On May 29th, 2019, my abuela (grandmother) transitioned from this life cycle. She was 94 years old, the widowed mother of fourteen, and the grandmother of over thirty. To paraphrase a good friend of mine, “What a legend of an abuela.”
At the viewing, my uncle tearfully expressed his hero-worship of her. Though her formal education ceased before she turned ten, she taught her family and her community far more than what any of us learned in a classroom. The stories of her commitment to her household and her church awed me. In near-poverty, there could be no flashy lifestyle, no grand adventures, no impressive credentials.
Or so I thought.
During her funeral, the priest challenged our definitions of the word “glory.” He spoke of her love-filled life, raising goosebumps from my arms. The impact of her simple, pious existence from a little Midwestern town now spanned the globe. She produced a mass of peacekeepers that have spread her kindness to places she never knew existed. And I had never truly stopped to recognize that power. In the bilingual church that carries so many of my childhood memories, my sandcastle concept of glory was wiped away.
My abuela also wrote dozens of poems to capture that message of love. Again, not for recognition. Not for an audience. Not for any sense of accomplishment other than expressing devotion and discipleship to her God and Virgin Mother. To her, that was glorious. Praying the rosary every evening was glorious. Being with her family was glorious.
In a world where we’re taught to “dress to impress” and be impressive in every way, what is glory, really? Do we seek glory from a place of self-adoration or craving adoration? These queries accompanied me to the cemetery for the burial of a woman who had found glory in a life that would easily go unrecognized by anyone beyond our family and her local community.
As I watched my abuela return to the earth, I felt a deep humbling of my ego. This legend didn’t have a high school diploma, let alone a degree. This legend never published. This legend once joked that she hadn’t left the kitchen in 43 years. And yet, her radiant spirit and transcendent love improved world peace.
This legend was glorious.