“Hope” is the thing with feathers –
That perches in the soul –
And sings the tune without the words –
And never stops – at all –
Starting in October 2019, my staff mourned the untimely deaths of three young people. We lost two young men to gunfire. We lost a young woman to violence; her family has not wanted to mourn this loss publicly as the investigation has been pending. It was terribly hurtful to see a mother give a eulogy for her child who will never reach 18. It has been awful to speak to mothers as they sob for their children who have been robbed of time. I am fortunate to still have the ability to make memories and change traditions. I still have time, that luxury that my friends who have lost parents and grandparents desire.
Losing my Mama Chelia was sad but it also deepened my gratitude. She lived 102 years and she inspired her children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren with her tenacity, willfulness, brassy sense of humor, candor, and strength. Mama Chelia left us with many memories and gratitude at leaving us after a long full life.
In December, we lost my Tia Nery to cancer. She was the quintessential bon vivant. At family gatherings, she was always the first to dance and never one to shy away from taking shots, whether they were of tequila or pisco. She never resorted to the bad habits of other aunties who body shame and pry as if they are owed these uncomfortable moments. I was always “mamita” to her. I always received hugs, kisses, and compliments. My auntie stood out. She dressed in animal prints and glittery tops and held parties with live bands in the middle of chemo and a pandemic. She was unapologetically going to keep living so long as she could. Losing her means losing the spark of many a family gathering. However what an example she set of being a woman who loved and lived to the fullest.
Even in my grief and that of my friends, I can’t negate the blessings of 2020. 2020 revealed my priorities and my loyal support network. I decided who was worth seeing, what was worth doing, why I and we are worth protecting and building up. While getting through the challenging months was an accomplishment in and of itself, there were small yet immense moments of success and joy. Friends welcomed beautiful and healthy new babies. I watched a beautiful Zoom wedding of a young couple as they began their life together. I have so many friends who reached deep down and started running, continued graduate school, moved home, or left toxic relationships. It took these losses, this isolation, the frustration of building the damn plane as it careens out of control at times, to push me to embrace my vocation as a writer again. Wrist tendinitis be damned, I am writing this book. I’m dreaming my dream again, that my words might reach other eyes, minds, hearts.
2020 was full of loss. I can’t write that year, or any year, off as a complete waste. When I was young, I had a nervous breakdown. At that time, I thought it was the worst year of my life. I had to build myself back up. I built a new mindset and ultimately, a new life free of misery. I will experience grief and pain but I learned how to be mindful, grateful, and whole. I learned to never surrender to despair. Our world has broken down but it will rebuild itself. When it does, there will be greater joys. All is blessing. There is nothing we can experience that does not make us better.