Musical selection: Solace - A Mexican Serenade, Scott Joplin, courtesy of Classical MIDI Archives, © 2000 Pierre R. Schwob

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MIJA'S LEGACY
Sue Angelo

She came into my life one day when she was admitted to the Alzheimers Unit where I work.

Confused, frightened, alone and lapsing into her native tongue of Spanish, she kept asking where she was...and where was Mama. I walked up to this lovely lady and asked her "que pasa, Mija?" (what's the matter, daughter). She slowly raised her tearfilled eyes and grabbed me about the waist, saying "Mama, where have you been?". "I'm right here, Mija", I told her.

From that moment on, Mija became my shadow. She'd tell me about her life working in the canneries and the fields. We'd talk about her husband and children. I laughed when she'd complain about the "gringo" food that we served for dinner.

Too soon her memory began to fade and she no longer complained about the food or asked why her sons didn't come to see her. It didn't matter to her anymore. The staff and I had become her family.

Last week she suffered a heart attack. The call was made to her son. He couldn't come ...it was raining...was his excuse. So I held her in my arms until the pain and fright had passed and she fell asleep.

Mija seemed to bounce back the next day. Following me wherever I went, talking, talking, talking. She'd tease me about my bad accent when I spoke to her in Spanish.

I had 3 days off so I didn't see her until I came back to work yesterday. As soon as she saw me, she opened up her arms and said "Mama, I've been waiting for you". She hugged me so hard that I almost couldn't breathe. "Que pasa, Mija?" I asked. "I don't feel too good", she said.

Kneeling down to look at her I saw how pale she was. As I was starting to stand up she grabbed me around the neck and said, "Te amo, mama" (I love you, mama). "Te amo, Mija", I replied. She let out a sigh, and while I was holding her she died in my arms.

What greater legacy could Mija leave than "El regalo de amor", the gift of love.........

Vaya con dios, Mija.

Sue