Recently, we said farewell to a family jewel. My husband’s grandmother, Welita, as she was affectionally called, passed away at the amazing age of 103. Spunky to the end, she loved music and dancing and was seen moving her shoulders to the beat of her favorite artist while in hospice care. Hers was an extraordinary life marked by grace and dignity in the midst of often tragic circumstances.
Born in 1913, a year after the infamous maiden voyage of the Titanic, she was one of ten sisters and outlived them all (though they lived incredibly long lives too). While she raised 11 children under humble conditions in Puerto Rico, the world outside was changing by leaps and bounds.
She lived at a time when the world was new and brimming with possibilities. Common inventions like the zipper, pop up toaster, disposable diapers were introduced. Iconic landmarks like the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco and the Empire State Building in New York were opened for the very first time.
Raising a large family, mostly on her own with meager resources was just one of many hardships she faced in her lifetime. The world, too, seemed to be going through struggles of its own. The United States, still in its infancy, saw the prohibition, the Great Depression, women granted the right to vote for the first time, men landing on the moon, Dr. Martin Luther King’s historical I have a dream speech, the assassination of president Kennedy and the unprecedented election of an African American president.
Abroad, historical events most of us only read about took place–the Holocaust, the rise and fall of the Berlin Wall, two world wars, the Korean War, the Vietnam War and the Gulf war, to name a few. Although she was from another time and place, she was amusingly in touch with modern pop culture. She knew about Facebook and liked to ask what others were saying about her on the site.
As I talked with members of her enormous family during the funeral services, I noticed evidence of Welita in each of them. Her gracefulness, sophistication, feistiness, steadfastness, and tenacity sprinkled over her descendants as a final act of love. Her legacy will live on in each of them. For now, thoughts of this remarkable woman may bring sadness for her loss; in time, those thoughts will be replaced by inspiration and motivation to fight through difficulties we may face in our own lives–all to the happy tune of music.
Farewell Welita, until we meet again.