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A Daily Mother-Daughter Moment Documented Forever

Maria Rivas holds photographs of her mother, Julia Medina, who died in 2012. Maria cared for Julia for six years at the end of her life.
Courtesy of Caroline Dezan for StoryCorps

This story is part of StoryCorps Legacy , which provides people of all ages with serious illness and their families the opportunity to record, preserve and share their stories.

Julia Medina was a single mom who raised 10 children while working a variety of jobs, including as a cleaning woman in Fresno, Calif.

"She was strong," said Maria Rivas, Julia's daughter, at StoryCorps in 2014.

Maria, 57, warmly remembered her mother and the six years she spent caring for her as she neared the end of her life. Julia died in 2012 at 85 after suffering for years from arthritis and heart problems.

Her mom always had her back. One time, when Maria was kicked out of junior high for chewing gum, Julia was quick to fiercely defend her to the school's vice principal.

"You're gonna listen to me," Maria recalled Julia telling him. "My daughter was just chewing gum. She's a good student. She needs to be in school.

"And she stood there with her arms crossed," Maria said.

Sure enough, Maria was quickly allowed to return to class.

Maria remembered Julia's soft side, too.

"As hard of work as she did, her skin was so soft," Maria said. "I used to love to always touch her skin."

Years later, as Julia grew older and her health deteriorated, Maria moved into Julia's house. She was Julia's primary caregiver for six years. Maria remembers that every time she left the house, Julia would stand on the porch waving to see her off.

Knowing those goodbyes wouldn't last forever, Maria wanted to preserve that memory as best she could. One day, she snapped a photo of her mom waving from the porch. The photograph now hangs above the couch, and thanks to it, Maria can still see Julia seeing her off.

"I'm so, so happy I took this picture because before I go to work, and I'm heading out the door, I always open the door back up," Maria said. "I go, 'Bye, Mom!' And I wave at her, wave at her picture.

"I miss her waving. I miss that."

Audio produced forMorning Edition by Kelly Moffitt and Shea Shackleford.

StoryCorps is a national nonprofit that gives people the chance to interview friends and loved ones about their lives. These conversations are archived at the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress, allowing participants to leave a legacy for future generations. Learn more, including how to interview someone in your life, at StoryCorps.org .

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Shea Shackleford
Online producer for St. Louis Public Radio's talk shows St. Louis on the Air and Cityscape.
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