Mayra Negron Romero sees her husband’s keys hanging by the door in the South Austin apartment they shared for 15 years.
His truck is still parked in the lot. It’s as if, at any moment, Jose Luis Aguilar might come strolling through the door to ask how her day was. They knew each other as children growing up in Mexico but didn’t fall in love until they were both living in Austin years later. He was serious, but mischievous, she says, always pulling her leg about something or another.
One Thursday last December, Jose died in a car accident driving home from work. He was with his brother, who had just moved to Austin a few days earlier, when they were struck by another car. They both died at the scene of the accident, but by the time Negron Romero and her three children found out about the accident, they also found out they couldn’t see his body until they could prove they had arranged funeral plans.
They didn’t have enough money to cover the casket and services, so they had to go door to door in their apartment complex to ask for donations.
This year the family is part of the Statesman Season for Caring program, which by highlights the needs of 12 families in our community, but helps hundreds of others. The Negrons were nominated by Foundation Communities, which provides affordable housing to families in Central Texas, as well as educational, financial and wellness programs.
Nearly a year later, Negron Romero is still struggling to process the loss of her husband, but she has new worries. Her oldest daughter, Samanta Osorio Negron, was diagnosed with stage two non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma just a few weeks after her stepfather died. Her 10-year-old son, Luis, has withdrawn since his dad’s death, struggling to find a way to carry his grief and carry on as a fourth-grader.
Mayleth Aguilar Negron, Jose’s 18-year-old daughter, remembers her dad’s Sunday morning ritual, where he’d get up at 6 a.m. and loudly prepare a cup of coffee before watching television. At 9 a.m., when everyone else rolled out of bed, he’d yawn and go back to bed, already having enjoyed his Sunday morning.
Seeing Jose’s keys on a hook by the door doesn’t bring answers, but it’s a physical connection to a man whose presence looms large.
Last holiday season, they were asking neighbors for money to buy a casket to bury him and his brother. This year, they are laughing again to keep everyone’s spirits up, but the clouds of grief and worry linger. What will the next year hold for 25-year-old Samanta Osorio Negron’s health? How will Luis handle the anniversary of his dad’s death? Will sisters Samanta and Mayleth be able to continue taking classes if the family falls behind on bills?
They have begun receiving some Season for Caring help. An employee at Foundation Communities is donating her 2014 computer to Samanta for school. When the employee, Sierra Randall, talked to her friends, they sent Randall a new printer, a microwave and a toaster for the family. Randall also has volunteered to tutor Luis in reading, but he still needs a math tutor.
The family needs help with a reliable car, dressers, living room furniture, dining room table, tuition assistance and anything related to wrestling for Luis.
To find out more about the Negron family or to give an item on its wish list, contact Foundation Communities, 512-610-7391, foundcom.org.
SEASON FOR CARING
• To make a monetary donation to Season for Caring, use the coupon on Page A8 or go online to statesman.com/seasonforcaring . Now through Monday, the Sheth family has offered a matching grant of up to $100,000.
• Find more stories, videos and photos of all the families at statesman.com/seasonforcaring .
• To learn more about donating an item or a service, call 512-445-3590 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.