A Tribute to Mom

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My mom passed away when I was 17, almost 11 years ago. She was radiant, compassionate, and determined. My siblings and I were all very close to her. She was my best friend.

Mom was an incredible individual – and I mean incredible.

She was a civil rights lawyer, the first Hispanic woman appointed to the Los Angeles Superior Court, and she was elected to be the first female president of the Mexican American Bar Association (she turned down the honor when she was appointed to the LA Municipal Court). She was eventually appointed to the California Court of Appeals.

She was more than just an accomplished career woman, though.

Mom somehow managed to be the leader of my girl scout troop, sell lunch tickets at our school, start a drive for battered women, drive me to swim practice and surf practice, make it to almost all of my swim meets, yell at the top of her lungs to cheer us on at sporting events, and cook us an amazing dinner by 4 pm.

You would think that this would have made her irritable, but she was known for her bright smile, great sense of humor, and her ability to get people involved and interested. She was a morning person.

I was angry at the world for taking her away from me so early in my life, but I have come to learn how fortunate I was to have her as a mother. She made an enormous and lasting impression on me, and my sadness is slowly disintegrating to happier memories.

The world is not the same without my mom. But it’s not the same because of her.

I think of her often and smile.

What mom taught me:

Life is unfair. But you can do something about it.
Don’t waste your life sleeping in. Wake up.
So many people are less fortunate than you. Use your talents to help others.
You can paint that. It’s simple.
Don’t take life so seriously. Laugh.
Have fun! Dance!
Appreciate the ocean, the sunsets, the world.
Take the time to smell the rosemary, the lavender, the jasmine.
Life is short. Live.

Mom lived for a relatively short period of time, but she lived. I wish the same for you.

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Elena Perez

Elena Perez obtained a B.A. in American Literature at UCLA, but a growing interest in environmental issues led her to enroll in science classes and gain lab experience at UCSD and SIO. The close link between our ocean’s health and our own well-being has spurred Elena to explore the role environmental toxins play in our growth and development.

18 Comments

  1. Elena, I remember the first time Andy Boy introduced me to you – so beautiful and so bright. There was no doubt in mind that you would become the zealous intelligent woman you are today. Your blog is so touching and inspirational. I wish I had the pleasure of meeting your mom, but somehow it feels like I have. – Tammy

  2. Well that explains why you are so amazing! I can’t believe you wrote this! You should be a writer. It is poetic, moving and inspiring. Beautiful. Thank you for sharing.

  3. Hi Elena, I am a longtime friend of your Dad and remember meeting you as a small child. I have a daughter your age who played with you once when we stopped at your house while vacationing from San Antonio. I have been following your writings and am very impressed by your involvement in rectifying social ills. You say some beautiful things about your mother. She was a remarkable person who left a wonderful legacy. I congratulate you for maturing into a person who cares about the state of affairs around you. You sound, very much like my daughter, Vanessa. If you are ever in San Antonio, please look us up. Your dad and I were roommates in college and good friends in high school. Hook ‘Em Horns!!!

    • I would love to meet Vanessa! My dad has told me some great stories about your experiences. Thanks for reading. 😉

  4. I know your Uncle Ernie, and he passed this link onto me to read this. My Mom died from lung Cancer when I was 24. My twin sister and I are the youngest of 9. We had a home cooked meal on the table every single night. My Mom never looked more content than when she was surrounded by her kids.

    I loved reading your article. Your Mom is very proud of you. I’ve never even met you, and I can see how big your heart is just reading your words. That is a testament to your Mom too, she instilled some wonderful values in you.

    Hugs to you on Sunday for Mother’s Day. There will always be that wish that Mom were there with us to spend that special day with.

    Thank you for sharing your story.

    • Hi Chrissy,

      We always seem to lose loved ones too soon, but support and empathy go a long way in the healing process. Thank you. Hugs to you, too!

  5. LOVE IT! A huge lesson for all us mother’s out there. At a loss of words…but i can tell you this, she raised a very intelligent Woman and I’m sure she is very proud of you. Glad I took the time to read this. THANK YOU ELENA!

    LIVE AND LET GOD……Mothers out there (including myself) need to live each day to its fullest and stop when they are at full speed to cherish the importance of being a mother!

  6. Elena, Your mom was such a role model to me and I think of her often. I remember her laugh and her patience. As a single mom I have to remember to live life to the fullest. I miss her.

    Your cousin,

    Stephanie

    • Thanks Stephanie. You should definitely take time for yourself. 😉 My mom left me a letter that said, “sure, we can do it all, but at what expense?” Do stuff for you. (Traveling was one of her favorite past times.)

  7. How wonderful to see that my lil girl, Elena, is freely telling it like it is!

    I read this article and I was quietly sobbing to myself because I
    knew your mom personally and was well aware of the struggled
    she was going through trying to be a single parent. If you remember
    I saw her at your brothers basketball game, She was selling tickets and I
    visited with her and enjoyed the game and not once did she complain about
    anything! Instead she always wanted to be sure that everyone enjoyed life
    as it is intended to be. She wanted to insure good things for her children and
    what she may not have known was her children are making sure that everyone
    enjoys life and contribute to the future which I am proud to see you are doing!
    personally, I tell everyone don’t feel sorry for yourself there is someone else worse then you! contribute to our society in one way or another and you? my gosh Im so proud of you!

    Your Uncle
    Ern

    • Thank you, Uncle. Mom had a wonderful way of focusing on the good things in life. You’re right, there’s always someone out there with a bigger burden than your own. It’s a good mindset for dealing with life’s blows. =)

  8. Simply beautiful 🙂
    My how much work it takes to raise a family, and then so many of us add a career on top. I marvel at all the balls most women I know keep in the air all at once.

    My mom was also a civil rights advocate. I’m so proud of her legacy, as you are rightfully so of your mom’s Elena! And I’m certain they’d both be proud of us too.

    • I did learn that your mom was a civil rights advocate! Which I always find so admiring! I think a mother’s strength allows us to appreciate all the women that make great strides to create a better tomorrow. Eventually we see it in ourselves, too. =)

  9. Elena I am so proud of you. You make me smile and cry at the same time.. I am happy to see and hear how you feel. It is so true and agree with you with life.

    Love your cousin Angie

    • Thank you Angie. I really appreciate that – and I’m glad I could share with you. Hopefully I’ll be able to visit you guys soon! much love, e

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