I have read many beautiful and heartfelt obituaries and appreciations of Rose Vella who became a reluctant public figure when her daughter, Daphne Caruana Galizia, was killed nearly six years ago. I have little to add to the admiration of those who came to know her in her great pain.
“At the cross her station keeping, stood the mournful mother weeping, close to Jesus to the last.”
The first word of the Latin original of those verses is “stabat”. It opens with the fact that the mother was standing. I always thought of that when I saw Rose Vella standing, and as she became frailer, sitting, at every protest, every event, every gathering calling for justice for her daughter.
I am not being unconsciously paradoxical when I think of her standing as she sat at protests. Standing represents courage and defiance even in grief. It represents dignity, never lost, never fading, even when suffering the greatest injury or the cruellest insult. Standing represents the fact that she turned the sorrow of her unjust bereavement into a battle to protect everyone. Rose Vella stood even when she was seated.
A few years ago, I was targeted by a serious of intimidatory threats and covert and overt actions meant to discredit me and to scare me into silence. Some people were sceptical. Rose Vella was not. She got her daughters to bring her to my home to wish my family strength and to tell us that if we thought no one outside our house understood what we were going through we were wrong. She understood. As did the rest of Daphne’s family who stood around her through years of intimidation and insults.
As she stood in tears at the loss of her daughter, Rose Vella worried about us. She stayed there till she drew her last breath just so we’d be safer than her daughter ever was.
I pay tribute to her not as Daphne’s mother. Rose Vella stood for us. Even when she needed to sit. She was yet another legacy Daphne passed on to us, another of the many undeserved gifts that came with Rose’s daughter’s untimely death. For 6 years Rose Vella was our mother too. We will never forget that.