Recently my last living grandparent passed away. He was 92. Even though he was blind he lived a very full life and after losing my grandmother 2 years ago, it felt like it was only a matter of time before we would lose him. Now here I am without any grandparents and my first thought was – what’s going to happen to us (the family)? Losing my Lito (Abuelito) felt like we were suddenly this big ship without an anchor. Although my Lita (Abuelita) was definitely the matriarch, the boss, the foundation, without my Lito, it feels like my heritage is out there in the universe floating around until I reel it back in.
I lost my maternal grandmother very young so we relied on my grandfather to link us to the family we have in Italy. My grandfather along with my mother continued to embrace the Italian traditions, always keeping us in tune with that side of our culture. Being that my siblings and I grew up in a border city, we were always surrounded by all things Mexican. We were a big Mexican family, throwing the best backyard parties (with a DJ and Mariachi’s), contributing to all our birthdays, quinceneras, graduations, weddings, etc. On Sundays we would go to church then head over to my Lita’s house for brunch where there was always an enormous amount of food. She made enough to feed us – uncles, aunts, cousins – and enough to send food home with us for dinner. Sometimes we’d take them to the mercado in Juarez where they would make their rounds saying hello to all their friends, the produce guy, the butcher, and the cheese guy. As a little kid I would think to myself, how in the world do my grandparents know so many people?
In 2013 we suffered 3 losses within 2 weeks of each other. First my 4 day old nephew passed away, then my Lita, and then my Grandpa. It was like getting hit 3 times in a row without being able to catch your breath. After losing my Lita the dynamic to our extended family changed instantly. I never thought that would happen to us. I had seen it happen with other families but it never crossed my mind that we would be in that situation. Those that would normally be there for my brother during the loss of his son, weren’t there. I’m not referring to physically being at my nephews’ funeral, I’m referring to emotional support. No mention of my nephew was made, no condolences were paid, all he had was us – his parents and sisters. Honestly that’s all he needed. The past 2 years have been years of exclusion, wondering what happened to this family that was simply there for each other no matter what.
In losing my last grandparent, I choose to honor the legacy of family and tradition. I choose to forgive in order to find peace in my heart. Everyone makes emotional decisions that they later regret, whether that be lost time with loved ones or not saying you love them enough. Although my grandparents never met my daughter, I know now they will be with her as her guardian angels. I show her pictures of them and say “this is mommy’s grandma and grandpa”. I know my grandparents can now see the life I’ve built and I feel that they are proud. I feel closest to them when I’m cooking with my daughter. Helping my Lita in the kitchen is one of my fondest memories. Making peace with your decisions and keeping a strong family unit is what’s important. I’m fortunate to have a forum like this blog to share the traditions I learned and to pay tribute to my grandparents in a positive way. Their legacy was not of exclusion, hatred or separation. Their legacy was of family, love, celebration, tough love, hard work, but most of all of forgiveness. So in keeping with that I choose to forgive and continue loving as I did when I was a little girl enjoying the big family gatherings. THAT is what life is about. My sister who is the oldest grandchild and probably the one that spent the most time with my grandparents was never given the opportunity to share her eulogy, I’m giving her the opportunity to do so here. Because in the end, we all lost a father, grandfather, uncle, brother who flooded our lives with memories that want to be shared. Showing compassion to strangers is sometimes easier than showing it to your own family, however, everyone deserves a chance to share their memories.
Buenas noches, soy Michelle, nieta de Martin. Quiero comenzar por decir que he tenido una buena vida, y mis abuelos formaron una gran parte de ella.
Mi corazon siempre estaba lleno por tener una familia tan grande y cercana.
Parecia que en cualquier fiesta, habia una tia, un tio, o un primo.
Me da tristeza al saber que nuestra familia se separa y anda cada quien por su lado, y me duele el corazon al saber que mi hijo no va a tener las mismas experiencias que tuve yo.
Ayer me di cuenta que empiezo una nueva etapa de mi vida, una vida sin mis abuelos.
Pero tambien me di cuenta que tengo muchos recuerdos y se los voy a contar a mi hijo: Como todas las vacaciones que tomamos con mis abuelitos y como mi abuelo manejo un carro en Disneylandia, jugo las tragamonedas (slots) en Las Vegas y bebio cafe expreso en Florida.
Tambien le contare a mi hijo las buenas cualidades de mi abuelo. El nunca dejo que su cieguez lo detuviera. Siempre estaba al tanto, listo para probar cosas nuevas, construir, arreglar, hacer ejercicios, ayudar en la casa y hasta listo para cocinar.
Le contare a mi hijo como mi abuelo se levantaba temprano para limpiar el polvo del carro de mi abuela, y como lo hechaba a andar para que se calentara antes de que se fuera ella a trabajar.
Tambien como le daba cuerda a su reloj cucu, escuchaba sus rancheritas y aconsejaba a sus nietos sobre el noviazgo, mientras hacia tamales para Navidad.
Los extranare a los dos pero estare siempre agradecida por su amor, su duro esfuerzo y los recuerdos que me dejaron.
If there are any families going through this due to loss of parents and grandparents all I can say is fill your heart with love. Remember who was there during all those milestone events. Remember the fun times that only you, your cousins, uncles, aunts, parents, grandparents were a part of. Remember the tragedies and who was there to rally around you to pick you up and help honor your loved one. Even if the support is not returned – never fill yourself with hate. It’s not worth the pain. In going through this, I’ve learned a big lesson in what’s important in life. Siblings are the only ones who know each other from cradle to grave. Know that everything comes full circle and when you are needed open your door, your arms, your heart and welcome them in, even when they wouldn’t do the same.
Now I’d like you to meet my Lito, Lita, Grandpa and Grandma……