“The ultimate lesson all of us have to learn is unconditional love, which includes not only others but ourselves as well.” -Elisabeth Kübler Ross
Once in a lifetime—if you should be so lucky—you’ll come across someone who will instantaneously become your best friend. He will be there for you each and every second of each and every day—no questions asked. He’ll wait around at home for you, he’ll wag his tail and jump up and down when you walk in the door, he’ll bark in the early hours of the morning to make sure you’re awake, he’ll get in your way and obstruct your path until he leads you to the area of the house where the bones are, and he’ll do so many other things that bring light to your day. But above all, he’ll always provide you with unconditional love.
Nearly three weeks ago, I lost a family member and my best friend of nearly 14 years. I’ve been wanting to post something in his honor, but it’s difficult to put together words to describe someone who has given me so much. Our house feels so much emptier without our special friend, and life in general seems a lot less colorful. It isn’t easy trying to adjust to such a significant loss, but fortunately, I have been blessed with countless memories that I will cherish for years to come.
Thank you Caine for showing us all what it’s like to truly be loved, and what it’s like to have the best friend anyone can ever ask for. This week’s Snapshot Challenge is dedicated to you because the love you provided me with is truly beautiful. I’ll miss you more than you can imagine.
This outpour of support we have received throughout the past month while sharing the inspiring history of Misioneros Del Camino has been incredible, to say the least. Mami Leo’s legacy of unconditional love is something that has and forever will continue to change a countless number of lives for the better. The following video beautifully summarizes nearly thirty years of miracles, all thanks to one selfless woman’s dedication and persistence to make a difference in the world. Mami Leo has left us with her labor of love, and it is our job to help continue this worthy mission. There is no better way to conclude this past month’s Misioneros Del Camino’s awareness campaign than by sharing the history of Misioneros Del Camino with you, as told by Mami Leo herself.
There are thousands of children living on the streets in Guatemala. Hundreds of them will die of malnutrition and hunger. But as Mami Leo exclaimed in a previous Radio Marathon, “It’s not only saving a child, giving them food and shelter; anybody can do that. But to give love, to make them citizens that are proud of themselves and not ashamed of where they come from, and become good Christians, I think that’s the job.” For nearly thirty years, Mami Leo has saved, cared for, and provided interim care to thousands of children. During her time in Guatemala, she also provided educational, nutritional, and medical support to countless children in the country. And because of her persistence, medical mission trips have helped provide medical attention to thousands of other Guatemalan citizens in need. Mami Leo has truly made this world a better place, and it is up to us to continue her mission.
Mami Leo was an incredible woman with a beautiful soul. She has taught us that with passion and unconditional love, anything is possible. For nearly thirty years, she has saved thousands of children from abuse, abandonment, neglect, and malnutrition. She has also provided help and care to children with neurological disorders who would have otherwise been cast aside by society. She impacted the lives of families throughout Guatemala by teaching them how to provide proper nutrition to their children, but above all, she spread love to every person she ever came across. Her love is what is helping break the cycle of abuse, abandonment, neglect, and malnutrition across the country. Her love has given countless children a brighter future. And her love is what will keep us working to fulfill her legacy. And as she once put it, “If you don’t dream, you’ll never make it.” Together, we can help continue to fulfill her dream.
This past week was a very difficult one because the world lost an incredible human being on Sunday, March 8th. Whenever the medical mission team I volunteer with would go to Guatemala and stay at the orphanage Mami Leo founded nearly thirty years ago, she would remind us to not forget about the children upon our return to the states. Our group stayed at the home for only one week, twice a year, and that’s it. For the other 355 days in the year, Leonor Portela, who was more affectionately known as Mami Leo was at the home with the children by herself. Through the hurricanes, earthquakes, mudslides, and the days with no electricity, Mami Leo was there protecting her children. It takes a special person to dedicate her life just to provide a life for others, and that’s exactly what Mami Leo did.
I flew out to Guatemala City early Wednesday morning and arrived just in time for a beautiful mass held in her honor. The entire church was packed and there was not an empty seat in the building. Looking around the room and seeing just how many people Mami Leo has impacted throughout her life was an incredible sight, and knowing that this wasn’t even close to the amount of people she saved and inspired was even more incredible. The funeral procession commenced once the mass concluded, and it was just as difficult as you can imagine. When the funeral concluded, we drove to the orphanage in Sumpango, Sacatepequez where we all gathered around and talked, sharing stories of Mami Leo with one another.
We lined a bunch of tables next to one another and sat down for dinner in a long rectangular set-up. I sat by the center table, and as I looked to my left and right, a sense of peace overcame me. It was truly a beautiful sight; the table was filled with children of all ages who had been saved by Mami Leo (some of whom are pictured below). Even young adults who no longer live in the home came back to spend time with Memo Leo before her passing, and celebrate her life following this terrible loss. In looking around and taking in the surrounding environment, I realized the true impact of Mami Leo’s life work. Some of the people sitting at the table were among the first few children Mami Leo took in years ago, and they were sitting here with children of their own whom you can tell are provided with unconditional love and support.
The love that Mami Leo gave to her children has been carried on to their own children, and Mami Leo has successfully helped them break the chain of abuse, neglect, and abandonment in Guatemala. They are well-integrated members of society, many in Guatemala, and some in the United States. And what is just as special is the fact that they all still treasure where they come from, the beautiful home Mami Leo took them into, Misioneros Del Camino.
So while we mourn a tragic loss of what I truly believe is a one of a kind saint, we also rejoice in knowing that Mami Leo’s legacy isn’t going anywhere. We can all come together to help fulfill her mission and dream of providing love and support to such children in need, and more importantly, we will never forget Mami Leo, her work, or the thousands of children whom she is survived by. And as she once said, plain and simply, “If you don’t dream, you’ll never make it.” Descansa en paz Mami Leo.