BY FRANCISCO GUAJARDO
Graciela Gonzalez died July 18, 2020, due to COVID-19 complications. Born on April 15, 1954, in Weslaco, she lived a life of commitment to her three children, 15 grandchildren and her entire family.
Graciela’s son Eli bore witness to his mother’s life. He was there to hear her last few words as he stood by for 10 hours in the emergency room at Knapp Medical Center in Weslaco.
Before they carted her off to the COVID-19 unit, Eli asked, “What are you thinking about, mother?” She responded, “I’m just worried. I’m worried about my kids.” And they exchanged their last words, “I love you.” That was the last time Eli and Graciela spoke.
Graciela lived selflessly — that was her commitment and legacy to her family and loved ones. It’s the way she knew to display responsibility, love, care and compassion. Eli recalls the countless moments she was present for her nieces, nephews and children’s sporting events. If she made a commitment to watch them play, she would make it.
For the past decade, Eli has coached baseball at Weslaco High School, so his work schedule has often kept him from attending his sons’ sporting events. But Graciela made her (and his) presence felt at every game. She loved watching her grandsons Brandon, Zachary and Christian play and from afar would keep Eli posted, sometimes sending videos.
Graciela didn’t know much about baseball, so when Eli asked for details, she would respond, “Well, he hit the ball really hard, mijo, and he’s still on base, so I think it was good,” not really knowing the difference between a single, double or an out. She knew her presence alone was all her grandsons needed. She taught her children the same values when they grew up — to show love and support.
Graciela accomplished significant things in her life. For more than three decades, she worked with the South Texas Onion and Melon Committee in Mission, where she considered everyone there her extended family.
Prior to moving back to Weslaco in the early 1990s, she worked for the Sunnyside School District in the state of Washington, where she lived and raised her children through the 1980s.
Sunnyside was her second home, and she built many long-lasting relationships.
When she returned to her beloved Weslaco, Graciela established her role in the community. Eli recalled, “My mother became like a mother to others,” and through the years, spread her grace. In all that she did, Graciela found love in the Lord and strength through the rosary.
Upon her death, her children established the Amazing Grace Memorial Scholarship Fund. The fund will spread Graciela’s goodwill with resources raised through an inaugural golf tournament at Tierra Santa Golf Club in Weslaco on April 17, 2021. On that day, the community will pay tribute and bear witness to the love Graciela’s expressed to others.
Que en paz descanse Graciela “Amazing Grace” Gonzalez. Rest in peace.
Francisco Guajardo, chief executive officer for the Museum of South Texas History at 200 N. Closner Blvd. in Edinburg, authored this story as part of an ongoing series entitled Bearing Witness. The museum’s effort aims to document some of the Rio Grande Valley lives lost to COVID-19. For more information about the museum, visit MOSTHistory.org.