December 8th, They took your clothes . . .  December  December 21st, I sent our Christmas Card  
  December 18, 2001
  I'm going to let someone else talk to you today.   You remember Maricelma, the little girl who was the daughter of our maid in Campinas, don't you?   When she found out you had gone on, she wrote this beautiful letter to Claudia:


"It's only now, days and days after the loss of Neila that I feel able to answer your message, Claudia...  I don't know exactly what I was waiting for, but it certainly wasn't that she would leave so soon.

"I have felt strange ever since I got your email, reproaching myself because I have always had this enormous desire to talk to her again, to thank her and tell her how special she was in my life.!!  I had so many things to say to her, and now I'll never have that chance!!

"I have thought a lot about her, asking myself why I put off contacting her so many tmes...and there's no answer!   I've always had the feeling that others will always be there, waiting for us, but it isn't that way, is it?   And we go on with our lives doing things we think are indispensible at the time, things that in truth could wait because they are earthly things...  maybe this is one thing I won't be able to deal with, knowing that she is gone and I thought I had more important things to do than to tell her ... 'THANK YOU NEILA, THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR HELPING ME BECOME THE PERSON I AM TODAY.'

"But I also think what I feel should not stay locked up inside me, so I would like to share it with you and your family..okay?  Of course, this means having to open up my most intimate feelings and that isn't always easy, but I believe that all of you should know the influence she had in my life!

"I think you remember a little of my story, but not about what I lived through all my life...so...as the daughter of a single mother I was discriminated against by even my own relatives who always treated me as if I would never be normal.  They always reminded me of my situation and treated me with such contempt that I came to believe it would always be that way..then my mother got sick and by force of circunstancias we came to live in Campinas where she started doing domestic work until one day she went to work for you... and for the first time people I had never seen before in my life treated me well, even knowing my background, treated me well...but Neila...wow...she had an enormous influence on me...I admired her personality, I loved the strong person she always she always showed herself to be,...but mainly it was how she was always direct in expressing herself..even when she got mad and included me in her 'sermons'.. I felt that was really respecting me somehow..it seems strange to say it but I adored that..she didn't discriminate against me even when got on you guys because she included me in the 'sermon' ... I admired her in many ways, but mainly as a woman.   I thought it was incredible the way she handled the house, children, husband.  Her decisions weren't always popular, but she was always concerned nevertheless.  She was the feminine role model I have tried to pattern myself after, and I can say a lot of what I am today came from her.  If today I am a strong and determined person with self-esteem, I owe it to her who always treated me that way, never making me feel inferior.  She taught me that above all I am a human being with rights and duties just like everybody else.  There are things in my memory I'll never be able to describe in detail, but that give me strength every time I think about them.  They inspire me to be better, and make me see and remember that we are all children of the same God and that we must respect and love each other in the same way.  I know this seems repetitive, but all this I owe to her and this feeling of love and gratefullness that I feel for her will always occupy a large place in my heart.  Claudia, Raquel and Chris and Kendall, I always adored you and am filled with beautiful memories.  With you I lived a very special part of my life that was decisive in making me who I am.  Today I tell you, and one day I will have the chance to tell Neila what I let pass this time.. I will look at her and say..'THANK YOU, THANK YOU SO MUCH..I HAD A GOOD LIFE AND I WAS A GOOD PERSON, I MADE OTHER PEOPLE HAPPY, I TRIED TO PASS ON WHAT YOU, MAYBE UNCONSCIOUNSLY, GAVE ME.. RESPECT AND LOVE FOR ONE'S FELLOWMAN...LOVE WITHOUT HAVING TO ALWAYS AGREE, LOVE AND CRITICISE WHEN WE HAVE TO, RESPECT BUT ALWAYS TRY TO MAKE OTHERS SEEK THE BEST IN THEMSELVES.. SO NEILA, THANK YOU, AND ONCE AGAIN THANK YOU!!!!"

  portuguÍs