Remembering my mother

On April 2, my mother died. That, plus recent travel, has prevented me from my blog writing. I want to say something about my mother's death.

She, Alma Garc'a Araiza, was 90 years old and in declining health. Five years ago, she was diagnosed with dementia. It affected her short-term memory, but she could remember the past very well. Fortunately, shortly after this diagnosis, I videotaped her talking about her history. Some years earlier, I had also audio taped her memories. I would encourage those who have not done the same with parents or grandparents to do so soon. It is important to pass on the memories and history of our family members for us and for future generations.

Like all mothers, my mother was central to my life and that of my siblings. Without her (and I know this sounds trite) I don't know that I would be where I am today as a professor at a major research university. She, herself, only had a high school education, but she valued education and especially Catholic education.

Despite my father's economic struggles as a small businessman in El Paso, my mother insisted that we all go to St. Patrick's Elementary School run by the Sisters of Loreto. I knew even then that this posed a hardship on my family and that sometimes we couldn't pay the tuition for four siblings and me. I also know that my mother used her innate leadership skills and perseverance to negotiate with the nuns to arrange for later payments in order to keep us in school. She then did the same when my three other brothers and I attended Cathedral High School run by the Christian Brothers and when my sister attended Loreto High School.

Born in El Paso to Mexican refugees who fled the Mexican Revolution of 1910, my mother was perfectly bilingual and bicultural. She was at home in English as she was in Spanish.

Although a housewife as we grew up, she found an outlet for her leadership in participating in PTA meetings, including being elected as an officer at St. Patrick's. She always attended our athletic events and sponsored the cheerleaders. She would do the same at Cathedral High School.

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Whatever leadership abilities I possess, I attribute to her. She further encouraged all of us to go to college. All of her children received B.A.'s and three of us received Ph.D.'s and are university professors.

My father died 26 years ago and I mourned his passing, but not like I have my mother. I miss her, but she will always be with me. As I go to bed, I find myself praying not just for her but to her.

Those of you who still have your parents, cherish them now and spend as much time as possible with them. I only wish I had done this myself. They are mortal and their dying reminds us of our mortality.

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