Son forgives his mother’s 14 year-old killer “with his heart,” but demands justice
Rev. Xavier Aponte reminded the 200 mourners crowded into the chapel at La Paz Memorial Funeral Home that they were there to “celebrate the life” of Silvia Zavala, a vivacious 45-year-old grandmother who had driven from her home in the Rio Grande Valley to spend the New Year holiday with family in Houston.
Most, however, were still reeling from Zavala’s unexpected death in a senseless automobile accident, and they were not ready to let her go.
“She was a happy person who was very contented with her God-given life,” Aponte said.
Her son, who had come up from the border to the funeral, agreed but wants punishment for the teen driver charged with his mother’s death.
“My mom was indeed a very happy person,” said Luis Gaspar, 24, the older of Zavala’s two children. “But this is too hard; she didn’t deserve this … I want justice.”
Zavala was killed on Tuesday just after 2 p.m. when a 14-year-old boy driving a tan GMC SUV at high speed ran a red light at the intersection of Aldine Mail Route and Aldine Westfield, plowing broadside into the Ford F-150 pickup she was driving. Paramedics who found her body pounced her dead at the scene, according to the Harris County Sheriff office.
The violent two-car collision that ended her life made national news after surveillance video was aired of an accident resulting from a teenager’s prank.
The teen driver, who was unlawfully driving the SUV owned by his parents, was accompanied by two passengers of similar ages. The teens have been throwing eggs at motorists, and were being pursued by the driver of a 1970′s model Lincoln Continental who had brandished a firearm after his car had been pelted with eggs, investigators said.
The teen driver’s name has not been disclosed since he is a minor, but the Harris County Sheriff’s Office has confirmed that boy has been charged with murder and is in juvenile facilities. The man in the Lincoln fled the accident scene but was later questioned by police officers.
Silvia Zavala came to Houston on December 31 from her home in McAllen to celebrate the New Year with her daughter Jessica Gaspar, who has been living for over a year with her aunt Fabiola Zavala near the Aldine area.
On the day of the accident, Silvia Zavala was happy as usual, a family member recalled, who said she left to do some last minute shopping before heading day back home later that day to McAllen. Her son and most of her family resides in the south Texas border city, not far from where her four grandchildren live in Mexico.
Later, Silvia Zavala stopped answering calls from family members. And when her niece Alejandra Lara Zavala found a photo on Facebook of a recent crash with a car too similar to the aunt, some of the family ran to the scene. It was already too late for anything.
“My aunt was a very hard working person, happy; she liked to go shopping because she loved dressing pretty and looking lovely,” said Lara. “She loved dancing and was a very strong woman. Very beautiful.”
Her son recalled how his mother raised he and his sister with little help, and without complaint.
“My mother worked during her whole life,” said her son Gaspar. “She was so strong that she never showed us any sign of her problems; she raised my sister and me alone without complaining and she was always there for us latter when we grew up, always helping when we needed her.”
Gaspar keep his composure at the funeral, just a few feet from where his sister inconsolably cried over their mother’s coffin, and said he was willing to pardon the 14-year-old teen driver.
He said he knows what is “to be a 14-year-old.”
At that age, “my mother knew what I was doing. I stole my mother’s car a few times but to go (to) see my girlfriends; never to go and do harm to others, like what those young men were doing; throwing eggs, vandalizing…”
The son remembered that his mother “had a big, very forgiving heart. My mom had such a big heart that if she had been left alive in that accident, my mom would have pardoned that boy.”
Gaspar said that just like his mother, “I do not have a grudge or anything, because my mother taught me that way.”
Speaking in a soft tone, Gaspar added, “I forgive that boy with my heart; he is a child. But he must have his punishment for having done this. My mom’s life has a lot of value to us and that (boy) left the whole family with broken hearts.”
Gaspar thinks even though his mother’s life was unjustly taken, he believes it is somehow by God’s design.
“God put my mother on that path because she was alone in the car. What if they (the teenagers) would have killed people with children and the whole family? It could have been worse when you think on a greater scale,” he said.
A note on one of the many flower arrangements declared that Zavala was “very much loved.,” A long procession of dozens of cars followed the hearse to the Holly Wood Cemetery in the early afternoon, where a Catholic religious service marked the mother’s last ritual on earth.
“Yes, she was much loved,” said niece Lara. “By Wednesday (this week), most of the family have already arrived in Houston from McAllen and Mexico. Everybody loved her.”