Friday, February 4, 2011

In Rememberance of Maria Hidalgo

Today marked the one year anniversary of my friend's death.  Her name was Maria Rocha Hidalgo.  She died of breast cancer.  Ironically, she was already a  breast cancer survivor.  She had beat it  when she was initially diagnosed the first time and  seven years later it came back with a vengeance and sadly, her body could not resist it the second time.  But this will not be a sad post about my friend. No, rather, it will be a tribute to a woman that I still remember coming over my house in shorts and a tee shirt, to hold cheerleading practice. Or to help me organize my Quince Anos (My Fifteen) party. We met in the fourth grade at Holy Name Parochial School.  Maria was a beautiful young girl. I'm not just saying that either. She really was beautiful. She was "that" girl.  The one all the guys wanted to have. The one that all the girls envied.  But she carried her beauty even back then, with class. She was a very simple and charismatic person. She would give you the shirt off her back if you needed it, no questions asked.  After parochial school, Maria and I went on to high school. Incarnate Word Academy.  The oldest Catholic all-girl school in Houston. There, we became even closer.  We weren't best friends but our friendship surpassed the norm. After high school, we ended up getting a part-time job at a local department store together. Not on purpose.  No one was as surprised as we were when we showed up for orientation.  We had the same circle of friends, so we were always doing stuff together.  I was with her the day she met her future husband.  And I remember vividly how she looked me in the eye and told me she was going to marry him.  Years later, she did.  I was one of the bridesmaids.  After she got married, life got in the way and we lost track of one another.  Many years would pass before I would see her again.  And it was hurried or in passing.  One time I would see her at Target that's where I met her first born, Victoria.  The next time I met her at a mutual friend's party.  She was pregnant with her second child, Vanessa.  She was always more interested in hearing what I had to say or what was going on in my life or ask about my family's well-being.  That's just the type of person she was.  And she was always in a good mood and happy and even if she wasn't, you could never tell.   In the summer of 2009, I learned through mutual friends that the cancer had returned and with a vengeance.  I remember feeling bad for her but I didn't reach out to her.  Again, life got in the way.  But through Caring Bridges (a website for Cancer patients/survivors/families) her husband kept a blog about her progress and their life.  It was there that I found her even more amazing! She remained positive until the day she died.  And she didn't feel sorry for herself so she didn't want us to feel sorry for her either.  Harold told us later, that when the kids started crying, she quickly told them not to cry or be sad, she said she was on her way to heaven and they should be happy.   By September of 2009, all things seemed to indicate that the medication and treatment she was receiving was working.  But then, in late November of the same year, she became sick and had to be hospitalized.  It was there that the doctors told Harold and Maria that there was nothing left to do.  Almost indignant, they refused to accept the doctor's diagnosis and sought help from the best doctors and the best hospitals in the world.  They even tried alternative medicine.  She would say that she was not going down without a fight.  And she didn't.   In the last week of January 2010, I learned that the doctors had given her only weeks to live.  She had come to accept it and was now at home resting and praying to God for a miracle.  I rushed to see her.   I didn't want her to die without me seeing her and telling her how much I loved her.  This was not going to happen to me again!  Alright, let me give you some background on that statement.  Maria and I had a mutual friend who also grew up with us and went to elementary and high school with us.  Her name was Gerri. When she was 22, she died of complications from leukemia.  I never went to visit her.  Not once. I didn't want to see her so sick.  And when she died, I felt so guilty for never visiting her.  Soyears later, here I am again, well, this time I was going to say good bye.  Walking up to the the front door of her house, I grew more and more scared and hesitant.  I didn't know what to expect or what to say or not say.  Harold had told me before hand that she was lucid, she was not wearing her wig, and she was very weak and having trouble breathing.  I was greeted by her youngest, Harrison.  He opened the door and let me in.  And there she was.  Propped up with pillows and tons of blankets.   She wore an oversized pink robe.  It was so big, it almost swallowed her tiny body.  Instantly, my fear of seeing her disappeared.  She smiled when she saw me and motioned for me to sit next to her, on the couch.  I hugged her and could literally feel her bones.  She held on to me for a long time and seemed so happy to see me.  She was so frail, her eyes yellow and glazed, her lips parched, but she still smiled and laughed and joked around with me.  We reminisced that afternoon.  We talked about our lives and our families.  And then she told me to be happy.  "Just be happy Yvonne.  That's all."  Those words stay with me always.  She told me of the countless visitors and letters and emails of support she had been receiving.  People who had not been in touch with her for decades, were now coming out of the woodwork.  She told me that she was done with treatment and was leaving it in God's hands.  She had had a phenomenal life.  I saw that she was growing tired, so reluctantly, I said good bye.  I didn't cry.  I thought I would.  But I didn't.  Not until I was on the road again, in my car.  I pulled over and cried my eyes out.  On February 4, 2010, I was on my way to New Orleans for a Superbowl party, when my phone rang.  I was half asleep in the backseat of my friend's car.  My sister gave me the news. "Maria died this morning."  If I could have, I would have driven back that instant. We were well into Louisiana already.  I immediately called my mom and told her.  And then I started crying again.   My mom told me that Maria would not want me to cut my trip short but rather, she'd want me to go and have a blast.  I calmed down and realized she was right.  And we continued on.  I would miss the rosary and the viewing and the funeral.  When I returned to Houston, I made my sister and my mom and my brothers recount everything that happened.  They had attended the rosary and the funeral.  Over 500 people showed up at the church to say good bye.  It was a testament to how much she touched people's lives.  And you know, she's pretty slick.  Although her death was a tragedy, she managed to get all of our former classmates together for the first time in years! And because of that, some of us have managed and promised to stay in touch and not let us meet again at such sad events.  So far, we've kept that promise.  This is who my friend was.  It's been a year, but it feels like yesterday.

