Rays of sunshine breaking through an overcast sky is a welcome sight these days, after all the clouds and rain we’ve experienced. A similar sensation is what people who knew Heddie Costa felt whenever she entered a room.

Sadly, we won’t be able to experience that joy anymore, since Heddie passed away on March 26, after an intense battle with cancer. But the memories of her smile and laughter stay with us.

I was fortunate to have known Heddie from many different perspectives. She was a teacher for many years at Los Banos’ Our Lady of Fatima School, which all three of my children attended. For several years we were colleagues at the Los Banos Campus of Merced College, where Heddie served as an adjunct professor.

She was a fellow parishioner at St Joseph’s Church in Los Banos, where she served as a eucharistic minister. And I was lucky to be among the many friends Heddie had.

I always enjoyed seeing Heddie. She had a quick smile and a quicker wit. She would always find a way to make me smile, a feeling I know I share with her many other friends and family members.

Heddie was, above all, a devoted wife and mother. She and her husband Ron, who passed away in 2013, had a similar sense of humor and a similar dedication to their five children. She and Ron shared an appreciation for laughter and created a joyful home for their children.

Heddie was also dedicated to the education of other children, having taught kindergarten at OLF School and years later, when the pastor needed someone to step in and help on the spur of the moment, she served as interim principal of the school.

She believed in academic curiosity, which she nurtured in her young students, sharing with them the wonders of exploring their world and their faith. She also believed in encouraging people, young and old, by supporting their ideas and their lives and keeping them upbeat and optimistic.

Heddie also had a lively circle of friends, including my wife Sandy, who knew her before I did. Heddie and her friends enjoyed getting together, exchanging stories and sharing laughter. She touched so many lives, and so many people have fond memories of her.

It seems a short time ago when Heddie was out and about and in good spirits, and now she’s gone, taken by the cruelty of cancer. It’s a short time to me, but for her it must have felt much longer as she fought against that disease that little by little sapped her strength.

Heddie, however, wasn’t ever sorry for herself. She hardly mentioned to most of her friends that she was sick.

Heddie was also a person of deep faith. As she approached Easter, I believed she knew her impending death would be a transition a new and better life, filled with light and love.

At Heddie’s 2:30 p.m. Mass of the Resurrection on Friday, April 14, at St. Jospeh’s in Los Banos, I’m sure the church will be filled with friends and family who admired her.

Los Banos has lost some amazing women in the past few years, including Colleen Menefee and Marg Benton, as well as Heddie Costa. Our community doesn’t shine as much as it once did. But these women showed us that we should care deeply about others–our family, our friends and anyone else who enters our lives.

Our community was blessed to have Heddie and other remarkable women in our midst. And now we have to ensure their spirit of caring lives on in our hearts.