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‘The most beautiful place’

December 13, 2023 - 00:00
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  • Roy Torres
    Roy Torres

This article is a little different than the others and not a typical “Navasota Neighbor.” For years, I’ve wanted to interview a terminally ill person and ask them questions about their life. I wondered if they see life differently than others and could shed some wisdom to all of us.

A few weeks ago, I asked Roy Torres if I could interview someone in “his shoes.” He asked if by that question I meant someone who is dying. As uncomfortable as it was, I answered that I’m an honest person and yes — I wanted to interview him because he was dying.

Roy, who recently moved from living independently in Houston to living with one of his daughters in Caddo Mills because of terminal cancer, was married to a cousin of mine years ago. He’s always been welcoming to my husband, David, and me and even opened his home to us six years ago during the Super Bowl where we were able to view the beautiful Houston skyline via his balcony.

62-year-old Roy, is the youngest of 10 children. Born in Navasota during Hurricane Carla, his dad thought being delivered here would be safer than the big city. His connection to Navasota is his mom’s side of the family who lives here. Growing up, he loved spending time here, especially summers at his grandmother’s house and visiting his cousins. Roy recalls eating burgers from a lady who sold them for twenty-five cents apiece or five for a dollar. He also enjoyed eating burgers at Carroll’s. Another Navasota connection that is very special is that his older brother, Lu Valenzuela, is one of the musicians on the Navasota Musical Mural that is in Blues Alley next to Classic Rock Coffee Co. “Big Lu” happened to be one of my dad’s best friends growing up. Roy’s childhood was a bit rough because his dad left his mom when he was just four years old. He grew up poor but didn’t realize it because everyone seemed to be the same.

Roy is most proud of his two daughters and how they’ve stepped up and are going above and beyond by being there for him during his time of need fighting stage 4 cancer, including colon, lung and liver. His greatest strength is that he “keeps it real” and treats people the way he wants to be treated. He’s usually too honest but would rather hurt you with the truth than a lie. Roy’s greatest weakness is that he trusts people too easily.

When I asked about something interesting in his future, he answered, “once you are told your days are numbered, you try not to think about the future. It can get depressing.” Knowing he won’t see his grandson graduate or his granddaughter walk down the aisle are hard realities for him. Roy dreams about being healthy and not having any pain or ileostomy bag on his side, being a normal weight, and once again playing basketball with his grandson. A dream place for him is on a cruise ship and snorkeling in beautiful, blue clear waters. If he could have dinner with anyone, it would be his beloved Mom, whom he misses every day. He loved her cooking.

Roy feels that, growing up, he wasted time worrying about things he couldn’t control. He finally realized it’s best not to worry about those things and to let them play out themselves. Roy says you can find peace if you just accept and realize everything is in God’s hands. He wished he wouldn’t have worried so much about bills. Having grown up poor, it was important for him to make a good living so that his family never struggled like he saw his mom struggle. He wishes he would have spent more time with his daughters when they were younger, instead of always putting work first. He looks at material things differently now. “We live our lives thinking material things will make us happy, but it’s family and friends that give us the most happiness.”

Roy believes in Heaven and that he has family he’ll see again. He pictures Heaven being the most beautiful place he’s ever seen. Roy wants everyone to realize how precious life is and not to take it for granted because no one is promised tomorrow. When I asked Roy if he had done everything he’s wanted to, he said he would have liked to travel through Greece and rent a villa in Tuscany for a month. Although he never got to do those two things, he is content that he’s been blessed to travel to many other places over his lifetime. One of his favorite travels was exploring New York City. In most cities he’s visited, he’s tried to make a point to visit Catholic cathedrals.

Roy says he’s not sad or mad at his diagnosis. He doesn’t wish the pain he’s gone through on anyone, but he’s not bitter. He’d like to be remembered as being a nice, honest man that never met a stranger and gave more of himself than he asked of others.

I learned so much by interviewing Roy. The reality is, we all could die at any moment, we don’t have to have a terminal illness. So, let’s worry less, do all the things that make us happy, stop and smell the roses, count our blessings, spend time with people who mean the most to us, and not take any day for granted. Roy — although you aren’t my Navasota Neighbor, I want to thank you for being an open, transparent book. Your wisdom, insight and honesty are invaluable to me, and I hope others as well.

The column represents the thoughts and opinions of Jennifer Ramirez. Opinion columns are NOT the opinion of the Navasota Examiner.

Jennifer is a lifelong resident of Navasota. She is passionate about her community and supports all things local.