It is truly amazing how one single person can touch the lives of so many. I felt that I was lucky to have had the opportunity to know such a person. Esmeralda Werbeck not only played a large part in the life of her family and friends, but was also someone who was very dear to me.
I met Esmeralda eight years ago through her son, Brent. Brent and I grew up playing tennis together and over the years became very good friends. At the same time, Esmeralda became, to some extent, a second mother to me, as I was living away from home at the time. She welcomed me into her house and into her family. So when the news came that Esmeralda had breast cancer, everyone was completely shocked.
As the years passed by the cancer only progressed and yet, as hard as Esmeralda tried to cover up the pain, we all knew she was growing weak. I remember visiting her at the hospital, and all she would want to talk about is how my life was going and whether I was making sure Brent was staying out of trouble. I would never forget thinking how someone in her position could be so selfless. It was unbelievably hard watching someone I loved slowly fade away.
As Esmeralda’s time was quickly coming to an end, her biggest fear was not her death, but rather not being remembered by anyone. Therefore, with the support of the tennis academy that Brent and I attended, a run was going to be held in her honor, calling it Ralda’s Run. When we told her of the event, she was elated and it was all she could talk about. Unfortunately, her body could not take any more and she never made it to the race. Esmeralda died Thanksgiving night in 2004.
Before the start of the race, Brent wanted to speak in his mothers behalf. He asked for my help in writing his speech and I took tremendous pride in the request. When I saw all the details of her battle with cancer, I was completely blown away. Such struggles gave me a new outlook on life and how minute some of my problems actually were. We figured out that over a span of five years, Esmeralda underwent three blood transfusions, 17 hospitalizations, 19 rounds of chemotherapy, 28 radiation treatments, and 25 different surgeries. It was beyond belief to see these numbers and wonder how she continued to work helping with the Boys and Girls club of Austin.
On the day of the race, I arrived early to set up water stands and lay out pink t-shirts for the runners. I also helped set up a memory table for Esmeralda. One thing I noticed in the pictures was that there was not one individual photo of her. She was always sharing the joyful time with someone. There were pictures of her and Brent, her and her husband, and her with friends. I believe this epitomized her life. As the last of the tables were set up, people started pouring in. The race officials only expected between 80-100 people, but that number was quickly doubled as over 200 friends and family members came together to share in the remembrance.
When it was time for Brent to speak, he asked if I would stand up there next to him. I looked out across the field and only saw the color pink. I was amazed to see how many lives Esmeralda had touched in one way or another. As Brent spoke of the trials and tribulations of Esmeralda’s life, I could barely hold back the tears. . The race was a difficult ten kilometers. The run consisted of many hills and very rocky terrain, but no one complained. Anytime someone’s legs started to burn or fatigue started to set in, a friend was there to help and encourage them to fight through. People used the pain they felt and turned such feelings into inspiration: Esmeralda fought through years of pain, they could too. Esmeralda’s life and her battle with cancer were and still continue to be an inspiration to me and I hope that I can be half the person that she was.
If you enjoyed this essay, please consider making a tax-deductible contribution to This I Believe, Inc.