Tuesday, October 6, 2015


David, Mario, Aunt Rose, Me, Jennifer and James
Tuscon 2010

When you throw a pebble into a pool of water, there are ripples that make rings around it.  They are quite beautiful and are proverbial examples of our actions affecting others.  I want to tell you about Mario’s Aunt Rose today, a woman of peace whose life was one pleasant ripple after another.

“My Aunt Rose is the baby of the family,”  Mario told me the day I met her. “She is the normal one in my Dad’s family.”

Mario’s father’s family was extraordinary; they could not be described as conventional.  His paternal grandparents, Joe and Amanda were from Spain and lived as immigrant business owners in the town of Hollister, California.  They had twins – Mario and Carmen; then Angelo (Mario’s Dad), then Rose. 

Mario was a professor at USC and wrote books (that I struggled to read) in academic languages; he was married to Aunt Mildred.   Carmen (whom Chev called the “love of the family”)was an intelligent, opinionated, stunning beauty – she married Uncle Frank.  Angelo (he later changed his name to Chev Rogers) was a Broadway actor who could sing – he married Mario’s Mom (Cynthia) then Alice (who Alicia is named after).  Then there was Rose, who I didn’t really know.  She lived in New Mexico and wrote letters by hand to us, she seemed so peaceful.

The day I met her, I realized that Rose (Tia Rose) was peaceful.  She had come for a visit with Uncle Frank and Aunt Carmen - they invited us to their place for an afternoon of family.  Rose was wearing a blue dress, made of light cotton fabric.  Her husband, a big man named Raul, was eating chilies whole (this action reminded me of my own Uncles who lived in Southern California). Rose greeted us and sat down to chat.  She asked questions about our lives and listened to us.  She took delight in our children.  It was like she was the keeper of family memories, and she explained about Mario, Carmen and Angelo in one sitting to me that day.  She said Angelo was always sweet and Mario was naughty and everyone thought it was the other way around.  She said her big sister Carmen really was full of love, just like Chev said. 

That day, we took family pictures and had maybe three or four hours together.  Later, she walked us out to the car to say goodbye.  She was unhurried and calm.  Peaceful.

Years later, I saw her again in Tuscon, her new home.  Uncle Raul had died and she was living by herself now.  We had a wonderful lunch and a family time with her son and grandchildren.  We cherished the time together and hold it in our hearts. She continued to write us letters, even when we were in Africa.  She emailed faithfully and even learned to master Facebook.

A few weeks ago, Aunt Rose sent us a different kind of letter: she had cancer and was not expected to live long.  "I am ready," she wrote to us.  "It's finally my turn and I'm ready to take it." 

The news hit Mario like a boulder.  He had just lost his last remaining brother; now none of his immediate family were alive.  In Mario's mind, his remaining family (that he felt close kinship with) was Alice, Cindy, and Aunt Rose. 

"I have to go see her," he told me.  

At first, Aunt Rose waved him off, saying that it wasn't necessary for Mario to make the trip out. She was exhausted most of the time and it was an effort to visit.  She had pain; she wasn't the best company.  Then, as if miraculously understanding his desire, she wrote: "If you need to come and say goodbye to me, then come."

He went with Shirley, my beloved sister-in-law (Anthony's widow) and her son, Evan.  The afternoon was magical; Mario said that Aunt Rose enjoyed the visit and had very little pain.  He sent me pictures of her.  

Today we received word that Aunt Rose took her turn and left this world.  It has been an unusually sad day.

Sometimes our caricature of family is happy people who spend a lot of time together.  I believe that a precious family is made up of many parts, including the gems that you hardly see.  Aunt Rose was one of those precious gems to us. 

Today, please hug your family.  Forgive past hurts and celebrate the love you have; you don't know how long it is going to last.  We all need one another; family is so important.