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In Memory of My Beloved Abuelo

Recently, my grandfather (whom I refer to as Abuelo) passed away, and it was a shock to my family and me. I decided to write this post not to grieve or attract pity but to celebrate his life and write about what he meant to me and those around me.

He was born in a small town in the mountains of Colombia, and his father (Juan Antonio) was a coffee grower, a builder, and a merchant. Abuelo resided in Colombia, only coming once every six months to The United States to maintain his status as a resident in the US. Every night I saw my mother on the phone talking to Abuelo for long hours, and they spoke even longer when he visited us in person. He enjoyed the exceptional coffee and food that my mother cooked for him (and for us); I think it reminded him of his homeland. They would often talk about their family, especially about his father (my great grandfather). Through these conversations, I learned a lot about Abuelo’s childhood and life. My great grandfather (Juan Antonio) was a fascinating man too, so much so that I could very well fill an entire, lengthy post with exciting stories about him, but I will leave that to my mother and her book.

My Abuelo meant a lot to me and all those around him. I think the best way to describe him is found right in his name, which is Amado. Amado translates to ‘beloved’ in Spanish, and that, in my opinion, is the best way to describe him. He was loved by many because of his integrity and kindness. I was always very excited when I knew he was visiting and looked forward to talking to him every time I saw him. He was charismatic, knowledgeable, and intelligent, so our conversations were both interesting and pleasing. We would talk about books, politics, history, his job, movies, and everything in between. He often surprised me with his wisdom, so much so that I aspired to be like him.

And that brings me to what he was to me: a father figure. He was my friend and my counselor. He embodied wholly the man I aspire to be. I want to make people feel the way people felt around him. I want to know as much as he did and be able to discern as well as he did. He will always be my greatest male role model.

When I look at his life, I feel inspired. He worked to succeed in his career as a judge (serving as chief justice of the Supreme Court in Colombia) while still staying humble and kind. He was also a role model to me in regards to Christianity. He was the most devout Christian I’ve ever met, and every week he’d enthusiastically went to church, not to look good in public or out of a sense of necessity, but because he genuinely wanted to learn more about God. During Christmas, he always encouraged us to do the “novena” and I will always remember his strong voice leading us into prayer. He never told me how great of a Christian he was. I could tell by how he spoke to people, the things he did for those around him, and the respect he gave God, himself, and others. He was also generous, not only with material things but with his time. His last gift to me was the book he was reading before his dead: “Don Quixote” from Manuel de Cervantes. He wanted me to practice my Spanish but also to learn about Spanish literature through this classic. I remember our discussion at the B&A trail about French, Russian, and American writers; I miss my conversations with Abuelo.

His life was seldom easy as the outside world saw it, as I can testify on things I saw when he faced verbal abuse from people close to him. Still, he managed to stay hopeful and happy, especially around us, my mother, and my uncle Felipe. This wasn’t because of blind optimism but rather a confidence in himself to handle the hard things that came his way. One thing I noticed in him that felt unique was a genuine love for work. Not just his job, but work in general. He felt that work was a gift and blessing from God that fulfilled us and added meaning to our lives, and that attitude would heavily influence my mother.

There is no better example of this trait than his refusal to retire entirely from serving society. At age 88, he was the president of the Academy of History in Buga, the President of the Judicial credit Union he founded more than 50 years ago, an active writer, and a defense lawyer for special cases. Sadly, many people I know are excited to retire early, sit in a chair, and stop contributing to society or, in their mind, be free of their responsibilities. This wasn’t the case with my Abuelo. That’s the reason he worked up to his passing at the age of 88. These values were passed down to my mother, who immigrated to The United States by herself when she was in her 20s to advance her education; I see how she is working to pass these values onto my sister and me. This is what people mean when they say, “the sins of the father are visited on the son.” It means that the choices a person makes will affect their children not only economically, but ideologically and I am thankful to have Abuelo’s example in my life.

That’s the reason my Abuelo will live on forever: because the decisions he made helped produce and properly raise one amazing daughter-my mother, and I aspire to grow up to be as integral as he is. His striking personality influenced the people around him, and his memory and good deeds will continue to do so long after his passing.

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