This story is part of StoryCorps Legacy, which provides people of all ages with serious illness and their families the opportunity to record, preserve and share their stories.
Julia Medina was a single mom who raised 10 children while working a variety of jobs, including as a cleaning woman in Fresno, Calif.
"She was strong," said Maria Rivas, Julia's daughter, at StoryCorps in 2014.
Maria, 57, warmly remembered her mother and the six years she spent caring for her as she neared the end of her life. Julia died in 2012 at 85 after suffering for years from arthritis and heart problems.
Her mom always had her back. One time, when Maria was kicked out of junior high for chewing gum, Julia was quick to fiercely defend her to the school's vice principal.
"You're gonna listen to me," Maria recalled Julia telling him. "My daughter was just chewing gum. She's a good student. She needs to be in school.
"And she stood there with her arms crossed," Maria said.
Sure enough, Maria was quickly allowed to return to class.
Maria remembered Julia's soft side, too.
"As hard of work as she did, her skin was so soft," Maria said. "I used to love to always touch her skin."
Years later, as Julia grew older and her health deteriorated, Maria moved into Julia's house. She was Julia's primary caregiver for six years. Maria remembers that every time she left the house, Julia would stand on the porch waving to see her off.
Knowing those goodbyes wouldn't last forever, Maria wanted to preserve that memory as best she could. One day, she snapped a photo of her mom waving from the porch. The photograph now hangs above the couch, and thanks to it, Maria can still see Julia seeing her off.
"I'm so, so happy I took this picture because before I go to work, and I'm heading out the door, I always open the door back up," Maria said. "I go, 'Bye, Mom!' And I wave at her, wave at her picture.
"I miss her waving. I miss that."
Audio produced for Morning Edition by Kelly Moffitt and Shea Shackleford.
StoryCorps is a national nonprofit that gives people the chance to interview friends and loved ones about their lives. These conversations are archived at the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress, allowing participants to leave a legacy for future generations. Learn more, including how to interview someone in your life, at StoryCorps.org.
RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:
The StoryCorps Legacy project gives people a chance to remember loved ones lost to serious illnesses. Julia Medina was a single mom who raised 10 children while working as a cleaning woman in Fresno, Calif. In the last years of her life, her daughter, Maria Rivas, took care of her. Maria remembered her mom with Caroline Dezan, a social worker at a hospice center.
MARIA RIVAS: She was strong. I remember once when the vice principal of the junior high kicked me out because I was chewing gum. And she went up to the school and said, I need to talk. And he put his fingers in his ears because he didn't want to listen. I thought she was going to whack him.
CAROLINE DEZAN: (Laughter).
RIVAS: My mom reached across that desk, pulled his hands out. And she goes, you're going to listen to me. My daughter was just chewing gum. She's a good student. She needs to be in school.
And she stood there with her arms crossed. And that guy looked at my mom and said, Maria can go back to class now. I was, like, so proud of her. I'm like, man, she's strong.
DEZAN: That's mom.
RIVAS: Yeah, that's mom. As hard work as she did, her skin was so soft. And I used to love to always touch her skin. I was kind of a pest, I guess. I would sit right next to her. And I would grab her cheek. And I would pull her skin up like a tent, you know. And she would go, ay, stop it, mija. And then years later as she got older, after I'd bathe her, I'd put the lotion on her. I was like, oh, I get to touch her and feel her skin. And I really, really, really miss that.
Whenever I'd leave, my mom would step out on the porch and she'd wave. And I knew that one day she wasn't going to be out there to wave at me. So I said, I need to take a picture of her waving. And I'm so, so happy I took this picture, because before I go to work and I'm heading out the door, I always open the door back up and I go, bye, Mom. And I wave at her - wave at her picture. I miss her waving. I miss that.
(SOUNDBITE OF CHRIS ZABRISKIE'S "THAT KID IN FOURTH GRADE WHO REALLY LIKED THE DENVER BRONCOS")
MARTIN: Maria Rivas remembering her mom, Julia Medina, as part of StoryCorps' Legacy project. Their interview will be archived, along with hundreds of thousands of others, at the Library of Congress. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.