¡No le aflojes!

¡No le aflojes! January 26, 2010

In loving memory of Andres Rocha (1913 – 2010). Requiescat in pace.

No le aflojes mijo. Don’t let up son. These were last words I heard my Abuelito Rocha say to me. He died a peaceful death in his home yesterday at 2 o’clock.

He was born in 1913 on a horse ranch in south Texas. He was one of the last vaqueros of the mythic American West. But his life was not a rosy myth. He worked hard for very little wages. He picked cotton in the South and vegetables in the North. He packed produce in the local packing shed. He lost his fingertips to a workplace accident.

My Abuelito was wise and generous. He had that the best aspects of both pride and humility. In his eighties, he would go to visit the ancianos (the really old people) at the nursing home. Materially poor from birth to death, he always gave what he had to those he loved and those who asked for it. Often, when el cheque (the social security check) would come in, he would have us grandchildren line-up and give us two dollars a piece. For my wedding, he saved $100 to give us for our wedding and apologized for not being able to give more.

Like Abraham Lincoln, my Abuelito Rocha only had a third-grade schooling, but he was deeply educated. He taught me my multiplication tables and showed me what true love looked like in his love for my Abuelita, my Dad, and me—all of us really. He wrote with an ornate cursive that curled and looped.

He knew who he was and judged no one in his words. I never heard him slander anyone.

He was not a perfect man. Yet by comparison to those I know—and myself too, of course—he lived the life of a saint. He was very particular and didn’t patronize things that didn’t interest him. He loved to tell stories and he told them in vivid colors and landscapes.

This past Christmas I was in the heat of writing my dissertation and he spoke to me over the telephone from his bed. After asking about my wife and the boys, he told me “No le aflojes mijo.” He was referring to my ongoing dissertation, but I think he was also telling me his parting words of advice: Never let up. Don’t become complacent. Stay restless. Be in love.

The legacy my Abuelito left behind for me was a call to constant action. To continual renewal and conversion. He remained active til the day he died. He prayed and studied scripture for hours daily. He never used his life and discipline to lecture others. The testament of his life was indisputable.

He lived in a different world sometimes. The modern world of the city never fit him like the rancho did. He cried at his Father’s grave when we visited it, and tears always came to his eyes when he spoke of the tragic death of his horse-breaking Father. He never complained or made any excuses for himself. He never suffered from naive nostalgia.

He would always say that they—my Abuelita and him—were good, aches and all, and that they were blessed. That blessed life he led was one where he lived his restless words and never let up on being alive and in love.

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  • Pinky

    I’m sorry for your loss. May he rest in peace.

  • Kyle R. Cupp

    A fine tribute, Sam. My prayers for him, for you, and for your family.

  • Eternal memory.

  • Colin Gormley


  • oscar villa

    sam, you are an aspiration to all of us, we always think of you and your loving family, you will always be part of our lives, your mom and dad are great expamples of your loving family and ties, to all your family members, just remember the kind words of your grandpa and they will guide you through thick and thin, I know, my dad said similar words to me, I will always remember them, anyhow,you are a great man, and may God Bless you and all your loving family, my blessings to all, your God Father and friend, coach villa, adios

  • David Nickol

    My sympathy to you and your family for this loss.

  • My condolences — prayers for you and your family, Sam.

  • Sam – what a beautiful tribute. My prayers for him, and you and yours. Eternal rest.

  • brettsalkeld

    God Bless you and your family.

  • Albert and Pat Holder

    Sam, Pat and I will be praying for your Grandpa and for all of you. May the consolation of the Holy Spirit be with all of you as you mourn his passing. I didn’t know your Grandpa but knowing your Dad tells me the kind of man he must have been. Love and prayers in Christ. Pat and Al

  • Lisa Fible

    Sam-our thoughts & prayers are with you and your family. What a wonderful tribute written straight from the heart. I never met your Abuelito, however, I see many of these same attributes in you. He gave you great words of wisdom. I know you will head them. Much love at this time, Lisa

  • Pascuala Villa

    I’m sorry for your loss. Sam I hope that you know how special all of you are to us and that you will always be like a son to me. You did your grandpa proud, what an awesome tribute. Your dad gave me the nudge I needed on my walk with the Lord and I will forever be grateful. Lots of love to all.

  • Liz (Villa) Lozano

    Sam- you did such a great thing, your abuelito is proud of you. While i was reading this i could not help but think about my grandpa Villa. They sound so much alike. I am honored that i got a chance to read such a beautiful tribute and to that i Thank YOU! Me and my family will be thinking of you all and will keep you all in your prayers. I have never told your dad but i thank him for all that he did for me wihile i was in High School. He keept me from making some stupid decisions. take care and NO LE Aflojes! Love Liz

  • Teresa Lawrence

    The words of your grandfather should speak to us all. He may have been poor in material things but very rich in what matters the most, his relationship with God. You are very blessed to have had such an awesome relationship with him. Cherish that! May he be an example to all of us.

  • Ronald King

    Sam, I am sorry. Losing a grandfather who is loving is so painful. From quantum physics comes the concept of quantum engtanglement in which light with its different frequencies is always radiating from everyone and affecting unknown others in unseen ways.
    It is very obvious to me that the luminous light of God’s Love was and is the source of your connection with your grandfather.
    Your grandather’s light is always with you and it is very evident in your writing that he continues to influence you with the perfect gift of humility.
    God Bless you, your family.

  • M O’S

    What a great man!
    May his story be kept alive through all of your family’s generations.
    Condolences, prayers, blessings and peace.

  • john harmatolos

    Que descanse en paz!