On January 19th we were in Glendale for Esperanza's memorial service. The Little Church of the Flowers at Forest Lawn was filled to overflowing. Many of us were dressed in bright colors, to go with all the flowers and honor her memory as a lover of color. Several of us read pieces that we had written, myself, her sister Alicia, her cousin Lida. Clara had composed a slide show from pictures she'd gathered. Monica read a poem that she had written. The Mendoza twins, Carlos and Mauricio sang the song Amigo, as she had asked them to.
The service was beautiful and powerful and Esperanza would have loved it.
Below is the poem that Monica read:
La vi por la primera vez
En una foto.
Joven y bella
Viviendo otra vida
Antes de la vida que
Estábamos viviendo juntas.
Antes de mis hermanas y yo.
Antes de ser
No habia muchos cuentos,
Porque mi mama
vivia en le presente.
Con sus manos
Mi mama tocaba la vida.
Con su vida
Ella pudo crear
Los colores de su arte.
Con su arte
Ella compartió la belleza que ella veia
Y en la belleza de lo que ella veia
Empece a conocer
La mujer en esa foto.
La mujer que tambien es
And the piece that I read . . .
The life of Esperanza Gallego was a life well-lived.
The life of Esperanza Gallego was a life lived in beauty. Esperanza was a woman who couldn’t pass a flower without exclaiming in pleasure and reaching out to touch it. Autumn leaves, a gaily colored house, a little girl in a bright dress, a skillful painting -- her artist eyes were thirsty for it all.
The life of Esperanza Gallego was a life that left ten thousand beautiful things in its wake. Her artist eyes were always open and her hands were never still. There was her painting – which she always returned to – and her photography. But she was a restless artist too, always finding something new: knitting and crocheting, porcelain dolls – which she glazed, painted and dressed, cake decorating, stringing beads and quilting. Beautiful things.
The life of Esperanza Gallego was a life woven of love. Although she left Colombia as a young woman she never really left her family – and returned many times (though not as many time as she’d have wanted) to sisters and brothers, aunts uncles, cousins, and more cousins. She built friendships here in the US, and as all of us have seen, her friendships were deep and loyal and welcoming. Yet crowded as this life was with loved ones, she was always happy to add another. If she went on a cross-country flight, by the end she and her seatmate had usually exchanged not just stories but email addresses as well.
And the life of Esperanza Gallego was a life that moved. She was a traveler – not just between America and Colombia, but to Costa Rica many times, to Ireland, England, Scotland, Austria, Spain; to see new babies and old friends; to glory in the autumn leaves of New England and rediscover the urban canyons of New York City. As her travel companions can tell you, she was a pleasure to travel with – open and enthusiastic - with her camera clicking.
The life of Esperanza Gallego was a life great with generosity. She gave of her time and helped who she could and she gave away so many of those beautiful things she made. She volunteered at the hospital. When she would find another artists whose work she admired, as she often did on line, she didn’t react with envy, but always with enthusiasm to make some effort to help them flourish and find their audience.
The life of Esperanza Gallego was a life that ended well. We are all sad that she was taken from us too soon, but when a person has to die they should do it as she did – having made peace with it – having gathered as many as she could of her loved ones – having said her good-byes and I love yous. Having lived her life well.
The thing that I am most thankful for, is that we finally did our trip to Colombia this past summer. Esperanza showed us her places - her home town, her finca, her sisters and brothers. They boys got to see her there and she got to see them there. That is a wonderful thing.