Cielo Rodriguez: A Resilient Student, An Involved Citizen, and A Beautiful Soul
By Anahi Anaya
A heavy loss can lead to many feelings: grief, confusion, or even anger. Recently, the Northside community suffered a loss, which brought up many memories and a need to celebrate the time we spent with each other. On Nov. 7, Cielo Rodriguez, Adv. 900, passed away after a long and courageous fight against cancer. Friends and relatives gathered at the Immaculate Heart of Mary Church on Nov. 14 to give their condolences and support to her family. Though Rodriguez will be buried in Michoacan, Mexico, her acquaintances here had the chance to give their farewells.
At the ceremony, mass cards were distributed with a picture of her on one side and her eulogy on the other. The back of her mass card said “Gracias a ti Señor, por ver lo cansada que estaba y dejarme descansar. El dolor ha desaparecido. La paz es hermosa. Tu amor me rodea. He dado una buena pelea. ‘Así lo pienso’ y ahora en esta etapa sin importar el resultado, pienso que he ganado mi deseo. ‘Hay una razón para todo.’ Quiero que mi familia continúe con sus vidas y que se den cuenta que para todo hay una razón. No tengan pena. Todos hicieron lo que pudieron. Los amo a todos y siempre estare con ustedes.”
(Thank you God, for seeing how tired I was and letting me rest. The pain has vanished. Peace is beautiful. Your love surrounds me. I have given a good fight. “That’s how I think” and at this stage regardless of the result, I think my wish has been granted. “There is a reason for everything.” I want my family to continue with their lives and to realize that there is a reason for everything. Don’t feel guilty. You did what you could. I love you all and I will always be with you.)
Rodriguez worked hard to contribute to the Northside community. She exceeded in all her classes, always going above and beyond the expectations for assignments and projects. Most notably, Rodriguez was known for her interest in Japanese language and culture, which reflected in her efforts to succeed in the class. Ms. Jeung-Hee Park, World Language Department, said “On projects, she always put the most effort. I worried about how much time she took because of how good it was. She always worked well with other students and was very funny; she made very clever jokes.” Rodriguez was dedicated to her education, making the most of her time in school and exceeding academic standards. She was a good student, but she was also a kind classmate. Many knew her for offering help to struggling students, actively participating, and making sure to include others. She was independent, she knew what she wanted and how to achieve her goals. Mr. Leo Park, Music Department Chair, said “Cielo was always curious to learn about new things. She had a witty sense of humor and liked to throw out a few expletives from time to time.” She was quiet and tended to keep to herself. However, if you started a conversation with her, you were guaranteed to have a good laugh.
Regardless of private circumstances, Rodriguez continued going to school, working hard and defying expectations. She was courageous, she was strong, and she was brave. Mr. L. Park said “she persisted through myriad challenges that cancer threw at her, and did so with a strength and resolve until the cancer simply took over. Through her nearly year long battle with cancer, Cielo endeavored with unyielding fortitude and optimism.”
Cielo made an impression in the lives of everyone she met. She gave us great memories, great laughs, and made many contributions to the Northside environment. Mr. L. Park said, “Cielo Rodriguez was an incredibly warm, affable, inquisitive, positive, and bright young lady. Her mere presence could light up a room. I thoroughly enjoyed my time with Cielo and her family. We talked politics, played board games, enjoyed meals together, watched documentaries and 80s movies. Although my responsibility was to provide services to Cielo and her family through the Chicago Public Schools Homebound Instruction Program, it was Cielo and her family that provided me so much more. Cielo was more than a student to me. She was like a daughter whom I cared deeply for. She taught me so much about life and made me a stronger and more compassionate teacher, father, husband, friend, and colleague.”
Rodriguez positively influenced many and touched hearts during the best and worst times of people’s lives. She epitomized optimism and wanted to make the world a better place. Mr. Charles Milbert, Social Science Department, said “Her mom’s favorite picture with me is during one of the most difficult days of my life. I was there to help Cielo, but she helped me. For the two hours I spent with her, my problems weren’t gone. Maybe there were like two minutes in which I forgot what was going on. However, there was no one else, other than my kids, who I would have liked to spent that time with.”
Cielo was an active volunteer during the creation of Northside’s very own Japanese Garden. Milbert said “It was a source of stress, we did not have materials, this and that. Cielo was there probably during one of the more difficult times. Everyday she would show up, every single meeting she showed up cheerfully. One of the toughest things I remember was picking up trash amongst the rubble. One time, a giant disgusting rat popped up, and I didn’t know what to do. Cielo didn’t make a cheesy or fake comment, she acknowledged what happened and gave me hope. When we had to complete the garden, the inglorious job was to pull weeds. The glamorous job was to rake designs. They’re supposed to represent water. I didn’t know this, but she was involved in fine arts stuff. Everybody wanted to do the raking, but I told Cielo and Ellory to do it. At some point while they were working, Ellory stood to the side and Cielo did it all. She made a design that evoked such tranquility and emotion. She did such beautiful designs, she’d come up with them off the top of her head. We were floored, it was incredible.”
Cielo Rodriguez was a resilient student, a hardworking citizen and a beautiful soul. The Northside community has lots to remember her by, from distinct memories to physical contributions to the environment. Milbert said “When they go out to the garden, that’s Cielo right there. That’s her, that’s her. Part of her spirit is there. She did not want to tell her mom that she was dying, but she knew she was. She told her mom that if something happened to her, to give all of her savings to buy tools for Northside’s Japanese Garden. That’s incredible.” She left an impact on people who either knew her or heard about her. Speaking to those who knew her well not only helped me get a better understanding of who Cielo really was, but evoked feelings that will stay with me for a lifetime. Mr. L. Park said, “My hope is that Northside's administration agrees to grant Cielo a diploma, posthumously, at graduation.”