Dear Chicken Nugget,
Today is March 11th, which means that it's my aunt Bella's birthday. She would have been 62. In Spanish, I called her tia Marola, so you'll often hear me use the names interchangeably. I miss her and I'm sad you won't meet her here on Earth.
She passed away on December 29, 2001 at the age of 53 from Ovarian Cancer. But, as it's her birthday, I'll focus this letter on giving you a brief introduction of how she impacted my life.
My aunt's name was Bella Marola Escudero and she was the third in a group of seven children born to my maternal grandparents. My tia was like a second mother to me. Having been raised by a single mother, my aunt helped to raise me. She lived with us for most of my life and played the part of second parent beautifully.
During the summers after she came home from work she would take me for walks around the neighborhood so that I could get my feet wet in the open fire hydrants. She taught me about baseball; she watched the Yankees and the Mets and I, poor sap that I am, chose the Mets at the age of three. My tia Marola taught me about forgiveness, the courage of admitting to your mistakes, and the strength of the apology.
My aunt Bella taught me about the Church, religion, and the beauty of a church's physical structure. She had a great laugh to match her sense of humor, she had a fearless sense of adventure, and would dance and sing when the Spirit moved her. And, she gave me my first allowance. She gave me a lot actually and I miss her.
Little Nugget, there aren't too many people in this world that we consider Saints or saintly simply because they're not common. But, my aunt Bella was the closest person I've met to being just that. Even in her most painful moments she thought first of God and family. Her faith in both was unwavering, even towards the end. In fact, I think her faith only got stronger.
My aunt's wish was that her ashes be spread from the Staten Island Ferry over New York Harbor - and that's what we did on March 11, 2002. We also bought a brick at the NY Mets stadium, CitiField. It marks her life and her love of baseball. When we go see a Mets game together I'll point out the brick to you, the one that says Marola Escudero.
And every year on March 11th we'll wish tia Marola a happy birthday and give her thanks for making your dad a better person.