As I write this blog, six months have passed since the death of my father. His passing had left behind a vacuum unlike anything I had ever known; it was my first experience of deep grief. Being at the foot of his bed and watching him silently sleep away with our Lord Jesus Christ was one of the most precious and bittersweet moments of my life.

No one would ever be able to replace the many precious memories that my father and I had made together throughout our lifetimes. He was a father who understood me, loved me, had patience for me, and taught me the word of the Lord.

Upon the moment of his passing, I felt tremendous loss. I felt the absence of a father’s true love—a love that could now only be found within my cherished memories of him.

What makes my story so unique is that this man was my stepfather—he had already raised 10 children and yet took it upon himself to raise me as well. He came into my life when I was five years old with no obligation to do so, and he respected me. He took me to school every morning and to church two or three times a week; he taught me to fish and to do good onto others.

This man was a Boy Scouts Scoutmaster and involved himself in the League of United Latin American Citizens. He dedicated his life to helping many churches and charities, and he owned and operated a construction company that managed and invented grease traps that are widely used throughout Houston. He had come to this country with nothing, yet made a name for himself in the city of Houston. This man was my father, Mr. Juan Ornelas, who was born on September 3, 1927. Being a true believer, my father knew that he was going to pass on a very special day. That day happened to be December 12, 2017, which marks the Day of Our Lady of Guadalupe, the patron saint of Mexico. He was 90 years old.

Mr. Ornelas was a true, honest, hard-working man who left behind a great legacy. I now have the honor to share his legacy with those around me, as I walk today as a woman following in the footsteps of a father who taught me to love when I didn’t even know that love existed. He was a father who corrected me without abusing me, a father who taught me how to respect and care for others in my community. I am the person that I am today because of my father, Mr. Juan Ornelas.

My father had taught me to always cherish my memories with my loved ones, but to never forget to take action—we must all learn to secure our legacies with our children and those around us by showing love, compassion, understanding, and generosity, in addition to staying close to Christ. I will always remember and live by his words: “Love life, live the dream, and never forget to put God first, second, and third, as we know tomorrow is never promised.”

Thank you, Daddy, for being such a wonderful and loving father to me. I miss you dearly; you will never be forgotten.

Happy Father’s Day My Angel, Stephanie