Adios Gabriela

July 1, 2010

Adios Gabriela


Ana Gabi at her college graduation, with her mother Martha and classmate, Omar


We cannot understand why some things happen… Today I attended the funeral of one of my former students.  She was just 24 years old.

“Ana Gabi” was popular, intelligent, kind and participative… a dream of a student. She was always full of questions and listened carefully to the answers.

I remember once when I complimented her on her English language skills (she did speak beautifully) she said, “Oh I just love English!” She then added, “And I’m trying to love French.” A few months later at a student talent night, she stood alone on the stage and recited the 1940 poem “Liberté” by Paul Eluard. There are twenty verses and she delivered them all, receiving a spontaneous standing ovation from all present.

That poem was special to her because she too longed to be free. Free from her wheelchair, her crutches, her dependence on others and her pain. She was born with spina bifida and had to work hard to do the things many of us take so for granted.  Yet she was no complainer. If she needed help, she asked quietly.

Many international students who have spent a term at our college, lived with Gabi and her family. The students were made to feel so welcome and today I was told that many of them called to offer their sympathy and share their tears. Gabi couldn’t move around too well but she moved hearts from all over the world.

At the Mass today, one of her classmates told me, “Ana Gabi gave us all the opportunity to be better human beings.” Cesar, a strapping young guy always sat near her so he could bring her what she needed. In not-so-wheelchair-accessible Merida, when necessary, he gently picked her up and carried her. Omar, another of her friends told me she was the bravest person he had ever met. And that she was.

Gabi attended our college for four years. As a Modern Languages student, I know she learned a lot and she was very proud of her accomplishment. But although I was her teacher, she was the one who taught us all… just by being present. At the end of each academic year, one graduate is chosen by the professors  as the most exemplary student. Gabriela won the award last year.

We could all see that Martha, Gabi’s mom and her sister Martita were devotedly supportive and yet encouraged her to be all she could be. I can’t imagine what they’ll do without her.

But somehow they will find their way, as will we all because that’s what Gabi would want us to do. In my mind’s eye, I can see her swinging on her crutches and waving goodbye to me and I can hear the echo of her voice calling out, “¡Adios Maestra Joanna!”

¡Adios dearest Gabriela… it was my honor to have known and loved you!



Filed under Family and Friends

5 responses to “Adios Gabriela

  1. Jillian van der Gracht

    I had the opportunity to live with Gabi and her family for 10 weeks while I was living in Mexico and attending T.T.T. in the international program. Through the duration of those 10 weeks I grew close to the family, especially with Gabi as she also attended T.T.T. I never met a student who was more dedicated than Gabi! Everyone at school knew who she was, not because she stood out because of her disability, but because she was such a bright, outgoing, and positive person. Ana Gabi was a very special person, who touched many lives, as well as inspired many more people to be the best that they could be. She will be greatly missed.

    To Gabi’s family, my thoughts and prayers are with you during this time. I will miss Gabi, and was happy to have known her.

  2. Jan Brown

    Dear family of Ana Gabi,

    When my sister Dinah died my parents’ life as ‘mom and dad’ was unexpectedly reshaped as all of their wisdom focused upon how to be open to their future without her. I think they took an accounting of all that enriched them through Dinah’s life and in so doing gathered up the past, lived in the wrenching moment of her passing and continued. They realized, I think, that much of what life contains comes so unexpectedly. Tony and I are so sorry for your loss.

    Jan and Tony Brown

  3. Oh Joanna, I did not meet Ana Gaby, but this must be so sad for you, her other teachers, her fellow students, friends…and just unbearable for her family. As a former teacher I know how deeply your students can touch you. I am so sorry.
    Un abrazo fuerte

  4. This letter arrived this morning. Larry had met Gabi on one of his visits to our school. He was impressed by her:

    To the family of Ana Gabriela and all her friends:

    You have honored Anna Gabriela’s life in the best way possible, by celebrating it.

    As the saying goes, people are in our lives for a reason, for only a season or for a life time.

    It is apparent that Ana Gabriela affected the lives of the many people around her in a very positive way.

    She has been a “teacher” to so many people and their lives have been richly blessed by knowing her.

    I send warmest thoughts of love and understanding to support to all who were touched by her wonderful personality as you mourn the loss of her presence among you. I know that she lives on for ever in your memories and her presence will be felt though unseen.

    To you, her family: You have been so blessed and your lives truly enriched by your beloved daughter.

    Que le vayan bien con Dios!

    Larry McIntosh

  5. That was lovely Joanna, a beautiful tribute to a remarkable woman. So sorry for your loss!

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