She’s my Hero

It’s hard to write this post. Last year, I lost my Nanay. (Nanay means mother. It is the title given to my maternal grandmother.) And every day since her passing, I remember her. I remember the way she would make her coffee. I remember the way she would lean in and kiss me. I remember the way she would sit behind her sewing machine and sew for hours. Every thing I do sends me back in time to a memory of her. My hope is that writing all of this down will help me heal.

Sometimes after my flashbacks, I find myself crying. Sometimes I find myself laughing. Most times, I find myself lonely. I understand the circle of life. I understand that everyone and everything has a time and place and that no one can live forever. As a spiritual person, I believe that I’ll meet lost loved ones again. The body dies, but the soul lives on.

Sad as it may be, I knew it was her time. She had been ill for years, being kept alive by machines and tubes. It wasn’t the life any loved one should have. Each time I got a call from my mom, I rushed onto a plane to be by my Nanay’s side. During my last trip to see her in May 2012, I told her all that I wanted her to know, “Thank you for all you’ve done for me, my brother, my mom, and my dad. I love you. I will always love you. You can go home now and we’ll be okay.” I said those words with tears and a shaken voice. Though I was ready to let go, I wasn’t ready for the pain.

Those precious memories I have of her, are all that I have. With her gone, it’s as if a piece of my soul left this earth. She was graceful. She was beautiful. She was awe-inspiring, courageous, and centered. She’s my hero. So the question is, what does a girl do when her hero has gone?

Derek, who also lost his grandmother two years ago, shared that the best way to move on is to share what that person gave to you. It’s a way to honor their memory in the simplest way. So I tried this. During the holidays, I made empanadas, hoping that somehow it would make me feel better. But I was filled with resentment the entire time. After all the years I spent sitting at the table making empanadas with her and my mom, I figured making them on my own wouldn’t be so hard. I was wrong, and defeated.

My empanadas didn’t turn out anywhere close to the empanadas Nanay made. They were distorted, pale, and full of breaks in the dough. Hers were perfectly shaped, golden brown, and smooth. Just another painful reminder she was no longer here and I won’t be having her delicious empanadas anytime soon. I say “anytime soon” because even though I felt resentment and defeat, I could see the importance of trying again.

I would be dishonoring her memory if I gave up on baking empanadas. Or if I gave up in general. Of all the people who helped raised me, she never doubted me and always encouraged me. Staring at my distorted, pale, and broken empanadas, I could imagine her telling me that next time would be better. That my hero would simply smile and say, “Try again.”

Reflecting on this, I came to realize that I have now become the hero. She left me her grace, her beauty, her courage, and centered-nature so that I may share to the next hero – whether it be my future son or daughter. She left me with recipes to try, crafts to attempt, and memories to recreate for a lifetime. She left me perfectly made, golden brown, and “full”. I only hope I can be as great as her.

Yes, there are days when it hurts more than the last, and you can’t help it. No matter what it’ll always sting, but I find comfort that I am her memory, living on.

‘Til the next time,

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