A scribble in the bottom left-hand corner of my daily planner reminded me to return some borrowed items to a friend Monday.
I didn’t get to.
Instead, I attended the viewing and praying of the rosary for longtime family friend Mateo Nunez of Decatur.
Although I didn’t know Mateo very well, I knew of his benevolent demeanor, and I’m fairly certain anyone who knew him could attest to that characteristic. Each week he welcomed parishioners of the Spanish mass at Assumption of the Blessed Catholic Church in Decatur. Throughout the mass, you could distinctly hear his voice above all others, belting out the hymns.
It is my understanding that, even at 82 years old, he ran one mile daily, regardless of the scorching heat of the summer or the frigid temperature of the winter.
And although he lived a solid eight decades, his death was rather unexpected. His departure leaves a void in the lives of all who knew and cared for him. A feeling of emptiness I know a little about.
My grandma would have been 66 Thursday. I miss her every day, but the void seems a little larger around this time in August, the first few days of March (she died that month in 2007) and when I get into an argument with my mom (Lita always took my side).
The longing to hug her once more heightens on holidays and family celebrations – not to mention on the unfortunate occasion that I recognize the same grief by others, like those sitting in the front benches at the funeral home Monday.
It didn’t help that the verses sung between mysteries of the rosary prayed for Mateo were some of my Lita’s favorites. Sitting in one of the benches at the back of the chapel, I was flooded with an all-too-familiar pain, an agonizing reminder of the loss of our matriarch.
I loved that woman, and as much as it hurts to have lost her, I am fortunate enough to have memories of her unconditional love and support and witty sense of humor to cherish.
Memories of her, always in a black cardigan, sitting in the stands cheering on my pitiful attempts at sports and a sharp glare disapproving of my wardrobe.
Memories of her thrusting all 130 pounds of her petite frame at a blow-up pool in which I sat to make “waves” because she knew the wave pool was my favorite attraction at the water park.
Memories of her rolling perfectly round pods of batter to make flour tortillas. My mouth still waters at the thought of that treat.
I consider myself lucky to have found myself in one of the front pews of the funeral home only once in my life. Inevitably, that probably won’t be the last. And when that day comes, I don’t know what I’ll do. Monday was a reminder of that.
In the meantime, I’ll take advantage of the time I do have, whether it’s jotted in the planner I live by or not.
I didn’t get the borrowed nurse’s scrubs to Ericka Monday. But I certainly took advantage of the opportunity to pay my respects to a great man, snuggle next to my mom, plant a wet smooch on my dad’s cheek, hug my Lito tight, make my best friends laugh and pick a good-natured fight with my brother.
You just never know.