Mi Abuela (My grandmother)



My grandmother, Adolfina Cuevas passed away about 13 years ago. I called her Abuela which is the Spanish word for grandmother. She was born in Puerto Rico and lived in the US. She was the epitome of a “wise woman” however her education never went beyond the fourth grade. Interestingly enough, after she died my mother found a binder that she kept with all kind of notes she made pertaining to historical events. She had for years been educating herself. She was about 4 feet 8 inches tall yet a woman of great inner strength and perseverance. She became a single mother while her children were still small and raised them in what is known as ‘the projects’ in Brooklyn, New York. Believe me, not a very nice area at all. She was mugged several times until she learned to sew pockets on the inside of her bodice to keep her money in. Her apartment was on the tenth floor and the elevator (lift) always smelled of piss. She lived close to the above ground train station so when I slept over I was often rocked to sleep by the apartment shaking as a train rushed past, its lights passing across the walls of the bedroom momentarily chasing away the darkness just long enough to help me feel safe as I was reminded where I was.

Abuela was unusual in that she saw the spirits of loved ones who died. She sometimes saw their spirits even before she knew they had passed on. Some of these experiences she found really frightening. I have no answers as to why she had these experiences. She was of very sound mind, strong of faith, courageous, wise and a very loving grandmother. And while I myself don’t believe in ghosts, I do believe in my grandmother and her experiences. Whatever they were, they were true because they were her truths.

She used to love to tell me stories when I was a child. Some were bible stories, some were stories of the catholic faith, some were simply her life experiences. There was one I have never forgotten and I have thought about it often over the years. It goes something like this:

Many years ago, Abuela was very sick. I can’t remember what her ailment or the symptoms were. It may have been the flu or a viral infection. Whatever it was, it was bad enough to make her want to pray desperately one night for a cure. I don’t know if she had health insurance at the time but she asked God to please tell her what to do so she could get better. That night she had a dream. In the dream she saw a pair of great strong hands. In one hand there was a glass of water. The other hand, held some grains. When she woke up, there was no doubt in her mind that the hands in her dream were God’s hands and that he was showing her the cure. She immediately, went to her kitchen and began searching her cupboards for that grain which somehow looked familiar but she couldn’t think what it was. Then she found it…barley. What she did was to put some barley in a glass of water and let it soak for a while (sorry I don’t know how long or what the exact measurements were). After it had soaked, she then drank just the barley water. Within a few days she was well again. Was it the barley water that healed her or simply her faith? I don’t know. I would say it was God certainly. What I do know from my own experience is that when you actively do something you feel in your own inner spirit that you must do, you experience great peace. I think it is similar to what artists and athletes refer to as being in the zone. It doesn’t matter what specifically healed my grandmother. Maybe she would have gotten better anyway. What is important is that she trusted God and in her dream. The outcome was great peace of mind (which can facilitate healing anyway) and a great story of faith for her to tell of an experience she held dear to her grand-daughter who felt her grandmother was the dearest grandmother in the world.


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