Family and friends, there is so much joy in my life and I am blessed beyond words. Don’t get me wrong, my life is far from perfect. Those of you that know me very well, know that my life has definitely had its ups and downs. Sometimes I feel like I’m on an amazing roller-coaster ride called life. I wanted to write today because I feel like something significant has happened in my life and I wanted to share it with those of you that are interested. No hard feelings if you’re not; really it’s OK. For those that would like to know, feel free to read on as this will be a long post.
I lost my Uncle Helder on Thursday April 7th, 2016. Yes, his name was actually Helder also. He was my Mother’s brother and I was named after him and also my Grandfather who was also named Helder. When I was young, I never really liked my name. It was different and as an immigrant to this beautiful country, I was born in Portugal, it was tough growing up with a name like Helder. I’m sure you can imagine the names kids might call you. So when I was young, maybe 9 or 10, I changed my name to Adam. In fact many of you only know me as Adam. Adam was simple name and I remember choosing it as some of the older kids would call me Adam Ant, a cartoon character that was small but strong, not the singer from England. I used Adam for nearly my whole childhood. In the beginning of the school year, I would always go up to the school teachers and ask them to please call me Adam, before they would do roll call so I would not be embarrassed by them calling out Helder. Even my beautiful wife Maggie, knew me as Adam and it wasn’t until I graduated high school that I came to accept my real name as Helder.
You see, I enlisted in the Army at the beginning of my senior year in high school. I was only 17, but I knew I wanted a better life and knew that I wanted to go to college. The problem was that my hard working parents were barely making ends meet let alone have enough money for the college application fee, so forget about college tuition. So I enlisted in the US Army for the GI Bill and in July of 1988, after graduating from high school, I headed to Fort Benning, Georgia for the Army Infantry School. Georgia in July is hot, really hot, you could definitely fry an egg on the pavement and humid, wow! So when I met my Drill Sergeant, just like in high school, I went up to him and told him that I wanted to be called Adam and he said, OK Helder!
Oh boy, I thought to myself, what had I done. At some point, after the beat down and grilling, I mean training LOL, they gave us the first couple of weeks, he pulled me aside and told me to get my head out of my fourth point of contact, that means my ass for those of you that don’t know, and get used to my name; Helder. He told me that it was unique and different and that there was a reason for that, so I better start liking it; and I did. From that day on, I was known as Helder. It wasn’t until a few years from then that I realized that all this time, my mother and uncle never said a word to me about me not liking my name. I guess they figured that at some point I would figure it out.
So a long story, but I thought that it was important to give you all the background because I could not be prouder to call myself Helder than I am today. My grandfather Helder died some time ago and my uncle Helder has now joined his parents, his brother and sister, my Mom.
Let me tell you a little bit about my uncle Helder. Throughout my childhood there were difficult times and I noticed when I needed him, he was always there for me. I used to go over his house and admire his 1972 dark green Mustang that he had. You see, I use to drive my Mom’s car and since we didn’t have much money it was always difficult to borrow it when I wanted to use the car and I really wanted my own car. So one day I went over his house and when I approached him about the idea of buying the car, he didn’t hesitate at all about giving it to me and telling me that I could pay him back as I earned the money. It needed a little bit of work but I really liked that car and I figured since I was in Vocational Technical School, I could fix it up and maybe even rebuild the engine. I loved that Mustang; it had a 302 engine and was really fast. As you can imagine, I was about 17 and it wasn’t long before I got a little reckless and crashed the car. I rolled it over on Harkney Hill Road in Coventry, RI. I was driving fast and was trying to pass an antique car and if I had been going just a little bit faster when I rolled it over, I would have wrapped the Mustang around a tree. Then I took a pleasant ride in the ambulance and I while I was at the hospital, my Mom was there and also my uncle. Now I was ready to get yelled at and also to be reminded that I still owed him the money, but he never, and I mean never, said a word about it; he was scared for me and he was just glad that I was ok. I was very lucky to be alive the police officer told me as he gave me a well-deserved ticket.
