Monday, July 10, 2006

Mexicanos Know How to Grieve

I've lost many loved ones in my relatively short life. Great-grandparents, grandparents, tios, tias, cousins, friends; it's really quite tragic when I think about all of the loss I've experienced, but it has also allowed me to do a lot of soul-searching that makes me who I am today. Someone that I'm reasonably proud of, which is an important ingredient for happiness.

Each time one of my familia passes on, a shock hits the rest of us like a tsunami. Its force is enough to break apart strong bonds of fellowship and love and certainly able to destroy the hope that lives in a single soul. When I was in high school I lost my grandfather, who I share my name with along with my father, great-grandfather, great-great-grandfather and going back to my great-great-great-great grandmother who is buried five minutes outside of my little hometown in an old cemetery straight out of the history of the Old West.

The intruder into our rock solid existence was pancreatic cancer.

I watched as the man who was always the foundation of our extended family unit disintegrated. He lost over 100 lbs throughout the ordeal, making him a shadow of the person before the disease took its toll. The cancer was supposed to take him in six months after it was identified by the doctor. It only took five.

I'll never forget the last few days he was with us. There was alot of "call everybody up, it's time" and "brace yourself, it will probably be this evening". As he slipped into incoherence, new waves of emotions were unleashed as the person we knew and love could no longer recognize us.

As the end approached, it was quite fitting that it was during a time of prayer. My tia, my grandfather's daughter, was a longtime member of the Air Force and had been out of the country for many years far away from all of us. She had come home to be with us in those final months and she had the honor to spend the last moments with him as he finally slipped into the long sleep. They were praying together, rather she was reading his prayers to him, but if you knew the man I lovingly called tata you would know that he was joining in los oraciones.

My family had a decision when we lost our rock. We could either let his death destroy our bonds and individual selves, or we could move forward together in a way that would make us stronger than before. Somehow.

I'm thankful that that was the way we dealt with that terrible situation. I think it, the inner-resolve, has affected me throughout my life as I've lost other grandparents to illness and loss of hope, or friends due to drugs or suicide, or even the various death I read in the headlines of the morning paper. There is always a sense of learning and growth. Sure, lots of pain and dischord, but never complete loss of hope.

Maybe it's personality. Maybe it's faith. Maybe it's simple love. I just know that those qualities that give me that inner strength are the ones I wish to nourish and grow like the wildflowers starting to pop up in the desert due to the monsoon rains. Believe it or not, this place helps me do that regardless of how tragic or disparaging the topic may be.

[this is from my notes for the outline I'm working on for my future novel describing life in a small tightnit Mexican American community, thought I would share]

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