Nelly Alonso

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Grieving and How We Choose To Remember Our Loved Ones

My plan was to transcribe episode one of the podcast for everyone to read but that’s not what this post will be about. This post will be about grieving, specifically my process, and how I’m choosing to remember my loved one.

A note before I continue — this is not Covid related, but can definitely be applied to those who lost loved ones due to Covid. I’m also sharing this in the hope that either this will help people who are trying to process the same grief of losing a loved one, or if you haven’t (whether recently or ever), how you can be more empathetic to those that have. Lastly, while any comments about people’s support for me during this time are appreciated, please refrain. This post is bigger than just my loss, even though I will be focusing on that.

My Tia died from cancer yesterday. She had been battling it for years. Cancer is one of those diseases I don’t wish on anyone. That and death by complications from Covid.

She lived in Cancun and is survived by my Tio and my four cousins, as well as three grandchildren. I won’t tell you about how the disease took her or her last few months, but how she lived and what I remember.

I remember from the first time I met her in fourth grade as a child, she was full of life and energy. She had this light in her, and it shone whenever she walked into a room. She breathed in any negative and exhaled only positive. I honestly can’t remember a time she ever complained about anything or anyone, especially her own circumstances.

She could walk into a room and bond with anyone. Her sense of humor could even crack a laugh out of my dad, who is an introvert. She loved to read and play Chinese Checkers and card games. Every time she came to visit my family, she always brought games for us to play and catch up.

She didn’t know about my daily problems or traumas as a child or adolescent. But when she saw me in trouble or me arguing with my mom, she gently reminded me about being a bigger person, and why it was important. She also wanted me to have a good relationship with my mom. She emphasized that, in a kind way, even if I was sitting in tears or frustrated.

You would think that someone who was so generous with their emotions would require lots of time to recharge before socializing but my Tia loved living life. She was happy overall and wasn’t focused much on the negative or the outside factors. I think she just wished for everyone to live good lives.

I don’t remember much about her and her interactions with my abuela, but it astounds me that growing up in a single parent household, helping with house cleaning and taking care of my mom and other Tia, and helping my oldest Tia, that she still was such a positive force. My abuelo’s death when she was a child, or that my abuela worked long hours to put food on their table as they grew up in Puebla, the hardships they faced — how does someone grow and become so kind and empathetic amongst less ideal circumstances? How did she persevere with an end result of kindness as the result of her harships?

I didn’t have a chance to tell her before she passed how much her overall energy and positivity had an impact on my life. I always assumed I had time. In my 20’s, all I focused on was college and friends, then working full time and a social life, then figuring out career transitioning and reevaluating connections. I wasn’t interested in going back to visit my Tia and cousins. At the time, I didn’t miss them as much as they missed me. At the time, I prioritized the wrong things and people. Even once I found out she had cancer, I was foolishly optimistic and assumed from the beginning that she would pull through. I kept telling myself I still had time to go see her. I had actually considered going in 2020, before Covid ravaged everything.

I don’t have a lot of regrets in my life yet, but if I could tell my younger self to at least go back once in my 20’s, I would. I would tell my younger self to spend at least a week there to break bread with my cousins, talk about old times and gain wisdom with my Tia.

Because I processed the first part of my grief through therapy a few weeks ago when I found out my Tia wasn’t going to make it, when the news actually broke, I felt sad but quiet. Empty. Nothing much to say. I called my cousins briefly, and they seemed in descent spirits given the situation. I told them that even though I did not fully comprehend their grief, that I’m here for them, and they’re incredibly strong for watching my Tia, their mom, go through all of it over the past few years. I cannot imagine what that was like for them.

Even though I was sad and quiet yesterday, cooking brought some good feelings. Cooking has always been cathartic for me. Even if I had a bad day, cooking has always brought me to a place of calm and even peace. Or it can be an activity of joy and energy. Or it can be a good distraction and a way to shake off bad energy. Food can bring people together for so many reasons. I’ll be cooking for my mom and Tias this weekend, to bring them some comfort and love.

I started my day listening to A.D.I.P.T.A. by Jay Electronica, and when I finished cooking, Halo by Beyonce had finished playing. Music has also been a large source of helping me channel my feelings in life. Curating my own playlists over the decades has really helped me in getting through hard times, bringing me happiness or helping me focus, among other moods.

Running has always been there since I was 16. I remember going on runs when I was mad, excited for community group runs, and the grueling training for long runs for marathon season. Before I started therapy, I saw running as an outlet and replacement. Now I truly enjoy it for what it is, instead of using it as a band-aid for my problems, traumas and hard times.

I chose to remember her joking with my dad in the parents living room at their house; I chose to remember us playing Chinese Checkers in my kitchen; I chose to remember us spending New Years together in Puebla when I was ten years old. I chose to remember her dancing at my cousin’s wedding in Cancun; I chose to remember her smiling at my quinceanera.

I chose to remember her with these memories, and I will do my best to honor her memory by invoking her happiness, light and joy when I can.

Correr Comida Cultura Podcast is a podcast about running, food & cooking and Latinx culture + interviews from WOC entrepreneurs, activists & community leaders.