By Abe Villarreal

Something happens to a person when he loses a parent. Especially when he loses a mom. I met a person like that last week.

I didn't know Angel before I met him. He lives across the street from me. I knew his mom. She used a wheelchair, and from my second-story kitchen window I could see her from time to time rolling up and down the makeshift wooden ramp to get into her front door.

She always seemed to be struggling. On a couple of occasions, she stopped by my church food outreach day. The church is only one block down from where we both live. She told us about her troubles, and she was always grateful for help.

For a few months, late-night flashing ambulance lights woke me up through my bedroom window. It seemed like every night she was on her way to the hospital.

I don't like to think about people as being one thing. Just good or bad. Just in trouble or just safe. Just old or young. Angel's mom, when I think of her, was always struggling. I wish I had known her in different ways.

She was a mom. That means she was in love. She raised kids. She had jobs. She had talents. We were all young, all kids. So was she. That means she had hopes and dreams. She wore pretty dresses on special occasions. She went on adventures. She wanted to be someone to do something. We all want those things.

When I spoke with Angel, he told me how he was feeling, how he and his brother were managing their new reality. They have a few friends and distant family who will help with rent and some day-to-day needs.

Those people knew his mom, and they thought kindly enough of her to reach out once she was gone. So, she must have been more than just a person who was always struggling. She was respected as a friend. She had phone calls late at night with people that mattered to her. People knew her in many ways, not just in the way I knew her. I'm happy they did.

When she passed, her two boys managed to wake up the next morning, to figure things out. To keep on going. It's not an easy thing to do. That must have come from her. I'd like to think it did.

We all hand something down, whether we mean it or not. She passed something down. Many things I'm sure that most of us will never know about, but that Angel and a few others will find when they really need it.

Things that only a mom can pass down. Things that build you up and give you strength. Things that give you comfort and keep you warm. Things that you never knew you realized you needed and that only one person could have given to you.

That's what she was. She wasn't just a struggling person. She was a mom. She was a provider. She was a cook. A friend. She was a lot of things, and she'll continue to be that for everyone that knew her.

For Angel and his brother, she is now an angel. For me, she is one too.

Abe Villarreal writes about life and culture in America. He can be reached at

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