Eulogy for Ximena

My cousin Ximena died the other day. She was only 55. Cancer took her, the same way it took her mother, her mother’s mother, her mother’s sisters, (my mother among them), and my father. They say Cancer runs in the family. Probably. So we’re all running scared. She put up a good fight though; when she was diagnosed about two years ago, the doctors gave her no more than six months. But she was a fighter. She survived in relatively good form quite a bit longer than was predicted. Her spirits never wavered, even as she finally reached the point of painful decline when the end became evidently near. She continued to live her life with optimism and good humor. She wouldn’t accept any displays of sadness, or pity, or sorrow. In fact, when people approached her with contrite attitudes, she’d do everything in her power to lift up their hearts. So she usually ended up consoling those who had come out to console HER.

I didn’t get a chance to spend much time with her, because of the difference in our ages and the thousands of miles separating us. However, I’ll always remember the day Ximena and her new husband came to the hospital to visit my mother who was already very ill, right after their wedding ceremony. Xime looked radiant, beautiful still in her wedding gown. In Chile, it is customary for newlyweds to take a ride before showing up at the reception, right after the church ceremony, to allow time for the guests to arrive at the venue. Couples usually take this opportunity to pay their respects to people or places that hold special significance in their lives; thus it is not unusual to see brides visiting cemeteries, hospitals, old folks’ homes, or even their old alma maters sometimes. On this special day, Ximena chose to visit my mother. I was touched and also a little jealous (in a good way) to realize how  bright her future looked at that time, as compared to that of my poor dying mother.

Now she is gone too. She leaves behind a number of children and grandchildren, four siblings, a great number of cousins (myself included)  and many dear, dear friends and associates. She will be much missed. Her optimism and positive outlook on life–despite a fair share of trials and difficulties–will always be an example to follow. My heart goes out to her children and her husband, particularly. For us believers, Ximena may already be in Heaven, happily surrounded by her mom, aunts (my mom among them), grandma and grandpa, etc. This is the image we want to hold in our hearts. This is the consolation that us poor mortals are left with when the inexorability of death touches our lives. Oh to believe! May we never have to learn that our faith has been in vain.

Bon voyage, diear Xime. Say “hello” to my Mom & Dad if you see them!

————- (Spanish translation follows, for the benefit of my Chilean friends) —————–

ADIOS XIMENA

Mi prima Ximena falleció hace algunos dias. Tenia sólo 55 años de edad. Se la llevó el cancer. Al igual que se llevo a su madre, a su abuela, a sus tías (mi madre entre ellas), y a mi padre. Dicen que el Cancer es hereditario. Probablemente. Por eso andamos todos asustados. Cuando le diagnosticaron el cáncer alrededor de dos años atrás, los doctores no le dieron más de 6 meses.  Ella le hizo pelea sin embargo. Su espíritu luchador le permitió sobrevivir en relativa buena forma mucho mas tiempo que el predicho. Su espíritu nunca vaciló, incluso al final cuando el fin ya era más evidente. Siempre continuó viviendo la vida con optimismo y buen humor, consolando a quienes se le acercaban con actitudes contritas o tristes, al punto en que al final ella terminaba consolándolos a ellos.

Yo no tuve mayor oportunidad de compartir mucho tiempo con Xime, ya que la distancia y la edad nos separaban. Sin embargo, nunca olvidaré el dia en que ella visitó a mi mama en el hospital en el día de su matrimonio. Ahí estaba Ximena, radiante y hermosa en su vistido de novia, en el día de su boda, rindiendo honor a mi madre, quien  yacía cercana ya a la muerte. En Chile es costumbre para las parejas de recién casados dar una vuelta para visitar a alguna persona o lugar que tienen significado en sus vidas, inmediatamente despues de la ceremonia religiosa. Fue emocionante para mí que Ximena hubiera elegido visitar a mi madre moribunda en esa dia tan especial. Tambien recuerdo haber sentido una puñalada de dolor, al no poder dejar de comparar el futuro brillante que esperaba a Ximena, con el triste que esperaba a mi mamá.

Ahora Xime tambien se ha ido, dejando tras ella hijos, nietos, hermano y hermanas, una cantidad de primos y primas (entre ellos, yo) y muchos queridos amigos y compañeros de trabajo. La echaremos de menos. Su constante optimismo y positiva actitud hacia la vida–a pesar de penas y dificultades–siempre serán un ejemplo digno de imitación. Mi corazón se volca particularmente hacia sus hijos y esposo, quienes tendrán un gran vacío que llenar. Para nosotros, los creyentes, Ximena probablemente está ahora feliz rodeada de su madre, tías (entre ellas mi madre), abuelos, etc. Esta es la imagen que queremos guardar en nuestros corazones. Este es el consuelo que a nosobros pobres mortales nos queda ante la irrevocabilidad de la muerte. Oh el creer! Ojalá nunca tengamos que comprobar que nuestra fé ha sido en vano.

Buen viaje querida Ximena. Saluda a mis padres de mi parte, si los ves!

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