10 comments:

Belle said...

This is a lovely tribute to your friend. Maria sounds like a beautiful person. I'm sorry everyone lost her at such a young age.

Shady Del Knight said...

This was beautiful, Yvonne. I'm sure that your friend Maria is smiling down from above. What you wrote here allows us to know what a great person she was, how valiantly she fought her final battle, and how gracious she remained till the end. I hope you will always remember her last words to you: "Just be happy."

Jenner said...

I found your blog through friends of friends today... I was saddened to read of your loss. It brought tears to my eyes, Maria was truly a special person and you must miss her very much! *hugs*

Sandra said...

My sincere condolences.
Time does ease the pain, but you will never forget her.
This post was a great tribute to her and your friendship.

The Adorkable Ditz said...

I hope Maria rests in peace, she sounded like a lovely beautiful woman. I'll pray for her soul and her family.

Be happy in the memories you shared with her and let her soul live on through you.

Let her look down from Heaven and see the love Yvonne.

http://theadorkableditzmissteps.blogspot.com/

Rawknrobyn.blogspot.com said...

I'm so sorry for your loss, yet inspired to read her story. It's heartwarming that a person close to death can feel so good about having had a "phenomenal" life.
Blessings,
xoRobyn

Yvonne said...

Belle - Thank you! Indeed, it was a tragedy.

Shady - Thank you! Yes, I remember them every day.

Jenner - Thank you for dropping by! Please come again! Maria is missed by many. She was a wonderful person.

Sandra - Thank you for your kind words.

AD - Thank you so much! I try to do that every day...

RR - thank you very much! She truly led a phenomenal life!

ISRAEL CARRASCO said...

This is so weird I just posted on the geath of my friend before reading this. That's why I said in an earlier post elsewhere that at night the mind can wander.

Sunny Dee said...

What a wonderful person Maria was to inspire such love and compassion from both her friends and complete strangers. Your tribute is beautiful!

Yvonne said...

Israel - that was weird! I'm sorry about your friend. That was very moving tribute to her that you wrote.

Sunny- Thank you. She was a wonderful person, inside and out.