A Valentine Note: To find the meaning of love when death pays a visit

By Armando Vazquez

In the past few months, with increasing severity, I have been living in a suffocating, very real world of asphyxiation.  I cannot catch my breath.  In this ever darkening place I had to come to terms with my life long struggle with love.

I am 65 years old and I am dying. The onset of death has sobered up this hard headed brother. So my truths, along with my many sins, are now scripted in a concise, unedited historical narrative.

I believe that you learn to love, or to hate. We are not born a loving child, no more that we are born savage and evil. A fortunate child feeds early on the sweet milk of love. I was very lucky (what other word can you use, when birth is undeniably the ultimate celestial crapshoot?) as a child. The acts of love were all around me.

My mother and father, both orphans, suffered in stoic resignation together in the cruel caste system of the caciques at the turn of the twentieth century in Mexico. It was a man-made powder keg world of poverty, ignorance, violence and repression that would soon be engulfed in a cataclysmic civil war. In this hell there was love, and the forces of evil could not kill the love that my parents had for their beloved parents; but that revolution would kill my two grandfathers.

Somehow my parents’ widowed mothers would not be broken by the deaths that haunted almost every family, the unrelenting cruelty and violence of the day. These two Adelitas, understood to the marrow of their souls that love was unremitting sacrifice to the children they brought into the world. Sacrifice for these two women was an unequivocal, sacred responsibility for the rest of their lives. So my two grandmothers endured, with unwavering dignity, the scarlet mark of “v” viudas as their children grew up as poverty stricken, “leprous” and fatherless Huerfano. Love is what my abuelitas gave, and it imbued my mother and my father both.

I never saw my father buy a single material item in his life. I checked him out real close from the time I was seven years of age when we were doing purgatory time in Tijuana, waiting out the slow processing of our immigration documents (“Micas verdes”). However poor as we were during those three hellish years our huge family of eight siblings, seven uncles, and a small army of assorted relatives, would eat at our favorite taco stand, haggle with the vendor while my mother shopped at the open air mercado.  All of this as my father, like a holy sentinel, watched over us, silent and vigilant with his love.

Impoverished in Tijuana

Impoverished in Tijuana


What I did learn, many years later, being the eighth sibling to marry, and getting on with my independent life, was that my mother and father managed to provide me with a ten thousand dollar gift to buy my first house. “El hombre no es nada sin su terreno,” my father whispered to me, “cuida tu familia, mijo.” My parents made a ten thousand dollar gift to each and every one of their eleven children. My mother was a full time 24/7 benevolent and loving matriarch of her home, my father worked for over 55 years at minimum salary wages, as a “glasshouse campesino.”  Yet this couple was still able to save over one hundred and ten thousand dollars to insure that each of their children would have a tiny piece of God’s earth to call their own. Yes, acts of love have always surrounded me.

With all of my early examples given to me by “miss cuatro padres,” I must admit,  as a young man, I failed miserably at love. I was a selfish fool. I wanted to gorge myself on all manner of vices and worldly pleasures.  I was a vain narcissist, a lightweight monster. I wanted. I demanded. And I took.  I could never get enough.

I was a punk and a coward. So I ran away to alcohol, to drugs, to the ends of the earth.  I ran away in shame and in fear. I dishonored my commitment to my companions.  I dishonored my padres. I hid in the jungles of Mexico, in the streets of Cali., in all the bars of Los Angeles. This went on for many years. My mother and father died and I never had the guts to ask for their forgiveness.  I was stranger at both their funerals. I remember wanting to be buried alive with both of them, again the coward’s way.

Armando Vazquez and sons

Armando Vazquez and sons

My children’s unconditional love saved me.  They gently rekindled the extinguished light that I thought forever lost.  I am here to testify that this is the shiny celestial glue that binds the universe together. My children’s unconditional love was unremitting, no matter the harm I caused.  They were there to give a “I love Pops, no matter what” hug, a smile and a Father’s Day card every year always proclaiming: “You’re the Best Dad in the World,” And, of course, I was to them. Their love willed me to redeem myself.

Then Miracles began to happen by the power and in the name of love. Some twenty five years ago an angel came into my life. Yes, folks a real angel! Why me I asked for many years? The answer came back one night as loud as thunder: “Why not you?”  It was not a question from the heavens, but a scared clemency.

If life is like a river which ebbs and flows then love is surely that warm, peaceful pocket of water that is always there for our protection. Our job here on earth is, of course, to find it.  I know today that our love will find a way to outlast any storm, to tame it until we can find that warm,  peaceful pocket of water that only love can create.

Today, my dear sisters and brother I know in my heart that love is the greatest power in the universe.

I remain humbly a work in progress with unconditional love as my celestial muse.


Armando Vazquez

Armando Vazquez

Armando Vazquez is a retired CEO, Executive Director, Business-Owner, teacher, community builder, group leader with demonstrated work history designing and implementing a variety of business, management, educational and vocational community support programs. Successful organizer of activities designed to promote and advance individual and community. Well-disciplined consensus builder.

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