Life and Death

Today is July 14. It’s any other summer day. I’m going to wake up in the morning and do things for my internship, get work done and explore Acadia National Park with my family. I’m happy. I’m experiencing life, dreaming big and working hard. The sun is supposed to shine all day tomorrow with a high of 88. It’s going to be a beautiful day on the Atlantic Ocean. I have no reason to be anything but happy.

But that’s the thing. July 14 isn’t a happy day for me, no matter how beautiful the weather is, where I am in the world or what I am doing. I can’t be entirely happy today because eleven years ago, I lost one of my favorite people in all the world. On July 14, 2002, I lost my grandfather Belo unexpectedly.

It was any other normal Sunday morning, but instead of joining my grandparents and mother for the normal Spanish mass we always attented, I went to a birthday party at the Y. When I returned home in the afternoon, I walked down to my grandparent’s house (they have a home on my backyard, and we have room considering I live on 24 acres). My grandfather was seated in his normal seat watching his favorite baseball team the Cubs play. He was eating a normal, delicious meal that my grandma always cooked for him. My mom, grandma, aunt, sister and cousin were all sitting around the table. I sat on my grandfather’s lap and kissed his cheek. He called me his niña preciosa like he always did. I told him I loved him, but that I was tired, so I was going to go to the back room and nap. As I fell asleep, I heard my family decide to go swimming in our pool like they would on any normal summer day.

But that’s where the normalcy stops, because normally, I would wake up from a nap and join my family by the pool. Instead, my sister woke me up telling me that my grandfather had died. I yelled at her and told her that her joke was not funny. My mother ran into the room and grabbed a blanket, and that’s when I knew. I tore open the door and rushed down the hallway to my grandparent’s room. My grandfather was lying on the bed in his normal spot, but his eyes were closed and his hands were getting cold. My grandmother was sitting in her normal chair, but my father was kneeling in front of her, holding her hands, as they both cried. I had never seen my father cry before. That was not normal. I reached out and touched his face, screamed and ran from the house. My father followed me as I headed towards my Belo’s favorite tree. I fell in front of it and felt my dad envelop me in his arms. I sobbed more than I had ever sobbed before. For three days, I didn’t stop crying. Sleeping didn’t happen except in fitful bursts, drinking rarely happened because I’d throw it all up from sobbing and eating wasn’t in my agenda. I couldn’t imagine living in this world without my Belo.

He was no longer going to watch me swim like normal or eat with his eyes closed or bring the mail to us every day or hold me in his arms or sing to me in Spanish or sneak me sweets when mom said no or teach me about Mexican Independence Day or teach me Spanish prayers or call me his niña preciosa. He was gone from this world, and I was still living.

It’s been eleven years, and it doesn’t get easier to survive this day. I live my whole life knowing that my Belo isn’t witnessing my growth. I wonder what he would think. I try to remember his voice, but I can’t. It hurts me.

Today is going to be a normal summer day. I’m going to have fun with my family, but Belo will be in the back of my mind, and it’s going to hurt. Such is life, and such is death. And I don’t know how to handle either.

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