She left without pain and without saying much. The heart of Sofía Barragán de la Luz stopped beating at 74 in an Omaha hospital at 5 a.m. on May 21, 2020. The cause? COVID-19.
Ms. Sofía, a woman who never got tired of learning, was born on September 18, 1945 in Chietethlan, a Mexican town in Guerrero. There she married Agustín Vargas Ayala and had 5 children, now adults (4 men and one woman).
After her husband’s death (2014), Ms. Sofía decided to redirect her path and come to the US in 2018 to be with her daughter, Celsa Pérez (53), now an American citizen.
“When my mom was in her village, I always saw her serious and seemed angry. Occasionally she would spend time with her friends and enjoy popular music, such as cumbia and ranchera,” Celsa said on the other end of the phone.
In Omaha, Barragán de la Luz lived up to her surname, the smile brightened her face more. She wanted to learn what she could incessantly. She studied elementary school and with the help of the Latino Center of the Midland (LCM) and Completely Kids – a kindergarten that offers adult classes – managed to get her grade and was in the middle of high school.
She took the courses that crossed her path: English, sewing, weaving, dancing, and singing, among others. She felt deep ecstasy with everyone. She was the inspiration to many because she showed that age is not a limit.
But one day Celsa began to have a headache and fever, her body burning. It wasn’t normal as with any flu. She decided to get tested for COVID-19 and came back positive.
Sofía, within her mother’s love, could not understand that she could not approach her daughter. “Mother, I love her very much, but I don’t want anything to happen to her. Don’t come near me,” the daughter constantly told the mother.
Celsa’s husband was also infected. They both looked for ways to isolate themselves to protect Sofía; but she waited for her daughter to fall asleep so she could be by her side and give her some hot concoctions or broths to lower her temperature.
“Mommy, as long as I’m here don’t get close to me, please, because we don’t know what we can do,” the daughter insisted. “How am I going to leave you if you’re warm?” tried to justify Sofía in the house.
Celsa’s fear that her mother would be infected turned into a hell. Celsa, already recovering, saw Sofía begin to have some symptoms of “flu”.
Neither teas nor broths helped Sofía get out of that frame. Her breathing began to fail and Sofía began to feel weak. Standing became difficult for her.
“One day I went to the bathroom and saw my mom swelled under the bed, I thought she was praying. I asked her if she was praying and she told me she couldn’t go back to bed because she didn’t have the strength anymore,” Celsa said. She was immediately taken to the hospital.
The ambulance took Sofía and within two days doctors called Celsa to tell her that the virus affected her organs, heart, and lungs, and her blood was starting to clot. “On her feet there were balls and then it spread throughout the body. The blood thinners didn’t work,” the daughter said.
She was intubated, sedated and Sofía didn’t notice anything, nor did she feel pain as she left. “We went one day to see her on the fourth day of hospitalization. She looked bad, she’d already had a heart attack, but they were afraid that she wouldn’t withstand a second one if it happened,” Celsa continued.
Celsa and her brothers in Mexico were waiting for a miracle. Within a week of being hospitalized, Sofía could not breathe on her own. Doctors video-called Celsa and her husband so they could say goodbye to her. “We were all in shock. And I; well I blamed myself and thought my brothers in Mexico were going to blame me, but they didn’t. My brothers supported me and understood that it was a pandemic,” Celsa explained.
Celsa had to attend therapies at OneWorld Health Center to treat her sense of guilt over the situation.
Sofía’s remains were moved to Mexico with the financial assistance of the LCM. She left a void in many hearts that she had already illuminated with her songs and smile.
On September 18, 2020, the day El Perico spoke to Celsa, Sofia would have been turned 75.