My Great-Grandmother's Legacy

Life and DeathAwesome Moments

As I walked into the hospital, I felt remorse about not having visited my 103-year-old great-grandmother enough.

At nine years old, I was scared to see Barbarita for what I was told would be the last time. This was my first real encounter with death, and I didn’t know what to do. I walked out of the elevator onto the fourth floor and I immediately saw 20 family members spilling out of her room, waiting to say goodbye. I walked into Barbarita’s room, where I saw her on her deathbed. Nothing could have prepared me for the terror I felt. With a simple glance, I knew her time was coming. The only signs of life were her shallow breathing as I watched her chest rise and fall ever so slightly. This paralyzed me with fear. I didn't want to do or say the wrong thing since I knew her time was so precious. I could feel the sadness coming from my grandma, Nemma, as she saw her mother slipping away. Nemma grabbed Barbarita’s hand and raised it to give me a prayer. Then I could hear Barbarita’s fragile voice mumbling prayers to all of her great-grandchildren.

My mom’s side of the family is very large, and there were a lot of people who came to the hospital in Barbarita’s last days. And as she took her last breath, the family sat in silence for a long time. I was reflecting on Barbaritas life. Sadly, Barbarita lost a number of people during her long life, including her parents at a young age, later her husband while they were raising eight children, and her first baby grandchild. This scarred her and made her paranoid about all of the bad things that could happen to people. She started to become fearful of the awful things that could happen. This was the beginning of her overprotectiveness that would stick with her all of her life. Tragedy struck again and again, teaching Barbarita that bad things happen in the world, and how important it is to protect yourself and the ones you love.

Nemma (my grandma) married and gave birth to three girls. She then moved to New York when she was 23. Barbarita agreed to take care of my mom and her two younger sisters while Nemma was working and sending money back home to Ecuador. My mom was only five when her mom came to the United States. Thus, Barbarita raised my mom and her sisters. In a way, my mom learned some good lessons about how to avoid trouble and how to be careful of people and situations that could be dangerous. She taught these lessons to us, which has made us be thoughtful about situations and people. In another way, my mom was very unhappy that Barbarita never allowed her to go out to parties or social events and she missed a lot growing up. This made my mom teach us the lessons of being careful. Yet, she also wanted to raise us to enjoy doing things like travelling that she never did when she was growing up.

When my mom finished high school she, her sisters, and Barbarita were reunited with my mom’s parents in the Bronx. Life in America was very different, and Barbarita, Nemma, and my mom continued to be very protective of their family members. Nemma can be very strict and doesn't like me or my sisters to leave the house. She is always thinking of the bad things that can happen, and it took years until she finally allowed a friend to visit our house. My mom is a little different. She can still be overprotective at times, but she also has learned to take risks, like marrying my dad, who was born and raised in the United States with a different background. Mom got her wish to travel with my dad, and as a family we have gone to many places that mom dreamed of going when she was a little girl.

With all Barbarita’s knowledge of natural remedies and a healthy diet, she was one of the purest and healthiest people I knew. She would drink a drop of pernic blood in red wine for her vascular health. She rarely saw doctors because she did not trust them, and she had natural remedies and teas that she would give herself whenever she felt sick. She lived healthy and strong for the rest of her life. So, I now see the influence of Barbarita on her daughter Nemma, her granddaughter (my mom), and on me. I can see how Barbarita has influenced everyone, including me, to be very thoughtful about situations. I don't live in fear like my great-grandmother, but I tend to analyze situations to evaluate the risk. I am very grateful to have learned important lessons, and I feel that Barbarita’s legacy for me is to make better choices so I can live a better life.

Max Mesh is a 9th grader at the NYC iSchool in New York City. In his free time he enjoys playing electric guitar, skiing with his friends, and writing science fiction.

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