Have you ever heard Luciano Pavarotti sing Nessun Dorma? It’s breath-taking. Click here for a YouTube link to listen before you go any further.
We called my dad’s mother Mita. She was a short woman, but a force to be reckoned with. She is pictured here dancing on stage in Puerto Rico around 18 years old. She was born and raised there, her family line reaching back to Barcelona, Spain.
I miss her beautiful, rich Spanish accent. I long to hear her rolling laugh echo in a crowded room. I miss the fire and the passion that surrounded her. She possessed and wielded the full rainbow of emotions. The joy, the sorrow, the anger. No one wished to be caught in the tempest of her temper. No one questioned the joy she took in her family.
Apart from her native Spanish tongue, Mita became fluent in English, French, Italian, and German; with some knowledge of Japanese. I have fond memories of sitting with my siblings and cousins listening to Mita play opera over a large speaker. She sang along and then interpreted the lines to English for us. It instilled within us a love for the arts. Though she has been gone for almost three years, I cannot listen to Nessun Dorma without crying.
Not long before her death, Mita discussed with me the Parkinson’s Disease that gradually took her from us. I eyed the magazines and books of her research strewn across the coffee table and tucked into piles on various shelves. She told me, as though the topic were types of tea, what was in store for her. I could not respond for the sorrow I felt. She took my hand, smiled, and said, “I am not afraid. The Lord is with me.” I believed she wasn’t afraid. Why should she be for the fulfilled journey she had and the strength in her faith?
Reflecting on her life and the impression it left on me inspires me to live with the passion she had. Her fierce love and pride for her family could be felt among strangers. The stories she told me of her childhood and how she came to America always spoke of a bold desire to live life to the fullest. She embodied Carpe Diem. I find myself thinking of her when I have a hard decision to make. How would this make my life richer and more beautiful? How will this echo to those left when I am gone?
Though the translation of the song is bittersweet, as most opera themes are, the ending resonates in my heart. As the music swells and Pavarotti repeats the promise, I hear my Mita. She tells me I will defeat the challenges placed in my path to strengthen me. I will rise weary but victorious out of the darkest of nights. “Set, stars! At sunrise I will win!