A few weeks ago, my aunt unfortunately passed away from cancer. I never got to say a proper goodbye, but I think I've come to terms with it, as I probably would have started crying and she didn't really want anyone crying in front of her. She wanted to be remembered as not sick and full of life like she always was. I had always visited her when my mom and I went to Puerto Rico to see family; I can still hear her voice welcoming us into her house, asking how we are, and teaching me something new about my Taino heritage. Up until now, I never realized how much someone can impact your life even after they've passed.
I didn't know how important a person can be in your life until I connected with someone over my ethnicity.
For a while, I kept thinking about how hard it would be when I would go to Puerto Rico and go by her house; I thought about how sad I was, but it felt like she was telling me that she didn't want me to be sad because she wasn't there. Instead, I felt like she wanted me to be happy for all of the things she taught me about my culture, my ancestry, and how she'd want me to always hold those things close to me. Although I haven't gone back to visit just yet, I did have the opportunity to meet someone who was a couple years older than me and, of course, Puerto Rican here in Florida. We instantly started talking about Puerto Rico, our families, and then eventually we talked about having a Taino heritage. She told me that she didn't know what that was until about two years ago, and instantly, I thought about how that was something I grew up knowing.
That was the moment I really stood back and admired how influential my tia was in my life and how she taught me so much about my own history.
In no way am I judging someone based on what they know or don't know about their heritage or ethnicity in this article; not everyone knows all that there is to know about everything, and no one should be judged on how much they know or don't know because we all live and learn. However, this made me reflect on how much of an impact my aunt had on my life and how I had so much access to knowledge that other people had questions about. Her value on knowing where we come from and who we are is something that I will always remember about her. It made me realize I took her presence and our chats for granted, but in a way, I feel more connected to her because of how much I told this girl about that aspect of our culture.
Our loved ones may leave us, but the memories of them stay with us forever.
Sometimes, people are taken so soon and unexpectedly from us, but it's what they have left behind with us that acts as a permanent souvenir of them we get to keep. It's not easy losing a loved one, especially someone you've known for so long, but it's up to us to keep their memory alive - whether that's in our memories, the stories we tell about them, or how we act towards others. Although it's sad to have to say good-bye to the people we love, we need to have that reassurance that in some way, shape, or form they are still with us and they continue to have just as much of an impact on our lives as they did when they were still with us on Earth.
I wrote this article to honor my tia, as well as for anyone else who may be going through a similar situation.