Genealogy isn’t only about discovering forgotten ancestors.
It’s also about remembering and preserving the life stories of people you’ve known your whole life.
The absolute hardest thing I have ever had to do is to put an “end date” to a loved one’s profile in my family tree. It seems so finite and almost cruel to summarize a human being with just two dates. It took almost a year for me to open my FamilyTree program and add my step-father’s death date. I remember thinking “What now? That’s it?”. What about the 66 years in between? Was this all his grandchildren and great-grandchildren were going to ever know about him? I wrote a post about him after his death as a way to personalize his profile on my family tree. That was in 2011.
On January 30, 2017, my Titia Stella died. (I wish I could stop crying because it makes it so much harder to see the keys). Her breast cancer had metastasized into Paraneoplastic Syndrome and took over her whole body. She was 70 years old but, for at least the last 20 years, she was only 49 🙂. She was the first daughter of Raimundo F. and Rosa R. Lima, mother to Charles, William Jr., and my late cousin, Stephen, grandmother to Kayla, Jordan and Aaron, and great-grandmother to Tayla.
To me, she was Titia Strella (Star in Portuguese). You couldn’t help but smile with her no matter how you were feeling before. She made it her mission to make everyone feel happy and loved. I truly believe that when God made her, He took a bit of the sun’s warmth and the brilliance of the moon and stars to create her. When you saw her or even heard someone say her name you couldn’t help but smile. She was the embodiment of a true Christian. Whether it was visiting someone who was sick or in jail, providing a place to stay for anyone who needed it, or simply lending an ear to listen to your problems to which she would respond “Oh Honey! It’s gonna be OK”.
Her fashion sense was second to none 😋 and she always had some interesting stories to tell. It was a treat to hear her tell the story af opening a bank account with $25 to buy a house. Or the dream she had of a Portuguese-speaking black dog who told her that she should move to Brockton from Wareham. She wasn’t afraid to wear white shoes to Thanksgiving dinner and I can’t recall anyone having a bad word to say about her.
She loved her sons, her grandchildren and great-grandchildren. She loved her brothers and sisters, nieces, nephews and cousins. And we all felt it.
She always said that I was her favorite niece… she apparently said that to my cousins as well. So a few days before she passed away, as the family was gathering to say their goodbyes, me and my cousins, Michelle and Sindy (the other supposed favorite nieces😏) decided to get to the bottom of this … just which one of us was her favorite?!? She couldn’t move or speak at that point so we gathered around her bed and whispered in her ears to give us a little signal to let us know who it was. In the middle of the smiles and tears, I felt the faintest squeeze of my hand…. and then she gave each of us a smile.