Mom was the middle child of three children. She had two brothers whom she was very close to despite their living in different states most of their adult lives. She was born in February 28, 1947 in McNary, a small town in the White Mountains of Arizona. This little town captivated my mother and her love for the mountains, streams and majestic scenery was a strong bond. One so strong, that she continued to visit her childhood place yearly to celebrate summers with her family and friends.
Although she was born in Arizona, she was a resident of El Paso, Texas from the late 1960’s until her death. She married Otto Felipe Herrera in 1967, and he turned out to be the love of her life. She would have been married 55 years, this December. Mom had five children, and nine grandchildren. If asked what she was most proud of, it would have been being our mother. She was a great mother, while it was difficult raising so many young children at a young age, mom made it look easy. She volunteered for her kids’ school functions, planned special birthday events, took the time to make candlelight dinners to mark special events in each of our lives. Mom was a natural nurturer and warm loving soul. She encouraged us through our childhood and adolescent years with positive words of encouragement and was our biggest cheerleader for our accomplishments. While she never had a formal college degree, Mom was a Master at Life and wore many hats throughout her lifetime raising 5 children. She helped us through our pain and supported us through our tough times and never complained about being home to care for us. She was a full-time mother up until the twins, entered kindergarten and it was then that she entered the workforce as a food service worker for the Ysleta Independent School District, working until her retirement in early 2000’s.
During her working career, mom was a Master of Communication, and while she entered the workforce shy and unsure of herself, she was a hard worker, curious and dedicated to doing the best job she could. It didn’t take mom long to get promoted and take lead of the school cafeteria, she was good at it. Mom was a natural leader although she would not think of herself as one, it was one she fell into quite easily and she was well loved at every school she worked at. Mom gave whole heartedly of herself, and whether it was Halloween, Easter, she took the time to decorate the cafeteria for others enjoyment. She gave little gifts to teachers to acknowledge their birthdays, decorated the lounge and went all out to make her work area a happy festive one. Mom always heard compliments from people at her school, talking about how much they enjoyed visiting her cafeteria and stopping by to speak with her. The principals at each of the schools would complement my mom and mention how no one had done what she had done, and they appreciated her enthusiastic nature. Mom loved to make people happy, and she went out of her way to do it, for no other reason than to make people smile.
Mom loved the holidays, her favorite one was Christmas. Our family often poked fun at mom for listening to Christmas songs in early November and pulling out her decorations a couple weeks before Thanksgiving. Her goal was always the same each year, to have the tree up by Thanksgiving Day. She collected Santa Clauses and over the years acquired many decorative Christmas memorabilia. She would spend hours decorating our childhood home, even after all us kids were out of the house. She initially started the tradition for her children and in later years, she kept up the tradition of an overly ornate Christmas wonderland theme to bring her grandchildren happiness.
Mom was a likeable woman, admired by many for always being happy and warm. Over the years our mother won the hearts of our friends. She was loved because she had the ability to make people feel loved, she was vested in them, the moment she met them. She would sit and have conversations with them and listen to their backgrounds and provide information and advice whether you wanted it or not, but it was hard to be offended as it was always from her heart. Mom was a giver, she often put other’s needs before her own. Mom’s unselfish ways also helped her to raise and nurture, strong and independent kids. She raised us to never forget where we had come from, and that family was the most important thing in life. As we all grew and started to branch out, she was exceptionally proud of us and encouraged us to do our best always, even if it meant leaving our hometown. While she was happy for our accomplishments, it also silently broke her heart because my mom didn’t want us to leave her. Her greatest heartbreak which she never recovered from was losing our sister Dora in 2002. She felt guilty for failing her in some way, she always criticized herself saying that she had not done enough to protect and save her. We know she didn’t fail our sister, nor did she fail us, but our remarks often fell on deaf ears.
Mom lived a full life she wasn’t just a wonderful mother, grandmother, coworker, and friend she was a devoted loving wife who stood by our dad through all their ups and downs throughout their 55 years together. Over the years Mom could never be away from our Dad for long periods of time. My parents spent many moments sitting on their front porch reliving memories, planning future getaways, and enjoying the moment they had together. They still called each other not by their names but special endearments that had been started many years ago. Mom would call my dad “Hon”, short for honey and my dad would call my mom “Doll”. Quite remarkable that their marriage withstood the test of time, their relationship was in the end created and cemented by love, as is evident by the simple act of catering to each other, even when they were angry with one other.
A thousand lifetimes would not be enough time to get over our mom’s passing. There were so many wonderful memories we made together and yet there were so many more to make. Mom was not ready to leave us, she would tell us often, I am not ready to die. We would all laugh and joke it off because there was no reason to think that this time was close, given our mom’s relatively good health and love for life. Up until she entered the hospital in early of November, we all understood it was because my mother couldn’t get rid of a persistent cough. Initially the visit to the hospital which we all anticipated would bring her relief quickly turned into a nightmare for us as her health continued to deteriorate. We all rushed to the hospital during her stay, we were focused on being present to give her encouragement and love to get better. United as a family we took turns staying with her, as to not leave her alone. As her health further declined, we never left her sight, there was always one person present with her to ensure she was getting the best care and attention possible. Our worst nightmare came to life on Tuesday November 22, 2022, Mom was not going to get better, there was nothing that could be done to help save her this time. United we surrounded my mother, all present and holding one part of her as she peacefully took her final breath. The room that held her and us, was filled with so much LOVE, and while it was the most devastating thing, we have all seen, it was a privilege to be there to encourage her to be free from the pain and suffering she had. We were releasing her to be free and go to be with the Lord, because she had paid her dues, she had done a good job with us and while we didn’t want her to go, we promised to love each other and take care of Dad, her final request to all of us.
We are all devastated by her passing, and our hearts are broken. Mom was the heart and soul of our family, the center, the core. There will forever be an empty spot in our lives that cannot be filled by anyone, but her. Mom was a gift to us, we know that we were lucky to have her in our lives for so long, and we are grateful for that. My mother always stressed the importance of family, wanted all her kids to be close and care for one another. A close family was so important to my mother, and we have always had a tight bond because of what she nurtured when we were kids. We will continue to love one another, and we strive to be as good a parent as she was to us.
Mom didn’t want any services on her behalf, she didn’t want to burden others to come out and mourn her. Her wish was to return to the White Mountains in Arizona. This is where she will be returned and released into, which is so fitting as it was the place, she loved and cherished the most. In the summer of 2023, her family will carry out her wishes during that time, we will take the time to be together with those who want to join in and celebrate her life.
We understand many are devastated by the news of my mother’s passing, we are not the only ones that were taken by surprise. If you would like to do something to celebrate my mother’s life, then simply extend kindness to another person. Mom gave of herself unconditionally and for no other reason than to bring joy, comfort and love to another person that needed it. It didn’t matter if it was a relative, friend or stranger; mom had the knack for making others feel special and listened to. Mom always made friends and fans wherever she went, it was her connection with them, the feeling of love and genuine concern for their welfare. She was honest, vulnerable and gave of herself wholeheartedly, this is what people loved and appreciated about her.
Goodbye Mom, go find Dora, we know she has been waiting for you patiently. We know you are not suffering or crying in heaven, your new awareness must be a magical and peaceful place. We will love you forever and ever and one day, we hope to see and feel your arms around us again.
Michelle, Otto Jr, Priscilla and Carlos
I will meet you one day in the future, and as you predicted I will follow your lead and when it is my time, I will find you.
You made me a better man, thank you for loving me despite my hard ways. I will love you now and forever,
Your husband, Otto