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Elizabeth Salcedo Guaracao
Elizabeth S. Guaracao at the tender age of approximately 22 years of age (AL DÍA Images/Family Photo Albums Courtesy).

“#LasCHAVAS”, from The Andes… | OP-ED

“Born of a woman,” the Ancient Greek used to say, as it is also reproduced ages later  in the Scripture.

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“Born of a woman,” the Ancient Greek used to say, as it is also reproduced ages later  in the Scripture.

Specifically, I was  ‘from a woman’ —from a strong one, I say, “a Santandereana” (from the Province of Santander)— as I have written here before.

Her name was Rogelia Calderón de Guaracao, mother of my 9 siblings —7 equally strong women– and just 2 men (3 with me) for a total of 10.

There is yet another one in my life:

Elizabeth Guaracao, who was the mother of my two daughters, and also granddaughter of yet another “, esta del Norte”, in the South American Andean Mountains, Ana Belén Lázaro Vda. de Salcedo, who raised herself 8 children of her own, 5 males and 3 females.

We —the males— just have a hard time catching up with the repeated acts of courage we saw over the years, growing up me to and with always numerous elders to us, the women in the family. 

Or those out of it, too. For those who, like me, were the “raspas”, meaning the last one “in the line of Pecking Order determined by Age,” but first one on the heart of our mothers— for being the latest born, #ElBebé, as they call us when we were just  crawling on the floor. 

During this past Christmas another “Santandereana” —a woman from the Provincia de Santander, in the brave Andes from South America— sent me a heartfelt voice message over her cell-phone, perhaps when I needed it  most during this past Christmas Eve, year 2023.

She was telling me in tender and terse Spanish from the Latin America’s Academic Circles,  where she became a licensed Lawyer, that “the Legacy” and “the Memory” of Elizabeth Salcedo Guaracao —my wife who passed away only 8 months ago in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, USA— “was more alive than ever,” as far as she could see it from there.

She was Elizabeth’s childhood friend, from the time they both attended Sunday School Together, when Elizabeth was just a young woman in her 20s (as the picture illustrating this modest written piece written in her honor).

Elizabeth, the other #Chava from the Andes Mountains, now commands a Law Degree and is today busy in the practice of her legal profession–  fighting while teaching others about social causes and justice for families.

Raised by these female’s type of character, some of us know well what that.. “more alive than ever,” means.

Needless to say, this past  8 months and a half have been the most demanding and humbling of our entire life —for our two daughters, Gaby & Anna, as well for me— after the passing of their mother, who was also my wife for 36 years, when it occurred in a solitary early morning, on April 10, 2023, technically still Easter Day under the watch of the full team of paramedics at UPenn.

ElizabethsG. —#Chava to me, and #Chavela for her Paternal Salcedo side of the family—,  was more than the soul in our household where our daughters grew up since they were born, or became babies, learning uncertainly how to walk holding her hands, or mine.

She was also a strong presence in both our newsroom, and also the business office, where generations of today’s AL DÍA Alumni — many suddenly present at the Funeral at the First Presbyterian Church of Philadelphia on April the 20th, 2023.

Those who became Elizabeth’s acquaintances during her life may remember her dexterity at the computer, on the accounting desk, at AP and AR administration of our finances —and also at the needed good humor at the office— as the grinding of the business progressed along the sometimes tough business hours of the weekdays.

Or just taking a break, and serving a meal she herself used to take the time to cook frequently for the whole team, up to the previous and final week of her life, on April 10, 2023. 

But few know how much more she was.

Perhaps quiet, unassuming, low profile as her personality led her to live her entire  life, she was also a firm Lighthouse — full of sometimes ackward Prudence, though.

One that guided and propelled both children at home and also so many in the business team of co-workers in need of it, at the office, talking directly to them on their face, or speaking kindly and/or sternly over the old live phone lines.

The spoken on unspoken command —gentle, or no— on her choice of words, was the same for everybody:

“Aim at the best each and everyone of us can be,” to “always do the right thing,” using our Almighty’s abundant gifts, “granted equally to each and every one of us...”

When Reverend Luis Cortés, Founder & CEO of Nueva Esperanza, and a friend from the early days, came to visit at the Hospital, ElizabethG. in her deathbed at the 5 Star institution, along with his dear wife Damaris…(Same as Nelson Diaz and his wife Sara did it the following day…)

…When they —both elders to us— whispered in my ear how I was “feeling”, the answer came down very quickly to my tongue:

–My right arm has been chopped, Brother.

–My right arm has been chopped, Brother.

–I know, they both agreed.

Like 3 other clergymen that showed up at the ICU of the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, between  April 10 and April 20, 2023, while the immediate family was congregated 24/7 around that bed of the prestigious health institution, where ElizabethG.’s unconscious body was laying after 2 consecutive heart failures.

Their offer was very similar, and very generous:

–We will pray for you…And they quickly left.

Many of you have been doing it, praying during this long praying season— I know it, and I even sometimes “sense it,” too.

Today is “Eve of New Year’s Day”, and as the Holiday aftermath is beginning to approach —and the responsibilities of the Year ahead loom in the horizon, 8 months after of  a mostly silent healing and quiet reflection— I am here to report that “Prayers, too, DO count”.

Despite sayings the contrary, I am very grateful to all of you, beginning with my dear daughters Gabriela Andrea and Anna Felicia, and of course the extended family, and many more friends, and friends of friends today I hope to meet one day in the future.

Happy New Year 2024.

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