Luz Emilia Arana Barradas went to heaven Feb. 5, 2021. The heart that she so generously shared with everyone for 87 years finally stopped beating.
“Mita or Mina,” had been telling us it was her time to go.
Terrified, we begged her to stay. “We can’t live without you,” we cried. But Luz’s kind heart was sick. She’d never go back to her normal, happy life in Valrico, Florida. She hurt and we couldn’t see her suffer. No more needles. No more pain.
More than 70 years after Louis Antonio Arana Sanes first met Luz —the love of his life— he was at her side at Tampa General Hospital, holding her hand when she took her last breath. He whispered to Louis Jr., gripping his dear mother’s other hand, “Luz has quit breathing.”
Oh, the pain. Devastated can’t describe how we felt. Luz was the best part of our lives. Her sudden departure was the worst.
But we thank God she’s not hurting, for taking her home. Luz is at peace now. One day, we will be, too. For now, we cry and cry and miss her.
Because gone is our rock, voice of reason and compassion, guiding light and greatest love of Louis and sons Louis Jr., Eddie and Raul. All wrecked. Luz was a humble, caring soul who judged no one, accepted who you were and always greeted you with a smile and a hug. She’s with the angels now, where she belongs, waiting for us to join her.
Surely, Isabel and Tule —the parents she loved and lost long ago— welcomed her to heaven Puerto Rican style. With a lechon roasting on a spit, Canario crooning Rafael Hernández’s Preciosa in the background and family and friends smiling under a “Welcome Home Luz Emilia” sign.
Luz’s amazing life began April 14, 1933, born at home in Aguadilla, Puerto Rico, with help from a midwife to Waldetrudis “Tule” and Isabel Barradas (our first Mita). She was one of 10 siblings born the old school way; the way Luz remained her whole life.
An excellent student, Luz went to Carmen Gómez Tejera Elementary School and graduated from José de Diego High School, both in Aguadilla. She walked to school and liked to tell us how she’d pull her little brother, Jose Rafael, up the steep hill on their daily walk back home.
In 1947, Luz’s brother, Carlos, showed a photo of Luz to his Air Force buddy, Louis Arana while they trained in Denver. Arana, as Luz always called him, was lovestruck. “I saw Luz. Immediately, I was in love. She was so beautiful.” Sadly, Carlos later lost the photo in a flood while stationed in Louisiana. In 1950, Arana first met Luz in person. Then came dates with sister Hilda as the chaperone and then Tule had to tell Arana to straighten up. But Dec. 22, 1950, they got married after a friend loaned them $1,500. A year later, on their anniversary, Louis Jr. arrived at the Ramey Air Force Base hospital. Eddie was born there May 16, 1954. Raul arrived at Gorgas Hospital, in the Panamá Canal Zone, Sept. 25, 1955.
Luz’s life mission? Family. She didn’t wear a uniform, but she served her country. She organized the dozen moves the family made during Arana’s 27-year Air Force career. And she always took a bit of Borinquen to wherever we went, especially the food Mita taught her to make, and her music. Luz had a good voice and loved to sing and dance boleros with Arana.
Everywhere she lived —Puerto Rico, Florida, Louisiana, Panamá, Nebraska, Wyoming, Montana, Illinois, even Turkey— she made lifelong friends. Like Pancho and Choni Negron and Joe and Ava Ybarra, friends since they met in Panamá in 1954. Luz loved to tell us the story about her long trip to Turkey, by herself, and the bowling league and potluck dinners she had with friends there. Luz did wear a uniform as a member of the ladies’ auxiliary of The Retired Enlisted Association.
Luz said she only worked once, at what was then a Tampa Maas Brothers department store. That was in 1968, when Arana was in South Korea. Not so. She did a lot of “work” for free. She was a great mother and grandmother who adored her grandson, Rhys. Role model and model homemaker. Teacher. Listener. Shoulder to cry on. Counselor. Hug master. Refuge provider. Total Rays fanatic. Mahjong expert. And tailor; she never stopped sewing new elastic waistbands on Arana’s old boxer shorts, some probably bought during the Clinton era. And she was a blessed cook. We grew up on her rice and beans. Luz made a mean “asopao de pollo” after an “asalto navideño!” For years she sent people yummy rum-spiked Christmas fruitcakes. Martina Hank’s mom, Maria, got one in Germany. And she loved making her signature pineapple upside-down cake for all special occasions.
It was all hard work, but Luz excelled at it. She did it selflessly because she loved us. There’s no medal anyone can present her for all that she did for others all her life. Luz had a lot of enviable qualities. But above all, she was kind, polite and generous. And quick to love you. One of her last acts of kindness was to thank all the healthcare providers she met.
Luz will look down from heaven on those who love and miss her. That includes the man she loved, who was always at her side, her loving husband Louis, of Valrico. He made the Air Force a career to give Luz a good life. And there are sons Louis Jr. and his wife, Gail, of Valrico; Eddie, of Riverview, Florida, and grandson Rhys, of Dallas; Raul Arana and Martina Hanks, who live in Germany; and her loving brothers Carlos Barradas of Sun City Center, Florida, and Jose Rafael Barradas of Aguadilla.
We love you Luz.
There was a memorial service for Luz Saturday, Feb. 27, 2021, at 10:30 a.m. The service was outdoors, under the trees, on the grounds of the Rich Valley Church at 3120 S. Miller Road, Valrico. In lieu of flowers, people donated to the American Heart Association: www.heart.org