She always said “take care” whenever anyone left her house. It wasn’t a big deal and normally, I listened to it as a simple goodbye and kept going on my way. One day though, she said it as I was leaving and I thought it was sweet she cared about me enough to always want me to be safe. That day I took a lesson from her and have been saying it ever since.
My grandmother was not famous by any means outside her family. Her death on Jan. 8 has warranted only a small obituary in her local paper and this column. But her death and life were certainly not in vain; she leaves behind her 94 years worth of lessons passed on to her four children, nine grandchildren and five great-grandchildren.
Her life was lived by three simple rules: work hard, have faith in God and keep the family together. Everything else in her life was secondary.
One of her famous sayings was “there’s nothing a man can do that a woman can’t do better.” Nothing ever stopped my grandma from what she wanted to do. She went to college when no one in her town went, especially Hispanic women. She pushed herself even when she didn’t need to and received her Master’s degree the day after she retired from teaching. While my grandfather was traveling around working for the railroad, she worked, took care of her family and remodeled her home. (OK-she did have a few problems when she tried to be an electrician and almost burned down the house.)
My grandmother was a woman of great faith. Every day you could find her at Mass, third row back, right next to the aisle. We had to buy her a new rosary just about every year because she wore them down from her daily prayers. Even at her deathbed, when she could hardly remember my name, she still kept the rosary in her hand, continuing with her prayers.
Out of everything she’s done in her life, my grandmother’s greatest accomplishment was her family.
Each time we were scared it might be her last few hours, over fifteen of her children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren raced to her side to support her and be with her, just as she had been there for us. She has kept us so close that my aunts and uncles are surrogate parents and my cousins may as well be my siblings. I can’t think of a family vacation I went on without my grandma sitting in the backseat telling us it was time to pray the rosary.
My grandmother wasn’t a woman who did huge things in an attempt to make a mark on the world. Instead, she accomplished little things with great love. She couldn’t raise thousands of dollars for the elderly, but she devoted her retirement years to visiting and comforting the sick. She couldn’t pay for the college educations of her grandchildren, but she always cooked our favorite things whenever we visited. She couldn’t publicize her faith in God through the mass media, but she lived it everyday as an inspiration for those who saw her. Instead of making a little impact on the entire world, she made a huge impact to the few of us who knew her best.
My grandmother was a model for the way I want to live my life. She lived to love other people. In return, she received the love she gave.
She will not be remembered by the majority of the world. But for those few of us who were blessed to have her in our lives, she lives in everything we do, in every time we say “take care.”
Maria Sanchez-Traynor is a senior majoring in English and Journalism.