Shortly after 1 a.m. on November 8, Marina and Jose Arredondo were in their car heading south down the 101. Following them, in a second car, were their three children-18-year-old Marcos, 16-year-old Karina, and 15-year-old Jessica-and Marina’s best friend, Macrina Ocampo.
The Arredondos and Macrina had just left a wedding in Lompoc and were heading home. They didn’t make it.
What they couldn’t have known is that only minutes before their Fairview Avenue exit, a drunken driver was speeding northbound in their southbound lane, against the traffic.
A courageous Sheriff’s deputy received a call and valiantly sped ahead of the cars carrying the Arredondos and Macrina, and, with lights flashing, attempted to alert the drunken driver. When she could not deter him, she swerved to save her own life. In an instinctive, split-second decision, the Arredondos also swerved, leaving Marcos, Macrina, and the two teenaged girls exposed to a head-on collision. In the blink of an eye, an evening filled with celebration turned into a horrific nightmare and a date that will be remembered forever with sadness.
Macrina was killed on impact. Marcos died before he ever reached the hospital. As of this writing, both girls are recovering in a rehabilitation hospital from massive head traumas and other life-altering injuries. All of this witnessed by the elder Arredondos.
Macrina was our own family’s beloved “Nana” and adopted grandmother. She came into our lives when our twins, a boy and a girl, were babies. Our son had just undergone intensive heart surgery, and this stress, along with the responsibility of being first-time parents caring for two babies, was almost unbearable.
Unbearable, that is, until Macrina came into our lives. She was a stout little woman with a voice and a laugh bigger than her body. She liked to care for multiples because, after raising eight kids of her own, one was too boring.
My husband and I always disliked the word “nanny” because Macrina was so much more than that to the many kids she helped to raise. As any parent knows, entrusting the safety and well-being of your children to someone else is the biggest honor you can bestow, and the scariest of choices to make. But it was time for me to go back to teaching, and after all the love she shared while my son recuperated, we knew there was no better choice. For the next four years, we listened to Macrina, watched her ways, and relished being taught how to parent. Even today, when I look at one of my children and fret about why they are acting up, her voice rings in my head. “No se preocupe, as- son”: “Don’t worry, that is how they [children] are.”
Macrina was easygoing but commanded respect. She was thoughtful, patient, kind, trustworthy, and generous with her love and time. She cooked with passion and served with the desire to satiate all who came to the table.
She moved to Santa Barbara from a tiny pueblo without running water and electricity, called La Jolla de Pantla, in Mexico’s Guerrero region, in order to provide a better life for her family. What Macrina didn’t know when she made this move was that she actually was going to provide a better life for the many people for whom she cared. She spent her whole adult life taking care of people. Whether they were elderly or babies, she gave, and she gave, and she gave.
While I never knew Marcos, it was evident from the attendance of his entire San Marcos High School football team and many of his teachers at the double funeral how much he, too, was loved and respected. My heart aches for the Arredondos. This is a family whose son should have been contemplating his adult future after graduation and whose daughters should be worrying about homecoming dresses.
More than 600 people attended the funeral at Holy Cross Church. Marcos and Macrina died together, their bodies were viewed together, and now they have been laid to rest together at the Santa Barbara Cemetery.
May they also fly on the gilded wings of angels and reach their final resting places, together.
I write this tribute in place of never having had the opportunity to say goodbye or thank you to Macrina. I also write this in honor of a family struggling to survive through grief and loss. May they find the fortitude to walk the long road of recovery for their daughters that still lies ahead.
“Dime con quien andas, y te dire, quien eres.” -Anonymous: “Tell me with whom you walk, and I will tell you who you are.”
Macrina, we are all the better for having walked with you.