To You, Natalia

I could not write any new posts without dedicating a very special one to you, dear Natalia Gomez. You were my champion from the first posts, an encouragement whenever they were raw and full of emotion, a guide and an inspiration. You were a friend and sometimes a role model.

I remember when I first met you as a freshman in college. I did not take any of your classes but, as homesick as I was, found comfort in some of the faculty members who spoke Spanish. You assessed my skills as a Spanish tutor and gave me my first job in college. You also, on occasion, heard about how much I missed my home. You listened carefully and helped me find ways to stay connected with my culture -even when I felt so alone. The doors to your office were always open for me.

After graduation, I found my way back to you when working with the Sister Cities committee. You were always so willing to participate in any efforts to enrich the community and to get the university involved in cultural opportunities.

Not much longer after that, I became a mom. I remember how when you came to meet my baby you encouraged me to get out of the house and suggested I joined any of the organizations for moms in the community. You told me how much joining one had helped you meet people in those lonely times that come when you stay home with young children. You taught me about hiding vegetables in the most ordinary things, like pancakes and macaroni and cheese. You repeated once and again that there was no shame in looking for help when we needed it, and how great it was to have more than one reliable baby sitter on speed dial.

Whenever we got together, you shared about the very many ways you were trying to make a difference in the community, always insisting that I joined you in at least one of your efforts. And when you first were diagnosed with cancer, you were not passive. You looked the illness in the eyes and made every effort to get healthy again. You didn’t stop being involved. Instead, you helped write the new law that will help thousands of women in Michigan that have dense breast to have the right to require more tests and more information in order to detect breast cancer early.

You got better and continued to be a source of inspiration to so many. Even when you were not 100% better, you gave me a very cute baby shower for my second child, because you knew that we have one for every child in Mexico, because you knew I was homesick, because that was you: always trying to brighten up the world.

We didn’t see each other frequently. Your young family, the community and unluckily the cancer needed your attention. The later perhaps too much. However, whenever I saw you, your positive aura surrounded me and I always left our encounters feeling empowered, happy to be dedicating my best to my children, happy to be writing this blog.

One of my last truly happy memories of you is from about two years ago, when you came to see me at the hospital after I had my third child. You were so nervous to hold a newborn that it made laugh a little. You were so happy to be in that moment with me that we shared some joyful tears.

This year was a very hard one for you. You could not get as much done as you wanted to; yet, you were able to continue helping people. Like that time when you read my blog post about getting rid of my baby stuff and immediately getting a hold of me so that you could buy whatever was left to help a young mom. When I came to deliver the stuff you were very weak so I couldn’t see you, but that didn’t stop you from sending the most heartwarming text.

You were grand. A beautiful soul full of light, full of warmness, full of gratitude for every extra day you were able to spend here with us. So amazingly strong that you even pushed yourself to finish your poetry book just a few weeks ago.

I will miss you Natalia, but I am happy to be a part of the tribe of people you touched and so grateful to have had you in my life. Your children may not know yet of the very many people who have a little bit of their mother in their hearts, but I am sure they will always be reminded of the greatness of your heart and your joie de vivre.

I wish I could have done a lot more for you than what I did. I wish I could have spent more time with you. I wish to always have you in my heart and I wish to have your strength and your commitment to live life to the fullest.

Rest in peace dear friend. I will always think of you fondly.

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