What Brings You Joy? Remembering Margarita H.

But you have to keep moving forward; life continues until the Lord calls you.

Margarita and Lillian wear colorful hats they designed at Café Para Dos
Margarita and her daughter Lillian wear colorful hats they created during the first Café Para Dos program.

Margarita H. was the first member of our community advisory group in the Hunting Park neighborhood of North Philadelphia to respond to the question “what brings you joy?” 

She had sat quietly through the first convenings of the group in the summer and fall of 2018, listening to everyone else but not speaking. From time to time, when someone’s eyes would catch hers, she would flash her extraordinary smile. Margarita was living with dementia and had chosen to join this group of community advisors with her daughter Lillian so that they might be of help to others going through what they were experiencing.

Margarita thoughtfully applies silk flowers to her hat.

As members of the group around the long table shared their stories and memories, Margarita was silent. Then she was asked “What makes you smile, Margarita? What brings you joy?” Her face brightened, and she spoke directly to our director who had asked the questions. With Lillian’s intermittent help in translating from Spanish to English, Margarita told us she liked listening to music – especially religious music in Spanish, like the hymns she listened to in church with Lillian. She loved gardening and flowers. And she used to enjoy sewing before her eyesight became too bad. What did she used to do that would bring her joy again? She wished she could sew again.

That tiny, apparently insignificant conversation was in fact among the most consequential we have had in ARTZ Philadelphia’s ten years. From then on, during 2 ½ years of ARTZ in the Neighborhood meetings and programs in Hunting Park, Margarita spoke without prompting. She told us that she felt welcomed and appreciated by the members of the group. 

Margarita inspired our first joy-based program, Café Para Dos (Coffee for Two, named for the care partners who attended with their loved ones living with dementia). The first Café Para Dos took place just a few months after our conversation. We hosted a workshop in which we decorated straw hats with colorful silk flowers – not sewing per se, but creating beauty with our hands and with our hearts. Margarita was in her element: focused, creative, aesthetically immersed – joyful. And she had shaped the creation of our first program for people living with dementia and their care partners in Hunting Park.

Margarita died on November 19, 2022. As we honor her lasting influence in our lives and on ARTZ Philadelphia programs, what brings us joy? El recuerdo de ti, Margarita.

Margarita working on her hat and smiling at Café Para Dos
Margarita working on her hat and smiling with ARTZ Philly staffer Celia.

The quote at the top of this post is from Margarita H.

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