The Tree of Hope--In memory of Rosita Villa
On December 20th, 2005, The Breast Cancer Research Foundation received an email from Maria Villa Perez-Zarraga about inspirational courage in the face of great sorrow. Here is Maria's message in her own words:
"On November the 8th, 2005, breast cancer took the life of my mother, Rosita Vega Villa. She waged a brave battle against the disease, not wanting to relinquish her very full life with a husband she adored, two daughters and sons-in-law, five grandchildren and a multitude of extended family members for whom she was the matriarch, the hub where everyone assembled, the glue that bound the families together. After watching her suffer so much and seeing her legendary indomitable spirit give up, all I could think of was "we have to find a way to beat this horrible thing".
"The Sunday after her funeral, for the first time in what seemed ages, I sat down to look through the Sunday paper and was accosted by a million ads for pre-lit Christmas trees which immediately brought to the forefront the fact that Christmas was around the corner. I couldn't even imagine going through Christmas, much less putting up a Christmas tree, something normally very dear to me. Then I thought of my mother's spirit and her zest for life and how she would never want us not to celebrate something so central to our faith and our values. So it occurred to me that we should dedicate our Christmas tree to her, which would allow us to celebrate Christmas with her presence very much felt. That thought connected to my urgent need to help find a cure and so a Memorial Tree-trimming fundraiser was born.
"I sent out invitations to family and friends asking them to come, bring a donation to benefit your organization (for me, research to find a cure is the most important thing) and place a pink ribbon on our Tree of Hope in her memory. We bought our tree, lit it with white lights like we always do, and decorated it with pink balls and pink and white butterflies. A dear friend helped me make over 150 pink ribbons, I made a slit in a large gift box and covered it with pink fabric and a bow. I bought some hors d'oeuvres and drinks and waited. To make it easy for people busy with the approaching holidays, I made it an "open house" on a Sunday.
"On December 11th, a month after we had laid my mother to rest, they came in droves to honor her memory. Those who couldn't come sent checks in the mail or with other people. I felt the happiest I have felt in a long time, although when I started counting the money, I became very emotional at seeing people's generosity and goodness and thinking how my mother was only reaping the benefits of a lifetime of giving. She gave of herself in all kinds of ways to all kinds of people; she paid it forward. Now she has raised for you a little over $4,000 which I am getting ready to send to you. Thank you for the work that you do and for inspiring others to join this fight.
Maria E. Villa Perez-Zarraga