No, I did not know Mrs. Galaviz, but I did know -- and still admire -- a few of her beautiful children, going to junior high with one of her sons -- now a doctor -- and admiring from afar one or two of her daughters -- at least one of those two now a lawyer. And though life did not make me a friend to any of the Galaviz family, I've remembered them over the years, always with respect; even decades later they come up in conversation from time to time, always with affection; and I'm pleased that Faithful Reader keeps me abreast of this remarkable American family.
Faithful Reader says Senora Galaviz
"fixed me more meals than I can count, and she liked the way I crumbled my bacon and mixed it with the eggs over easy she served me. Just like Eleazar! she said..."Yeah, Eleazar! Couldda been my brother-in-law...
Patricia Zuniga Galaviz
– Eulogy (Passed away 4-2-11, buried 4-7-11)
As a work of fiction or a piece of drama, this story would scarcely be believed, and even for her novellas, these scenes are too over-the-top.Patricia Zuniga Galaviz -- Rest In Peace
Wading across the Rio Grande River in labor.
Standing up in shaky English to the cruelty of the field bosses.
Clinging to life in a tuberculosis ward and praying beyond hope that her poor family not fracture before her return.
Enduring what was, let's call it, difficult behavior that was itself the product of the difficult life of her husband, himself a street urchin and orphan.
Outlasting and outpacing the hunger, the cold, the poverty that stalked her every step of early motherhood.
For Patricia Zuniga Galaviz was a mother first, and we all know that she prayed daily to the Mother of God for help along her unlikely path that took her from what was basically domestic servitude in Mexico, along a cotton, cabbage-picking, cherry-picking track of farm labor in this country's gut, up to something resembling prosperity in Wisconsin, and then back to her humble remaining years in San Marcos, many of them spent right here in prayer right here in this church.
And you know what? Almost every step of that epic journey was animated by love.
We could feel it as we were caressed in the fat of her arms. We could see it in the scrubbing and the mopping and the cleaning and the sewing, smell it in the Pine Sol and the soap. Or even eat it in the mountains of tortillas, the oceans of refried beans she would make daily over a lifetime.
And we could sense it in the small conspiracies she would enter into with each of her children or her grandchildren, making him or her feel like the most important person in the world. Because, to her---they were.
In her children and their children and their children, she had built, brick-by-brick, a new world that was populated by people built and infused with the same strong faith, the same strong will, the same strong desires of her and her husband.
To get an education. To serve their country. To be people of God. To love one another. To love her in return.
Though this was a difficult journey, and though it was stained by many tears, there also was much laughter and much simple joy, a knowing and arch humor and so much pride in her children and their children and their children.
But it is implanted in each of us here, it makes us strong, it has given us courage, it will be passed down and down again, it is a root and a keystone and a benediction and a challenge and a prayer all of its own, the love of Patricia Zuniga Galaviz.
But here is the fact underlying that: On any given day, at any given time, she was thinking of each of us, of all of us, because she loved us so much. She wanted to know what we had eaten for breakfast, whether our drive home would be rainy, whether we had enough toilet paper, what life for us was like in that very instant.
She wanted to be in our lives and to know our lives because so much filled with love was she for us that we WERE her life.
And now, as her eternal life begins, it is fitting that her life on earth, her love for us continues with all of us here.
Grandma prayed a lot and called on the saints and the Virgin Mary and the Holy Family and San Juan del Valle to intercede on her behalf, but mostly on behalf of her children. She'd light the candles and pray to the Virgin of Guadalupe to lighten their burden, to make their path a little easier than it had been for her and her husband.
In doing this she understood deeply and with humility what it means to need prayer and to be prayer-filled. She did this for all of us.
Now, she is going to be reunited with her brother and her sisters, to see grandpa once more, to see my mom, to see the Virgin whom she beseeched, to see God in His face.
And now, when WE miss her, now when WE need her strength, now when WE need a saint to intercede on OUR behalf – now we can pray to her.
Photograph of the Rio Grande courtesy of Contento, Ltd., 2007.