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In Memory of My Grandfather

Dorothy Riera

He died when I was only six. The year was 1957. Yet his image and gentleness remain vivid in my mind. I can still see him walking down the street all garbed in white and holding onto his cane. He was tall, with deep set dark eyes, a huge moustache, an elongated face full of wrinkles. He always wore a white panama hat to protect him from the burning rays of our hot Caribbean sun.

He was born in Nazareth of Christian parents. Seeking new adventures and maybe fortune, he left his native land and traveled to a distant country. There he settled leaving behind family and friends. He earned a living from door to door as a salesman. It was this way he met my grandmother. She was much younger than he and the day she opened her parents door changed her life forever. They married soon after and had five daughters, having lost two boys at birth.

Life was not easy for my grandfather, who came to this new country with so many hopes and illusions. He struggled to make ends meet and after losing his small business during a hurricane, he was forced to separate his most precious gift - his family. My mother recalls it being one of the saddest moments of her life. She was sent to a school for needy children. Her sisters were sent to live with other friends and relatives. But, ever slowly, and desperately finding menial works, he was able to reunite his family.

In spite of adversity, my grandfather was a unique man. He was deeply rooted in values and traditions. He never forgot the background from whence he had come. Sunday dinners were sacred and prayer was part of his daily life. He was a simple man, but out of this simplicity came his grandeur. Friends and neighbors were always welcomed at the dinner table. No invitations were necessary because everyone knew "Don Jorge" had a place for them.

Maybe he never made the fortune he set out to find. But his life was far richer than many others. The inheritance he left his family went beyond material wealth - honor, integrity, his willingness to give and to help others, his love of God, a smile that never faded even when he was at his lowest. I still remember that smiling face. My grandfather did find his fortune. He found it in himself and he shared it with all who knew and admired him.

As we recall, during the month of November, those who have preceded us - our grandfathers, grandmothers, fathers, mothers, brothers, sisters and friends - we hold unto the memories. We are thankful to God because these extraordinary people have enriched and molded us. We pray for them and we continue knowing that our lives will touch each other again.

When I must leave you
for a little while
Please do not grieve
and shed wild tears
and hug your sorrow
to you through the years.
But start out bravely
with a gallant smile;
And for my sake
and in my name
Live on
and do all things the same,
Feed not your loneliness
on empty days,
But fill each waking hour
in useful ways.
Reach out your hand
in comfort and cheer
And I in turn
will comfort you
And hold you near;
And never,
never be afraid to die,
For I am waiting
for you in the sky!
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