Aconnection to a person can come in many forms. It is something we may take little notice of or take for granted; something we rarely think about. Within a community, we have so many different connections to various people around us, we tend to focus only on those who are closest-family and friends we’ve known and loved for years, or significant role models who helped us grow into the persons we become. To my family and me, Enrique wasn’t a long-time family friend or neighbor, he wasn’t someone we knew for very long, but he was someone who touched our hearts. He was someone who, when we learned of his tragic death in a car crash, made us feel the shock and devastation of his loss.
My family and I met Enrique earlier this year in the midst of a nightmare remodel of our home. Murphy’s Law ruled: What could go wrong did go wrong. Enrique was brought to us by our contractor as a craftsman tiler. Enrique told us that he came to the U.S. to perfect his skills. He took pride in his work. He was meticulous and talented; the work he accomplished was absolutely beautiful. Enrique was more to us than an artisan, though. He was the shining light in our nightmare remodel project, not solely due to his talent, but also due to the fact that he was an honest, good-hearted person and a joy to be around, qualities that are hard to come by.
Enrique had a kind smile and a cheerful presence. While my husband spoke fluent Spanish with Enrique, my Spanish was pitiful. Enrique and I were able to communicate just enough for us to barely understand each other. There was a lot of laughing and hand motioning as to what we were trying to say to each other. I never knew he was married, that he had children, brothers, or sisters. I never knew where he went to school, how he learned his trade, or if he missed home. I never knew his story.
But he has one; most of us come from somewhere we call home, where we grow up and learn about ourselves, have families, and work hard on making a better life. After his death, I learned that Enrique was born on July 15, 1973, and grew up in Hidalgo, Mexico. He married Irene Alanis Valdez, a woman he cherished. They would have celebrated their 11th wedding anniversary on this next Valentine’s Day. Together they had two sons, Gustavo, age 9, and Rigoberto, age 7. Enrique walked to California with one goal in mind-to perfect his craft so as to support his family.
He was just finishing up a tiling project on our home when he didn’t show up for work one day. He didn’t answer his phone. It was strange. We didn’t know for two days that he was the unidentified person who had died in the car accident, on November 4, which also killed Felix Alejandro Ortiz-Cazaldilla.
Enrique left my family and me with such a significant imprint in our hearts because we saw and felt the happiness and goodness that was inside of him and that he worked hard on making a better life. These are things that we all strive for. It is the “American” dream-the same dream that seems to be slipping away from some of us, the one that we’re not sure exists at times because the reality of the world can be so painful and difficult. Enrique held onto the dream, though, and was striving to make it real, even with his family living so far away.
We are so very saddened by this loss. Enrique was a young man whose life was cut short. The frailty of life, just as in the delicate nature of our dreams-it can be gone in seconds. Knowing Enrique was a reminder to me and my family that we are surrounded by kind, talented, good-hearted people. The significance of our connections deserves more than a mere passing thought. It deserves remembrance and appreciation for how people touch our lives in so many ways.
You are sadly missed, Enrique.