Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Benito-- My Angel (1930-2001)

"To live in hearts we leave behind
Is not to die."

--Thomas Campbell

I know I haven't written in awhile + there are various reasons for it that maybe I'll blog about in the near future, but I could not let November 8, 2011 pass without writing a special tribute to a man whom I loved dearly, a man whom I cannot let a week go by without thinking of -- mi abuelo querido (my beloved grandfather). Exactly 10 years ago today, he left us and while my heart is feeling so sorrowful as I write this blog post, but I want to share about how amazing he was...

Benito Crespo Velez (1930-2011) was truly my angel...

My abuelo was the most mild mannered person I've ever met. He rarely ever got angry...ever! I vividly remember the only time I ever got him angry and it was when I was super disrespectful to my abuela during a trip to Williamsburg, VA. Trust me, I was scared. To see someone who never gets angry, get angry is a scary thing!

My abuelo was an outgoing man. If you wanted to go out with him to church, pick up a few things from the bodega, visit friends + family, or just simply the bank, you had to be mentally prepared to be there for hours at a time! He knew someone everywhere we went. It didn't matter the time of day or place, we always ran into someone he knew. They would talk and talk and talk and as a little girl, I would sit in the bodega eating free candies and chips while hearing my grandfather chit chat with the other viejitos about their days in Puerto Rico. Laughter would fill the air...and while I was bored, I still enjoyed hearing their stories. At church,  we would all socialize but you know after awhile, people want to go home and eat...but my dear abuelo would keep chatting with everyone. He loved everyone...from the young folks to the oldest ones, he loved them all.

My abuelo was a strong pillar. My abuelo was born in Puerto Rico in 1930 and he definitely had it rough at the beginning of life (and throughout). Not to get too deep, but his father was murdered before my abuelo was born and the worse part is that it was a case of "mistaken identity" (they thought my grandfather's dad was the man they wanted to kill, since they looked alike, but it wasn't). Since childhood he had endure such harsh situations, but he never used it as a crutch to not be better.

My abuelo was a hard worker. Because of his hard beginnings in Puerto Rico, he did not receive a proper education (like you + me), but he did not let his lack of education bring him down. He worked many jobs to provide for his wife (mi abuela), his daughter (my mama), and his 2 sons (my uncles). He made sure there was always food on the table and a roof over their heads. He always did his best in whatever job he had, whether at church or work. Something I like to contrast is how he lived in a shack in Puerto Rico, but later down the road, in New Jersey, he had a custom home built for his family whom he adored with all his heart. His hard work paid off... He lived his American dream.

My abuelo was rooted in Christ. My grandfather was not born an SDA. He got to know about the faith in his 20's (I believe) but after that he was on fire for God! He was an active member in his local church and always willing to lend a helping hand to those who were sick, down, and shut-in. I know to some it's bad to compare people to Jesus, but honestly when I say, my abuelo was like Jesus, I'm not kidding. I don't throw words like that around easily. The way he cared for the church members and non-church members spoke louder to me than any Sabbath School lesson or sermon. It was beautiful.

I still remember when he found a lump on his chest area in the early 90's... It was frightening. I remember he was admitted into the hospital and had chemotherapy sessions and I remember him waving to me through his hospital room window (since I was too young to go in room) with a huge smile on his face. He was my angel. We all thought we were going to lose him since that is what the doctors kept saying...I remember we had people from all over praying for his recovery...Prayer is the answer and after they had only given him 6 months to live, he lived 8 (EIGHT) more years!!! Thank you God for that! We are eternally grateful for that. 

Unfortunately, the cancer came back in that eighth year while I was a Freshman at La Universidad Adventista de Las Antillas (UAA) in Mayaguez, PR. My family kept it away from me because they knew how close I was to him and how much I adored him...and they did not want to distract me from my studies (especially since it was my first year and I was so far away). I just remember them telling me he was getting sick again and that they were taking him to UPenn for some tests (which I found so odd because they have hospitals in the town he lived in)... I just knew something was wrong and I could sense it. They eventually told me and it was devastating to me. I remember crying my heart out (like what is happening right now). I just couldn't believe it. I remember thinking, "Had I known abuelo was this sick again, I wouldn't have come to study so far away!!"

The terrorism attack on 9-11-01 occurred 2 months before his death and my mom tells me that as he was watching all he could think of "Jesus, we want you to come more than ever!" Imagine being on your deathbed and seeing that? I can't imagine because I wasn't on my deathbed and was watching it and it made ME sick to MY stomach. On November 8, I had an urgent message to call my mama and I still remember me using the pay phone outside the cafe at UAA and calling my family...They told me the news and I burst out in tears. I still remember the friends who ran out of the cafe and instantly tried to comfort me. We are still friends til this day...I will never forget. Thank you guys so much.

As I sit here, I can't help but relive many precious + beautiful memories in my mind...but they move me to tears because I miss him so much! He was so loved! So loved that at his funeral, the police chief, the mayor, and many many many loved ones came to say goodbye to my angel. I still remember til this day that many friends of ours came in the church van from Washington, DC to Vineland, New Jersey for the funeral... It was so touching. My family + I will never forget. NEVER.

I cannot express how many things I learned from my grandfather both from his words and from his non-verbal communication. He was my angel whom I still think about constantly. My angel whom I cannot wait to see when Christ returns. Seeing my abuelo in Heaven is one of the things that keeps me in check when I want to "act a fool." I want to be reunited with him and tell him that I've been waiting for all these years to see his smile again. I want to sit under the trees with him and hug him...I want to go swimming in the sea of glass and snorkel with him. I want to hold his hand while strolling on the golden roads and sing to him. Oh, my angel... How I miss my precious and sweet angel. 

I long for the day like Revelation 21:4 describes--- "And He (God) will wipe every tear from their (our) eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away." I am longing for that extraordinary day, aren't you?

Not the cutest picture of me but my mom said that when I was born, my abuelo adored me instantly and nicknamed me "tesorito" which means "little treasure."
Whenever I was in New Jersey, I was always attached to my abuelo's hip. My favorite man!
Cherry Blossom festival in the 90s... He knew my love for the Redskins... :)

Christmas in New Jersey. Being in New Jersey with my grandparents for the holidays always made me smile. lol.
I thank God I graduated high school earlier than I was supposed to (June 2001) because 5 months after this, he was gone. I praise God my abuelo got to at least see me graduate from HS and send me off to college.