For every headstone at Holy Cross Cemetery, there is a story about a loved one who made an impression or impact on the lives of those left to mourn their loss.
The faithful gathered Monday evening, Nov. 2, on All Souls Day, to honor the departed. For the Cruz family, brothers Mario and Alvaro “Albert,” and Albert’s wife Cookie, they sat in lawn chairs around the grave of Jaime Lyn Cruz, the daughter of Albert and Cookie, who died 35 years ago on Oct. 24, 1985. She was only nine years old when she passed, and had some health complications as a child, but her mom said her death was still unexpected.
“She was a feisty girl,” her mom said. “She loved life and she loved Doritos.”
Even at the age of nine, her mom recalls her daughter as a caring person.
“There was a special thing about her,” she said. “She had a friend who had brittle bone disease. And guess who took care of her? Jaime did. Jaime would look after her,” Cookie said.
They also have another daughter, Tracy Cruz, who is four years older than Jaime.
Also nearby are the graves of Mario’s late wife, Estella “Stella”, who has been gone 11 years, and the brothers’ parents.
Sitting beneath a large oak tree, Irma and Victor Rocha placed a lawn cross with battery lighted candles, a tradition they have carried out since the passing of their parents.
“I grew up in the Catholic faith,” she said. “It’s just a tradition for All Souls Day and we do it annually for my parents, Victor’s parents and Victor’s sister.
Irma’s father, Rafael Rodriguez, passed in 1990 and her mom Lucy in 2013. Victor’s mother, Frances, passed first in 1991 and his father, Victor Sr., in 1994. His sister, Beatrice “Carmen” Rocha died just four years ago.
“We sit by the graves and listen to Mass,” Irma said. “It’s a sad time.”
With a lighter in hand, Rosie Almanzar of El Campo makes the rounds, lighting candles at the headstones of loved ones like her nephew Daniel Roger DeLeon who died March 12, 1986 in El Campo, the day he was born.
When asked why she lights his candle each year, her response was “for his little soul ... to recognize his little soul so it goes to heaven. He is probably with Mom and Dad.”
She recalls the day he was born, because she was pregnant herself. Almanzar also celebrates her nephew’s birthday, by placing balloons and flowers at his headstone.
Because she could not locate the lawn cross she usually placed at her parents’ graves, Emilia Arrambide improvised with votive candles and battery operated string lights. Her late father, Lucio Arrambide, died when she was only six years old, leaving her mom, Isabel, with eight of the 10 children to raise on her own. Two of the 10 were adults and were living on their own at the time. Arrambide recalls the sacrifices her mom made and her remarrying after her father passed.
As the sun began to set, lights illuminated the graves across the cemetery, with many still sitting in their lawn chairs, visiting and reminiscing about days with their loved ones.
For the parents of Jaime Cruz, they say All Souls Day may come only once a year, but they never fail to visit their daughter’s grave several times a year and with each passing year, time seems to stand still, as if their loss were only yesterday.