By Reverend Justo González, II, M.Div. M.A.S.A, M.A.P.M
."Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house there are many dwelling places. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, so that where I am, there you may be also.”
“No se turbe su corazón; crean en Dios, crean también en Mí. En la casa de Mi Padre hay muchas moradas; si no fuera así, se lo hubiera dicho; porque voy a preparar un lugar para ustedes. Y si me voy y les preparo un lugar, vendré otra vez y los tomaré adonde Yo voy; para que donde Yo esté, allí estén ustedes también.” John / Juan 14:1-3
The loss of a loved one is awful. The death of a parent is really hard. The loss of your mom is often devastating. Let no one tell you it will be ok. Grieving isn’t that easy. It’s hard work. It’s hard to look back, reflect, remember, and to hear a song that has their name written all over it. And yet, mourning can also be a sacred experience when we look, touch and sit with the pain. That sacred process often has something to tell us and usually offers a life lesson to those who are willing to engage and do the hard work of saying good-bye. This good-bye is temporary for the mystery of our faith is that we will see each other again. Never lose your hope.
Betty Cannuli-Perez went to her eternal rest on May 1, 2014. Betty was a product of Puerto Rico, North Tonawanda and the lower west side for many years. She loved her husband the late James M. Cannuli. Was a loving mother of Gladys (Angel) Rodriguez, Juan Cannuli and Patricia Cannuli and was a devoted grandmother to Randolph Cannuli, Nicholas Gant, Angel Rodriguez, Jr., Thomas Anthony Cannuli, Sabrina Rodriguez and Kristina Cannuli. She was also the great-grandmother of Xavier and Alyiah Cannuli. Betty was welcomed by her husband, her three sisters, her parents, the 7th Street crew in heaven, the communion of saints and Jesus when her eyes closed to this world and opened to eternity. She has 11 brothers and sisters, many nieces and nephews and many more who mourn her death.
Indeed, Betty, like many of us were (and still are) part of the 7th Street crew. We owned that street as kids. Our parents, grandparents, uncles, aunts and our extended family were connected and traced their life long relationships to their pueblos en Puerto Rico. Together our parents learned to survive, thrive and became one large extended support system for each other. Nuestros padres taught us to bond as familia regardless of blood lines. To this date we are a familia. We don’t see each other enough and sadly it is often a funeral that brings us together. Betty and our mutual respect for each other brought us together recently to mourn, remember and celebrate her life even in the midst of sadness and grief.
When we gather we pick up from where we left off and continue to laugh, reminisce and reflect how our yesterdays have shaped the men and women we have become.
Our families were not wealthy. Yet, we did not realize that we were poor. Ours was a neighborhood of una grande familia. Not all related by blood but we were and still are related. Our mothers and grandmothers walked the neighborhood and taught us life lessons. Powerful lessons usually were wrapped around faith, family, la virgin and the community of women praying el Rosario. Often these gatherings were held at Dona Yaya’s and Doña Carmen Hernandez always led us in prayer. Faith matters.
Other times the lessons were taught by the example of their lives, sometimes a conversation with one of us or many of us led us to new revelations. We got in trouble often. We did some crazy stuff and we had a blast as kids. Epic football games were had on 7th Street. And yes, there were also lessons that were taught with the use of la chancleta. Our mothers were experts in the art of chancleta throwing. Rumor has it a couple of them won gold medals at the National Latina Mothers Chancleta off. Just saying — they could throw a mean chancleta.
Life began to move us from the old neighborhood. We grew up. Many of us went to college and began our careers. Some started working right after high school. Some got married, others got into domestic partnerships (a fancy way of saying they lived together) had kids and moved. We all took different paths to today. No path was better than the other. Our paths were just different.
None of us were or are perfect. No saints among us. We are both good people, deeply caring and flawed. Yet, in spite of the pains of life we are here. It wasn’t easy. We have all fumbled and stumbled. We have loved and been hurt. Some of us have been through hell and back. For others, the pain of life hasn’t been as traumatic but the pain still stings. Some still struggle today. Others of us will struggle tomorrow. Somos familia so we support each other even when we make or others make bad decisions. Familia doesn’t give up on each other. The old school 7th Street crew never has and never will.
Regardless of the pains of our lives the core values that we learned together on 7th Street still reign. Values of familia. Love. Compassion. Gratitude. Fe. Listening. We were taught that caring for the other was not only about words but also demanded action. Un plato de comida y una tasa de café was (and still is) the welcome that was extended to us and that we pass along to others.
Doña Yaya, Betty’s mom and Mita, my mom, excelled at living their faith through acts of compassion and love. Indeed, when mom died and I’d come back into town I would go see Doña Yaya because I could see mom in her and for that wonderful and gracias hospitality of café y “Mira, come algo. ¿Que te sirvo?” Betty passed on the values she learned to Gladys, Patricia and Johnny. They have passed it on to their children. Generations come and go that is the circle of life but the values we have learned and continue to pass on endure forever. What are you passing on to others? Are you teaching your kids and grandkids love? Compassion? Care for the other? Las mujeres de 7th Street did. No excuses. You’re up. What will you teach?
Well done Doña Yaya. Well done Betty. Well done las mujeres de 7th Street del ayer. Well done. Your legacy remains alive and continues to flourish. Well done. Rest in peace. You’ve earned it.