Please remember me, happily
By the rosebush laughing…
But please remember me, fondly
So please remember me, finally
And all my uphill clawing
Gregory Alan Isakov, The Trapeze Swinger
If we are made in God’s image, I wonder if Christ would feel like He’s looking into a mirror when he looks at each and every one of us? Or would He try to polish the mirror and wipe away the smudges and dirt–wondering how the reflection looking back at Him could possibly hold so much fear and hate?
I constantly ask myself: Are my actions a true reflection of Him? Is my heart a reflection of His heart? The answer isn’t always yes. One of the reasons I choose to live this year With Love, is because that is how I see Christ: Love. And while I know I will never, ever be perfect–I am trying to stand by those words and I ask myself these questions: Am I living this year With Love? This day? This moment? Because that is what it comes down to sometimes.
A moment. Of choosing love.
A single moment where I must pause and not react quickly. Where I must stop myself from lashing out with my words or even holding ugliness inside–because He sees us there too. In our thoughts and in our hearts.
And so it’s With Love I share the story of my Grandpa.
A man I have adored since my very first memory of him. We had been living in Michigan and moved back to California when I was in the first grade–the first thing I remember about Grandpa was his smile.
His presence would take over a room. His smile reminds me of my twin son, Max–a constant grin–always smiling, always teasing, forever loving. His smile reminds me of my mom–an extrovert who radiates light and love. And I’m thankful for these gifts he leaves behind in my family–like falling stars I can catch and tuck into my pocket and cherish.
I see the twinkling of his eyes in my youngest son, Vincent, who he was named for–a reminder to all of how much I loved and respected him. I adored Grandpa from they way he chewed his gum, to the way he would guide my Grandma to her seat, when the Memory Thief, Alzheimer’s, snatched away her memories, of all of us. The way he continued to love her as he promised when he took his vows with her more than 5 decades earlier.
Grandpa on the far left.
My Grandpa was the first example I ever had of a servant’s heart: He dedicated his life to helping others. From serving our country with the ultimate sacrifice–fighting for every American in World War II, to spending years helping other immigrants in their path to citizenship. He was a dedicated member of his Church, Our Lady of Mercy. He was a husband. A father. An uncle. A brother. A grandfather. A soldier. A shoe salesman. A field worker. A railroad worker. A factory worker. A volunteer. An assembly line man. A veteran. A cancer fighter.
And, my Grandpa was an immigrant.
I say this with pride and love. And I say it with a heart of thankfulness. Because without my Grandpa, my story would never have begun. My childrens’ stories would be left unwritten. Because of an Immigrant, I’m here today. And so are my children. And my children’s children will be able to trace their history to the day my Grandpa came to the United States for a better life. And in that better life he was given, he helped make other’s lives better. From the freedom we have because of the war he fought in, to all the people who he dedicated his life to helping. There are helpers in this world and Granpda was one of them.
He came back from World War II and bought a plot of land and went to work. Building his house for his beloved Bride with his hands. A house I entered thousands of times in my lifetime, screen door slamming behind me as I ran inside. It was a second home to me. As a child, I remember feeling the heart he poured into that house–it breathed life and you could feel its heartbeat–the pulse of life. Our family’s life.
It wasn’t until I was a grown woman that my mom told me a story about that house which holds some of my fondest childhood memories. My Grandpa would go to work every day and after work he’d come home to add more pieces to his house. Little by little, day by day, he built his home from the ground up. One day while at work, his house still unfinished, the weather threatened rain. He knew he wouldn’t make it home in time to get the roof done let alone get a tarp up to cover it and he worried–everything he had completed on the inside would be ruined. As he rushed home after work and walked the long front walkway, he breathed a sigh of relief. His neighbors had rallied together to put up a makeshift roof to protect all the work he had put into it.
Because when you are a helper, others want to help you.
That is the legacy I hope my own grandchildren will know. That a man named Vincent Garcia, an immigrant, their flesh and blood, helped make life better for others. For his family. Friends. And even strangers. And I hope my children and grandchildren follow in his footsteps. Because I have had no greater example of what a hard working, loving, and serving human being looks like.
This is the story of the Immigrant I love.
When a foreigner resides among you in your land, do not mistreat them. The foreigner residing among you must be treated as your native-born. Love them as yourself…. (Leviticus 19:33-34)