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Elia de Cortez. She was married to Santiago de Cortez and their daughter was Mariana de Cortez. Thats me. My mom always used to call me Emy, until the day her sweet voice faded to nothing. That was the day I wish she was there to call me Mariana.
Her symptoms began when I was only 3. Her hair was growing thinner, she wasn’t as active as she used to be, and she went to the doctor’s office every other week. I hadn’t known what was going on, of course, but I knew something was happening. Something unusual.
A year went by until her body finally gave up. She had been sleeping and just never woke up the next morning. I was the one who discovered her lifeless body. A 4-year old trying to wake up her mommy to come play with her. April 13, 2000 at 9:47 a.m. was the exact time and date she was gone. Forever.
My whole family knew her as the most caring person who ever lived. “Santa Elia” was her nickname because she was like a saint.
“Elia didn’t ever come across as self-centered”, they would say.
“Elia lit up the room as she walked in” was another, or sometimes, “Your mother never considered herself a priority. Others were her priority”. These were often the answers I received when I asked about her kindness. My mom died from Lukemia, a cancer of the bone marrow. After she left, it was... different. The only memory I really have of her is the way she held me when I was scared or sad. The safety and security she provided was like a mother bird wrapping her wings around her fragile egg. I felt untouchable.
My mother was tall and well-built. My dad claims she looked like a goddess. Now, with that description, I have imagined her in a white toga, long braided hair, and a golden leaf circlet. From pictures, though, she looks like a regular young woman. Though her beauty almost matched that of Athena, the noble war goddess. She had brown eyes with a grey ring circling her iris and feathered black hair. Pure beauty.
According to Madre-Christina, “ y tu madre mucho bien hi ja. Mucho determinacion. That necklace around your neck, mi ja, symbolizes the greatness tu madre passes on to you. You need to realize it,”. My necklace is a circle with Santa Maria on it. It’s a locket, but needs a key in order to open it. I don’t have the key, but now I’m dtermined to find it.
I’ve heard many stories from several family members. They are all about the best of times that my mother had in her short life. Nothing could have prepared me for the story from my Auntie Kellie, though. She’s not really my auntie, but she was a very close friend of my mothers’. Auntie Kellie told me the story of April 17, 1987. The day of the drive-by.
Mom was 17 years old and was a sophmore at Del Condor High School. She, Kellie, and her other best friend at the time, Maria, were walking home from a big track meet at school. The walk home was fairly long but there were a bunch of other students who walked along with them. The three girls were talking about how hot number 46 from the track team team was. Suddenly, a big black Camaro came rolling down the street. The resounding sound of gunshots rang through the air in an explosion of chaos. A torrent of people flooded to escape, clearing out with amazing speed. Shrieks of terror floated about in the ominous sky as bullets met flesh. Maria, Kellie, and Mom were running at this time and went to go hide in the bushes. Maria had been right behind them, but something caused her to freeze. A look of shock and pain covered her face before she fell face down onto the tattered grass. The Camaro was gone by this time and Elia and Kellie ran towards the barely breathing lump of clothing. Turning her over, they had discovered Maria had been shot in the stomach. Kellie ran for help while mom stayed with Maria as her last seconds of life were drifting away. When Maria’s pulse was gone, mom was sprawled on top of her sobbing. Her best friend had just died in her arms. Elia was engulfed with pain.
“Why not me! Why did it have to be Maria! Oh, God, please! Don’t let her go like this! Please! She deserves to live! MARIA!!! Noooooooo......”, were my tortured mothers’ words. Auntie Kellie described that night to be the night Elia was torn to pieces, mentally and emotionally.
“Elia wasn’t the same person after that, she became a totally different person”. I guess mom cherished life more than she had before. She spent the rest of her waking years trying to love to every extent. Nobody saw her as a free-spirited teen after that. She cared so much more for others than herself.
When mom was a little girl her dad left both her and her mother. They had problems within their marriage. More or so her mom had problems with her dad. Her dad was verbally abusive and made her mother feel like trash. Mom’s father wouldn’t take any consideration into what he said to Madre-Christina.
“He made both of our lives miserable. Elia, though, soldiered on through all of the hatred and misery. She took care of me after he left. Hi ja was the strongest, mi corazon. No matter what I asked her to do, her response would always be ‘Si mami, te amo!’”. Mom would always do what was asked of her without hesitation.
About a week or two ago, Papi gave me a box. The box was no bigger than the size of a ring box. He told me to put it to good use. I had no idea what was inside. I left it in my room until I got home that afternoon. The whole day, I thought about it. What could it be? Could it be mom’s engagement ring? Or maybe a special stone from her old house? These questions lingered in my head the whole six hours I was in school.
Finally, I got home and bolted towards my room. As soon as I got to my room, I went to the little box and held it tenderly in my hands. I opened it and inside was a tiny key. I looked at it and thought ‘What the heck is this for?’ and then it hit me. My locket! I tore it from my neck and put the key inside the lock. It fit perfectly and opened smoothly. Inside were the words Invisible Power. What did that have to do with anything? Why would these words appear inside the locket? These questions were floating in my mind.
I went to Papi to ask if he knew what Invisible Power meant to mom. He said it was her life motto and also happened to the title of her diary. She wrote in it when she was pregnant with me. I asked if he knew where it would be. He said to look for it in his closet. this kind of scared me a little because his closet was a bit messy and I didn’t want to get lost in all of the clutter. I headed for his closet with hope and fear.
I opened the door and started searching. Through all of the searching, I felt like a racoon scavanging for food. I found a shoebox filled receipts, a box with sea shells, and a large container encasing bits and pieces of newspaper articles. All of this, but no diary. I looked up for inspiration and my eyes became set on a medium sized box on a shelf. How could I miss that? I reached up and grabbed it. With such care, I opened it up to reveal the richest of all treasures. The box contained my baby shoes,birth certificate, baby pictures, and a big scrapbook of Mom and Dad’s wedding. At the bottom of these objects, I found Invisible Power.
What did mom think of having a baby? She was ecstatic and so determined for her baby to have the best childhood. She anticipated all of the days I would take my first steps, say my first words, lose my first tooth, and get my first haircut. When it was almost the due date, mom started writing about how many things could go wrong. She sounded so scared and worried. The due date entry wasn’t just writing, it was a poem. It was a poem to me about how she would protect me and love me forever. It also said how she would die someday and not be able to take care of me anymore. She hoped it was when I was much older, but still told me just in case. Mom told me to be strong and carry on. Elia didn’t want me relying on other people to solve my problems. Mom wanted me growing up a strong-willed girl.
Ever since that day that I read her diary, I have felt a strong connection with her. She doesn’t feel gone anymore. Mom is still with me, but closer. Sercana, mucho sercana.