Requiem for a Beloved Grandmother

The passing of a gracious San Fernando Valley lady

By Frankie Firme
Published on LatinoLA: February 24, 2005

Requiem for a Beloved Grandmother

Bittersweet pain....deep heartache...the longing for a return to another time...the love of family...tears of the young & old...promises to stay together...a lesson in humanity...forgotten prayers...

All of these deep, heart stirring sentiments can be attributed to the loss of a loved one, at a time so full of grief, that it defies our presumed emotional boundries. When the affected party is a large, close knit Latino family, the likes of which I am priviliged to be able to identify with...well...let's just say that this piece touches the depths of my soul in a way I had thought would never occur again.

Big families are something that are becoming a thing of the past, for more reasons that can be stated.

Big families with dozens of Aunts, Uncles, cousins, brothers, sisters, and a multitude of "absorbed" others considered family members, and a respected pair of grandparents or two, are not that appealing to survival in the new millieum barely hitting it's first nickle in years, according to recent census reports and available social data.

That being said, it's also a distinct privilege, and a memorable position of acquaintance to be able to claim membership in a large family, and for the sake of this story, a large Latino familia. Lessons of life safely learned from a trusted family member endure like a birthmark. The pain of betrayal or violation by a member of the same tribe stand as an emotional scar...but I wouldn't trade the experience for anything

Nobody gets along with everybody...but when it's family, it just seems to mean more. The love is stronger, the adversity is more painful, the losses more hurtful, and the reconcilliation more beautiful as to cement bonds that even the tightest of friends cannot compete with.

So it was recently, that La Senora Josephine "Josie" Reyes of Sylmar, California, was called upon by God to join him and her late husband Albert in Heaven, leaving this World and a large, loving family who mourn her passing even as you read this.

Nobody famous, no historic accomplishments in any books...but a loving mother, tia, & grandmother was she!

For over 50 years, she was a member of the close knit community of the San Fernando Valley's suburb of Sylmar, California. Raising 9 daughters and one son would have been a monumental task enough, but she also embraced many in the community who would lovingly refer to her as "Grandma" over the span of many years...and the epitome of a loving Grandmother was she to so many.

I came in late to the picture, being lucky to become involved with one of her lovely daughters, but it was evident that there was love in her family that had been there for so many years.

Despite extentions and changes in the family, splinters and disagreements, time and it's toll, the family managed to gather at most holidays and celebratory occassions in honor of "Grandma" , as she seemed most happy when surrounded by family. Football games, baseball games, birthdays, basketball games, family bar-b-qs or name it, and "Grandma" was there...always ready with a smile, and a worried question about those not there...yep...that was her!

As an outsider new to the clan, I watched admirably as all members of the family bestowed love, respect and attention to an ailing and frail woman, who , even in sickness, worried about the well being of her family.

When she went to the hospital where she would eventually draw her last breath, her large family occupied the hospital waiting rooms in shifts, never leaving her side, never leaving her alone, never abandoning each other.

When she left this world, her earthly body was surrounded by the deep mourning and almost hauntingly beautiful wails of her daughters, nieces , nephews and grandchildren. She died peacefully, and with a brief if she knew she was surrounded by family and so much love...and she could leave content that her family had gathered together again so she could see them one last time.

The ensuing assembly of this large family, many friends, and members of the community of Sylmar & San Fernando was a show of true faith, and a remarkable legacy of an honored Lady. Old hates were put aside, grudges were forgotten for the moment, severed family ties were rewoven, tears flowed unabashedly and freely...

...and a family shared love and pain together...while the sweet , mournful sounds of Mariachi played in the background.

My own family has experienced loving losses such as this, but it's been some years. This experience brought me back to the bittersweet pain & love that only family loss brings...and I shed some tears for Josie Reyes and her family, grateful that they had allowed me to be in the mix at this special time.

Rest in peace, Josie...and save us all a good seat up there...we're gonna need a lot of them!

About Frankie Firme:
Josephine "Josie" Reyes was the mother of Frankie Firme's lovely Lady Josie..may she rest with the Angels in heaven above...

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