It has been sixteen years.
That’s equal to 5,840 days.
This is equivalent to 140,160 hours and counting.
This was the last time I was within three feet from my family at the airport.
We were hugging, crying, and laughing at the airport in Quito saying our goodbyes. I arrived to the United States at the age of five. Since I was five years old, I haven’t been in my home country of Ecuador.
This was the last time I was able to hug my grandparents, uncles, aunts, and cousins. When I left Ecuador, my cousin Danelly was a baby; she recently celebrated her Quinceañera this past year. My other cousin, Michelle, who was an older sister to me now has a three-year-old son.
No, I haven’t met him yet. Michelle simply sends us pictures and videos of her little miracle. I've watched my family grow up through photos...
Why am I telling you this?
I am sharing this personal aspect of my life because you are so damn lucky. Pardon me, I meant you are so blessed to be able to see your family for this upcoming Thanksgiving and all of the following holidays. Please recognize what a privilege it is to have these opportunities. I would do everything and anything to go home for the holidays and have dinner with my family.
My grandpa passed away six years ago; I was never able to say “See you later Papa Sebastian.” It was the most painful and heartbreaking time in my life as I wasn't even present at his funeral.
I miss my grandparents the most. They raised me during the first five years of my life. I recall so vividly waking up at 5:30 am to get my “Avena de quaker,” an Ecuadorian drink, and watching Barney and Friends.
This Thanksgiving, please be present.
Put the phone down, get off your social media, and dwell in conversations with your grandparents. Ask them how they are, if they need anything, and hug them. Hold them so tight that they tell you to stop. Kiss them on the cheek so gently and hug them one more time. Do this, mean it, and feel it.
Wherever you are and with whomever you are, cherish them. Be grateful. If there are past arguments or hard feelings, please let them go. You never know when one will take his or her last breath, that is in God’s hands.
All I can tell you is that the next time I step foot in Ecuador, I will be hysterically crying and laughing, but most importantly I will thank God for letting me get there. If you are blessed to do this, this Thursday, do it. Don’t dwell on what you don’t have. A lot of people tell you this, but have you ever thought what it would be like to not hug your grandparents for sixteen years?
You don’t want to.
I am not here asking people to feel sorry for my adversity, it has instead made me into a strong and grateful woman. Instead, I simply would like for all of you to count your blessings, not your misfortunes. I’d like for you to sincerely enjoy being with your family and to take countless pictures. I’d like for all of you to get in the spirit of the holidays for all the right reasons. No one and not one thing can replace family, remember that. Please don’t take them for granted.
It may be challenging dealing with our families, that’s a fact. Not one home is perfect. Behind every door there is another world. However, I believe that if you have the opportunity to hold them close and near, there is nothing more powerful and beautiful than that genuine love and affection that one receives from their safe place called home.
Looking back, I now know why we were hysterically crying at the airport. It was due to the fact that we didn’t know when we would see and hold each other close again. It has been sixteen years, faith is the last thing I am letting go off.
I can’t wait to be home one day, will you be present in yours this holiday season?