Saturday, May 12, 2012

For Lita

This blog post has been in the works for a few weeks now. Or maybe it's better to say that I've been wanting to write this one but held back. I guess I was anxious about it because it's about a very special person. Someone who left us tragically and senselessly. I wanted to do something to honor her but was afraid that words would fail me and wouldn't do justice to her and her amazing family. But since today is Mother's Day, I believe the time is right. So here goes.............

I met Estrelita Meyer on November 1, 2008. It was my second trip to Long Beach, CA to visit my buddy Eric Leocadio. His nephews were having a birthday party so he invited me to come along. It was there at the family gathering that I met a lot of his family, including his mom Lita. It was great to meet these people who I would grow to love but I remember wondering if she liked me because she didn't really say much.

In July 2009, I moved from my hometown of Gary, IN to Long Beach. Eric was going to be one of my roommates. He flew out here and helped me finish packing then we set out on a roadtrip from IN to the new house in SoCal. My family is pretty close knit and I was used to spending all the holiday with them having large BBQs or dinners. So I was missing them fiercely. I was blessed, then, to have Eric invite me to his family's gatherings. I really needed that. After helping Lita move from the older family home into her newer property, I got to spend time with her. I learned that I really liked her and she liked me too. She and Eric's siblings made me feel at home and like part of the family. I loved watching the dynamic between her and grandchildren. So much love!!! I spent Christmas, Easter, Mother's Day, and Labor Days with them. The more time I was around her, the more I grew to love her. A special memory I have is of a dinner at her daughter Lani's house. I was sitting on the couch and she sat next to me, laying her head on my shoulder. I cherish that image.

One of Lita's major passions was singing. She was the karaoke queen!!! At every gathering, she would crank up the karaoke machine and get to crooning along with Lani. And she would make me get up and sing every time. I would protest but she would insist. I learned to make sure to warm up my voice before any gathering, by the way. But it was always big fun!!

Lita also loved plants. The garden at her old home was huge!!! She was completely devoted to her flowers. It was a beautiful sight. I saw how that love for gardening has rubbed off on Eric as well.

After retiring, Lita decided to return to the Philippines. Once there, she started to farm talapia and also wanted to start some other business ventures. She was set to visit the family back in California just last month. But right after Eric returned from seeing her in the Philippines, tragedy struck. On March 1, 2012, her life was senselessly taken from her. Some selfish person brutally killed her. It was a huge blow to her family and all who loved her. Eric and his brother Mike went back there to recover her body and bring her back home to Riverside, CA. She was buried at Riverside National Cemetery on March 16. I flew out there so I could pay my respects and support the family. The service was very moving and inspiring. Eric and Mike gave wonderful eulogies that spoke of her love and generosity. That resonated with me because I experienced it first hand from her and her children. It's been hard seeing my best friend go through such a tremendous loss. But I am encouraged to see the love she instilled in Eric, Mike, Lani, and Missy continuing to shine and honor her legacy.

Since music was our shared language, I wanted to share a song that I feel fits her perfectly. A few weeks ago, I really listened to the words of Beyonce's "I Was Here" and fell in love with the piece. Shortly afterwards, I knew that this was the proper song to use as a tribute to a life that blessed and enriched the lives of so many. Lita, this one's for you!!!

ESTRELITA DeLEON MEYER (February 11, 1944- March 1, 2012) RIP