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Beloved mother, ECISD teacher dies of COVID-19

"I think the hardest part of all of this is not being able to hold them, hold my dad, and comfort him."

ODESSA, Texas — COVID-19 has struck hundreds of thousands of people across the United States, and it has struck here in West Texas once again. 

This time, an ECISD teacher died on Thanksgiving. It was Amalia Gonzales' 50th wedding anniversary.

Never skipping a beat, dancing, and singing. Amalia Gonzales was the life of the party.

"My mom was so much fun...she loved to travel. She said that her most expensive habit was my son, her grandson. My son Jacob was her only grandchild," Rebecca Lopez, Amalia's daughter, said.

For Rebecca, Amalia was her mom, but she was also more than that. She was a caring grandmother and a dedicated teacher to her students.

Credit: Rebecca Lopez

"She loved teaching her kids. She had actually retired many, many years ago, but she kept going back to substitute teach. I’m like 'why do you keep doing this? Why don’t you just go and enjoy retirement?' and she said 'I don’t wanna just sit around the house and I love being there with the kids,'" Lopez said. 

Teaching was more than just a job to Amalia. Rebecca believes that teaching was her mother's calling.

"I think it was her purpose in life, teaching was her purpose. She impacted so many children in Odessa that she taught over her more than 40 years as a teacher," Lopez said.

It wasn't just those that she taught that she impacted, but everyone she met. She was the first person to volunteer, the matriarch of her family, a loyal friend, and a beloved family member. 

Amalia was always trying to spread love and happiness. She was always trying to make people smile. 

"That's just who she was," Lopez said.

A little more than a week ago, COVID-19 reached Rebecca's family. The virus hit Amalia without warning.

"My mom started exhibiting symptoms on Monday, the week of Thanksgiving and she sounded like she had allergies," Lopez said.

On Thanksgiving morning, just a few days after she began showing symptoms, Amalia died. Amalia and her husband Santos had been married 50 years to the day on Thanksgiving this year.

"It was their 50th wedding anniversary, and we had delayed celebration because we didn’t want to get together because of COVID. So she died on their 50th wedding anniversary on Thanksgiving day. So that was just heart wrenching for my father. You know he used to call her 'mi vida' - 'my life,'" Lopez said.

The hardest part for Rebecca was not being able to hold her father and her sister because they are also being tested for COVID.

"I think the hardest part of all of this is not being able to hold them and hold my dad and hug him and comfort him and comfort my sister and together you know just grieve as a family," Lopez said.

As for the people who believe that this virus will impact them? Rebecca wants them to think twice because the virus is everywhere.

"They need to think twice because these statistics aren’t just statistics. There are people behind the numbers, and behind every number is a grieving family, is a grieving friend, there’s a grieving loved one," Lopez said.

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