My grandniece, Micayla, received a gift on her 15th birthday that was planned 12 years ago by her deceased grandmother.
When Frances Yubeta received her grim cancer diagnosis 12 years ago, she began preparing for what her heart told her was inevitable. Rather than spend her last four months of life in regret or lamenting her fate, the 72-year-old grandmother spent her final days using her extraordinary wisdom, poignant faith, and never-ending conviction to maintain the strong family she had dedicated her entire life to loving.
As Frances’s daughter Nora explains, “During her final months, my mom took her time to sort through all of her jewelry and placed them in a small Ziploc bag. She then wrote the names of all the females in the family on them. Each of us received something from my Mom.”
The one exception to the Ziploc bag was the ring given to “Nana” Frances on their 50th anniversary by husband “Tata” Porfirio. Nana’s instructions were clear. When she passed, Nora would wear the anniversary ring until Micayla’s 15th birthday. Then the ring would be gifted to Micayla.
As Micayla’s mom, Rachelle, explains, “Nana used to babysit Micayla for us. Micayla and her were especially close and spent lots of time together. Nana loved all her grandchildren but Micayla became the apple of Nana’s eye.”
On Micayla’s 15th birthday last week, a COVID-19 prevention drive-by birthday celebration was held at her mom and dad’s home. After the drive-by birthday celebration, a more intimate gathering was held for close family where gifts were given, and the cake was cut and shared.
One of the gifts would be Frances’s ring.
This was the moment that took 12 years to come. Nora knew in order for her to get all the words out and to remain as unemotional as possible, she would prepare a letter to read to the birthday girl as she gave her Nana’s ring. Nora allowed me to share, in part, what she wrote for Micayla:
“As you know, the anniversary ring that she had received from Tata on their 50th wedding anniversary (2007) was to be shared by the two of us. I was to wear it until you turned 15. That time seemed so far away in 2009 when she died and yet here, we are.
"It is an honor to share this ring with you, Nana’s youngest granddaughter. May you be reminded of Nana’s strong faith in God and always remember that God is there for you and wants the very best for you. Wear the ring proudly and remember how much you were loved by Nana and continue to be loved by all your family.
"May God’s light always shine brightly through you. I can’t wait to see the plans that God has for you. Having young people like you in our world gives me such hope for our future.”
I asked Dave, Micayla’s dad and Frances’s only son, his reaction to the gift. He explains: “Even though my mom planned everything out and we knew this going to happen, it was still very emotional. It was heartfelt and to know that a piece of my mom will forever be with my daughter is amazing. It was a proud moment for my family.”
Nora explains: “Because she knew what was coming, my mom was able to prepare and ensure that all of her wishes were know. Her last four months were a blessing as she prepared for a beautiful death. We saw her faith in action, and we delivered her final wishes.”
I asked Micayla for her reaction to Nana’s gift. She explains: “I was young when Nana died but I still have dreams about her.” She adds, “I feel especially close to her. She was a great person who impacted so many lives. A piece of her will always be with me.”
With every reason for self-pity, Frances instead spent her final days proudly taking care of her family.
Micayla, you will always have a piece of Nana on your finger. And you and your big family will also have the legacy of a caring, loving and nurturing Nana in your hearts.
Mija, you make Nana and all of us so proud.