On Sunday, May 7, we hosted an overdue memorial for our beloved Yolanda Hernandez, who passed away in our home on February 12th at sixty-six, thirty-two of those years spent as a member of our family. There were so many things we needed to do first – such as ensure she was at least in transit to her final resting place. This was no easy matter since we failed to secure power of attorney before she died and we were not related. Given my husband’s legal experience, you’d think we would’ve been on top of such technicalities but you’d be wrong.
So, we had to run the minor obstacle course of securing notarized permission from her living relatives in El Salvador who didn’t speak English (and no one in our family speaks Spanish) before we could ship her body to El Salvador as requested. The real reason for the delay was denial. Even today, almost three months later, it’s still hard to accept I won’t see her again this lifetime.
Around May 1, John took charge and declared the memorial would be held on May 7th. That meant massive amounts of house-cleaning (to conceal the fact my natural state is clutter) as well as frantic phone calls and email invitations. (What if we threw a memorial and no one came because we didn’t give them enough notice?)
We blew up a great photo of Yolanda and set up chairs between the bar and the breakfast area. Twenty-one people braved spring rain and drove to Glendale. Father Terry Richie gave an informal eulogy which Yolanda (a devout Catholic) would’ve loved.
John shared biographical snapshots from her life. Mary Bennett spoke next. After Sam and Alex went to college, for years Yolanda took care of Mary’s mother (who was in her nineties) during the week and came home to us on weekends. She also helped out with Alicia Curran’s mother when an emergency arose. Yolanda made enough of an impression that Alicia and her mother drove up from Orange County to attend her memorial.
Sam reduced the room to tears with her memories of Nana. Chris and Alex added their thoughts, as did Eugene Harrington (Yolanda took care of his mother for some years after Mary’s mother passed away.) My sister Joyce said a few words too. Since both of my sisters live within five miles of me, our children saw a lot of each other and Yolanda loved every one of them.
Yolanda touched all of our lives with her boundless capacity for love, her patience and kindness and her childlike enthusiasm for simple pleasures that many people take for granted. Objectively, she led a hard life (emigrating from El Salvador, a brain aneurism and cancer) but she was an intrinsically happy person, so much so that others absorbed some of that happiness simply by being around her.
I didn’t trust myself to speak but – once the event was scheduled – Sam and I scanned photos and my dear friend – the very talented Lewis Bell – created a beautiful memorial video, which can be viewed here, https://youtu.be/g5YBloGLMDg.
We ordered food from Porto’s – a truly spectacular local bakery –if you’re ever in Glendale, it’s definitely worth a stop. People ate and mingled. The stark reality that the clock is ticking for all of us made catching up with old friends poignant.
We always say we’ll get together more often but somehow it doesn’t seem to happen until there’s a life-changing event – a wedding (like Chris and Serena in ’12) or a funeral like last Sunday. I can’t tell you how much I wish it didn’t have to be Yolanda.