April 15, 1939 – July 24, 2012
Maria Aguilar was born Maria Elena Chavez-Chavez on April 15, 1939 in a small town in Michoacán, Mexico called Uruapan. She was the first born of nine children to Rueben and Sara Chavez. She was known to many as "Nena" or to an even closer group of people, she was affectingly called "Shorty". (However; when pronounced in Spanish it sounds totally different).
Maria grew up in Uruapan for the majority of her adolescence and teenage years. She met her current husband, Rafael Aguilar, at the age of 26, in Uruapan. Rafael courted Maria for nearly four years while Rafael came and went from the United States on a work Visa. Maria and Rafael finally wed in 1968 and promptly moved to the United States within a year.
Her kids would often kid around with Maria and say "Thank goodness you married a beautiful lady Dad". His response was, "Don't thank me. Thank your Mom for having those nice legs". The story goes that Rafael spotted Maria walking in the marketplace with her sister and chose Maria over her sister because of her legs. Maria loved it when anybody told that story.
Maria and Rafael established themselves in Lemon Grove, California in 1969 and began living with Rafael's family, who had also already made their way to the United States and were working and living in Lemon Grove.
Maria soon became pregnant with her first child, a daughter named Susana. She was blessed with four additional children: Alejandra, Maricela, Rafael and Mary Ellen. Maria and Rafael also gladly adopted a niece and nephew, Lily and David Mendez, whose mother requested that her children stay with their uncles after a tragic car accident took her life. Maria and her family lived in Lemon Grove until 1982 when they all moved to El Cajon.
Maria's life entailed raising seven children; packing lunches, rides to school, rides to soccer practices, volleyball practices, snacks for the team players, transporting entire teams to and from games, groceries, household chores, cooking and, of course, her garden and church. The hustle and bustle of life gave her little time to play; although she fully enjoyed being a mother, attending to her garden and, or course, going to church every Sunday.
Maria and her husband quickly became involved in the church and together both enjoyed being a part of the Hispanic church community and volunteering. The community at St. John of the Cross Parish was a significant part of Maria's adulthood. She spent the majority of her free time involved in church functions. Maria took pleasure in doing volunteer work for her church and was involved with the Christmas Posada, The Fall Festivals, The Fiestas de Nuestra Senora de Guadalupe, church dances, fundraisers, and other activities. Maria was an active member in the Hispanic community at St. John's, a Eucharistic Minister and, at one time, a member of the church choir. She hardly ever missed Sunday mass and held her faith and God very dear to her heart.
Maria also loved flowers and growing different varieties around her home. She looked forward to the each new spring when all the flowers were in full bloom. She loved all flowers but her favorite was the orchid. Maria also enjoyed singing and we would often find her singing and gardening at the same time. Other times, she would calm her frustrations by singing.
Unfortunately, In 1995 Maria was diagnosed with early stages of breast cancer. Early detection and an immediate mastectomy helped her remain in remission for several years. She continued to enjoy her normal life, while in remission.
In 2003, she was thrilled to hear her first grandson would be born, Rafael Aguilar Junior to Rafael Armando Aguilar and Casey Rowland. Little "Junior's" eyes were so bright blue; Maria would love telling anybody and everybody, "This is my grandson!"
Next was Ethan Jacob, born in 2004 to Marcy and Brian Grismer. Maria helped raise Ethan for a majority of his infancy and toddler years. She found much pleasure from her grandchildren and helping raise them. She enjoyed taking her grandsons on family trips and showing them off.
Later in 2006, her first granddaughter, Ariana Isabela, otherwise known as Ari, was born to Susana and Olavo Michel III. She really enjoyed having a little girl around again. Quickly after that Chloe Marisela was born in 2007 to Marcy and Bryan Grismer. Maria now had four grandchildren and more on the way.
2008 was a windfall of blessings for Maria and her family as three new grandchildren were born! The first of this trio was Sebastian Godinez, born in March of 2008 to Lily and Mauricio Godinez. Next was Lukas Thomas Rafael born in May of 2008 to Marcy and Bryan in May of 2008 and then there was "Aguila Feroz", which mean "Fast Eagle". This would be Roman Rafael Martinez, born in November of 2008 to Alejandra and Cody Martinez. Rafael affectionately gave Roman this nick name even before he was born and he has certainly lived up to it. Roman would often make Grandma Nena nervous, as she always thought he was going to hurt himself climbing on the large rocks she had at her house. Maria's last grandchild, Adrian Michael Martinez was born in 2010 to Alejandra and Cody.
Maria found much happiness and fulfillment in being there for her grandchildren. She spoiled them with attention and she could never say "no" to them. We assume this is why all the grand children loved going to Grandma's house, also known as "Pito and Pita's house"..….no rules!!! With eight grandchildren under her belt, Maria was thrilled, and once again…busy. She loved to feel needed and would do anything for her children and grandchildren.
However, her second devastating blow came again in 2007, when Maria was diagnosed with a different type of cancer, peritoneal carcinoma, a form of cancer in her stomach lining. Still responding well to chemotherapy and radiation, Maria was still able to live a happy life while having cancer and receiving treatments.
Maria modified her lifestyle by eating healthier and more regular doctor visits and still continued her normal activities. She continued her volunteer work at her church, her outings with her grandchildren, trips with her friends and family to Uruapan in 2009 for a family party, Cancun, and recently to Lake Martinez for the Fourth of July 2012.
Her health, unfortunately, took a turn for the worse in mid 2012. Struggling to combat her cancer, she remained at home a lot more often or in the hospital. Although her healthy lifestyle helped her tremendously in responding well to her treatments, the cancer slowly took over. She fought her illness with bravery and strength. She was able to demonstrate an overwhelming amount of courage that nobody ever knew she had.
Maria will be remembered as a modest Christian woman. She enjoyed the simple things in life like a walk on the beach, a beautiful love song, a swim in the pool, a row of cherry blossom trees in full bloom or a good cup of coffee…black, no sugar and sweetened with honey please. She never did care about the finer things in life "keeping up with the Jones". She cared more about showing her family the value of a dollar and unselfish acts of volunteer work and putting God before all things.
Goodbye and God Bless You….our beautiful little songbird.