Diversity Embraced

"Diversity embraced" by Michael Carrillo (CatholicMom.com)

By Bob Bleckridge (2013) via Flickr, CC BY-NC 2.0

November is the month when the Church honors the faithfully departed. It is a time where we most especially remember our deceased family members and friends. This November I will be remembering several women who were all lifetime friends of my mother. A diverse group of friends made, probably, at a time when having a diversity of friends was not all that common.

My mother, Elvira, developed tuberculosis at a young age. Every member of her nuclear family, except her, succumbed to the disease. She was a patient in a sanitarium sometime in the 1940s, remaining there for several years. While a patient there, she developed friendships that lasted for the next 50 years of her life.

There are five ladies that come to mind: Lucy, Rachel, Lillian (Mush), Lela, and Josephine (JoJo). They, like my mother, were either in their teens or young adults. They were of different races, faith traditions, and backgrounds. Three were of Mexican descent, one was African American, and one was Native American. There were at least four Christians and one Buddhist. They were “different,” but they all shared the same hardships together. They all eventually recovered and returned home.

Mom stayed in touch with all of them. I don’t think they all stayed in contact with each other, per se, but Mom seemed to be the hub of their network. Most would call her on her birthday with well wishes. Whenever they visited there was good conversations and laughs. I don’t recall ever hearing them discussing their time at the sanitarium.

We kids got to know each of these ladies. I stayed in contact with all of them even after Mom passed away and my brother and sister moved out of town. Fumi died about ten years after Mom. JoJo passed in the summer of 2016. This year we lost Lucy, Lela, and Rachel in short order. As you read this, Rachel will have been buried one week. Happily, Mush is still with us.

Last year, my wife Vicki and I had a chance to visit with Mush. I had not seen her face-to-face in nearly 45 years. After our visit Vicki pointed out to me all the diversity among these friends of Mom’s. She also noted that because of their illnesses, their hospital stays, and their separation from families and homes, they probably developed a bond and depended upon one another. These women from diverse backgrounds developed friendships amidst their illnesses. Had they not been ill, would they have ever had the chance to become friends otherwise? This had never occurred to me.

There must have been something in their shared hardship and diversity that attracted them to one another. It could have been very easy for them to ignore one another by feeling sorry for themselves. But, they chose to overcome their adversities. I think that the bottom line was that they saw each other as beautiful and special individuals. They embraced diversity before it was cool. Whether they consciously realized it or not, they lived the Christian commandment: to love God and to love their neighbor (MT 22:34-40).

It has been a hard year for us kids. The ladies who we have known all our lives are, one by one, slipping away from us. I think we really feel it because, though she has been gone over twenty years, each of these ladies carried a part of Elvira with them. They were, and are, our last living tangible threads to her.

The implicit and explicit message that Mom taught us kids was that we accept people for who they are and treat them with respect. She set the example through her friendships and exposing us to a group of great women.

This is my November remembrance.

May the souls of the faithful departed, through the mercy of God, rest in peace.

Copyright 2017 Michael T Carrillo


About Author

Michael Carrillo is a retired police officer from a large California metropolitan police department. He is married to Vicki and they have five adult children between them. He is an unabashed fan of Jesuit education, though he regrets not obtaining one himself. Day hikes and walks give him opportunities and inspirations to look for and find God.

1 Comment

  1. Michael Carrillo on


    I had listed five ladies but there was actually six. I left-out Fumi who was Japanese-American. I did mention her later in the article.

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