Then there was a very difficult time in my life, when my Mom was diagnosed with cancer. I had this great idea that I would take her on a farewell trip back to Saint Michael, Azores, Portugal. I spoke to my uncle and told him what I was planning and he thought it would be a great idea. I was so excited! My mother had not been back to Portugal since 1971 when we came to the US. I also couldn’t wait to see where I was born and where my parents grew up. So I saved up the money and planned the trip. Since my Mom was very sick from the cancer, I made sure that I had travel insurance in the event something went wrong because I didn’t want her to feel bad if she couldn’t make it. Sure enough, it was approximately around this time, 10 years ago, that my Mom didn’t feel well and was worried about going and having any kind of complications and she told me that she had second thoughts and wanted to cancel. I understood and wanted to respect my Mom’s wishes but I was so devastated. I had worked so hard and planned for this and now we were not going on the trip.
My Mom had one request though; she still wanted me to go, but with my uncle only and to take lots of pictures and to show her how my trip was when I got back. It was bitter sweet and I did want to go, but the main reason for the trip was for her. I talked to my uncle and we went in May 2006. My uncle had made preparations to have a friend of his take us all over the island and we had the time of our lives. To this day, that was still one of the best trips that I have ever been on. It was so great to see where my family was from and where my parents grew up and to see the house that I was actually born in. I went to the church that I was baptized in and I prayed for a miracle that my Mom would be healed; I know a little bit of a stretch, but I had to do it. I prayed that if a cure was not to be, then to please take her quickly and not let her suffer any more than she had already had. When we got back we shared all of the photos with my Mom and she was so happy for me that we went and had such a great time. She smiled so big when she saw her homeland and where she grew up and I talked about the things we saw and the places we went. She was so excited for me and I could feel that she also was very happy too. She passed about a month later after we had gotten back in June 2006. God, we had the time of our lives and I can never thank my uncle enough for that trip. He was the BEST!!!
There are so many more stories like this, but needless to say, my uncle was truly and really the best and one of the most positive influences in my life. He was always there for me when I needed positive words of encouragement. I can never thank him enough for the kindness that he showed me. Today, at Prata funeral home in West Warwick, RI, is his wake and tomorrow will be his funeral mass. You can find out more online, at their website: http://www.pratagallogly.com/notices/Helder-Miranda. I know many of his friends and most of my family will be there and many if not all have similar stories like mine.
Today, I am so grateful for carrying on the family name. It has a new found meaning to me and my family and I am very proud to call myself, Helder! I wrote the following words in his guest book online.
Uncle, we knew this day would come as we sat and talked by your bedside. I dreaded it to say the least. You’re now at rest and peace and no longer in any pain and for that I am pleased. You have been rejoined with your mother, brother and sister, my Mom. I have always felt their presence with me as I have walked through this journey we call life. I don’t know where I would be today without all of the positive influences that you and my Mom had on me. And I know if Uncle Flavio were alive, he too would have had such a positive influence on my life also. You were all wonderful blessings in my life. There are so many things that I still want to say, and I want to keep having our talks, I cherished them so much. I will never forget our trip to Portugal together in remembrance of my mother. You were always there for me when I needed you. Thank you and I love you!
I wrote this poem for you and for us…
It was the news that brought tears to our eyes that dreadful day
God decided it was your time, your time to go, so He took you away.
And we all felt the pain, the pain that you had been suffering for so long.
As we gathered in your home and listened to your daughter’s song
You will not be forgotten, we will always be thinking of you,
and we know that you’ll be looking down on us; protecting us; you always do.
And we all cried as the rain fell that dreary day,
Little drops of rain, tears of love lost, words we cannot say.
You were a shining light in our lives and you had to go just then
We bid you farewell, but not goodbye, for we know we will see you again,
I miss you so much Uncle! May you rest in eternal peace.
We will always love and miss you!
Eternally grateful; your nephew and proud name holder,