Last Friday my fellow classmates and I received the tragic news that our resident director and personally coined, "fun mom," Dr. Eufemia Sanchez de la Calle, passed away the night before in a car accident.
Sanchez de la Calle, also called Femy by her students, was an associate professor of Spanish and resident director of the Marquette en Madrid program. She was a woman of many things, but most people know her for her smile, laugh, intelligence and all around joyful demeanor.
Our group of eleven was scattered across the continent when we received phone calls from the Office of International Education. Five in Italy, one in France, five in Spain and one in Germany. Many of us thought it had to do with us failing our intensive orientation courses, what we all found out put that presumption to dust. Terence Miller and Gail Gilbert informed us that we lost not only a teacher, but also a friend we held near and dear to our hearts.
Some may have known Femy for only the month that they have been in Spain, others, such as myself, had Femy for one or more classes at Marquette. In cases such as these time doesn't matter, the growth of the relationship does, and each of us grew closer to her than I think we even realized.
When I first met Femy I was a scared freshman in her first semester at Marquette University. I had been placed into Spanish 3500, a level clearly not meant for me but somehow the placement exam thought so. Femy was the professor and we all sat in our rows in Lalumiere Hall staring at her. She was a pretty woman with brown hair and discreet highlights and an accent that made me shrink even further into my chair because it made it more difficult than it already was to comprehend. We went around, one by one, and did the usual shpeal: state our name, year, and major.
Well, let me tell ya. When my turn came around and I said I wanted to be a journalist Femy gave me a large smile and a slightly audible laugh. "A journalist?" she asked me after a grueling 55 minutes. I said yes, and she told me to go for it, but not loose myself in the chase. She also said to keep my second major as Spanish a month later when I wanted to drop it. Just as a precaution if my other career didn't work, she said while laughing in my advising session.
She was a funny woman, and always made a point to greet everyone and make sure they were doing well. Here, she frequently would check in on us and made a point to speak in the best Spanglish I have ever heard when she knew we didn't understand what she was saying. She was the queen of taking group photos, buying us ice cream and making sure we had enough to eat at every meal we went to. After hearing the news of her death we all recalled these events and asked one another, who is going to make us take those ridiculous photos? What about our Thanksgiving dinner we were supposed to share with her? Who is going to find humor in our crazy stories about our señoras and then crack jokes about them? You can't replace Femy, she was one of a kind.
Since her passing we have received numerous forms of support from the university. E-mails from Campus Ministry, Mission and Ministry, OIE, outreach from students who also knew Femy, and a wave of generosity from faculty here in Madrid. However, as comforting as this support is, it's each other that the eleven of us rely on. Within group, none of us have refused a hug, we accept each others tears and sniffles. We don't expect one another to move on any time soon, in fact we expect it to take each of us a different amount of time. Each of us are grieving differently but we have one another, we have our new family. Our group of eleven and the support coming across the Atlantic Ocean is, right now, the epitome "WE ARE MARQUETTE." No one is alone in this time of difficulty, and if you feel you are look to the Marquette population, we are not just a family during basketball games, but also during times of tragedy.
We miss you, Femy. We miss your smile, positive attitude, generosity and the fact that you were a professor who meant business but also acted as our temporary mother who wanted everything to go well for her students, including the discotecas. You were an inspiration to many and we will never forget the impact you had on our lives, regardless of how long you were part of them. I think I can say, on behalf of all of Marquette and the people you have touched, thank you.