didn’t live a full, long life! She’s earned a good rest.
RIP, Doña Juanita. You were truly a one-of-a-kind lady.