The Race is Over

As I was preparing my dinner Wednesday night, I noticed my dad was even more quiet than usual. As he laid on the living room couch I asked him how his day was. He said it was okay but I could tell something was bothering him. My mom walked in to the room and said, “They gave grandpa a few days to live.” My heart dropped as I knew the time had finally come.
My grandfather is our last connection to our Mexican heritage, language and history. He was always so private, we would learn a small piece of his life every time we visit. There was still so much I never got to ask him.
I was nervous to see my grandpa sick, he had always been a strong solid  man, depending on no one. He lived alone for years and even drove himself to doctors appointments. If there was one thing I knew, my grandpa didn’t like to be fussed over.
When we walked in to the room my grandpa was in, the first thing I noticed was the color of his skin. I had never seen it so pale. He was asleep over drugged with medicine for the pain. The more I saw him struggling to live I tried to hide my tears from my dad.
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It seemed we were all shocked at how fast his body shut down. Just a month ago we were at my grandpas house watching tv. Now we were here waiting for him to go. I wasn’t sure how to respond. My uncle told us earlier that morning, my grandpa took a walk outside and said, “The race is over.”
When I heard that, I took a deep breath, looked at my grandpa about to leave earth and knew he was right. As my dad played my grandpas favorite album, I pictured my grandpa as a young man in Mexico, excited to make his trip to California for work. I imaged the going away party his family gave him. Leaving at sunset to the bus station. Daydreaming of a new life.
I got up from my chair, hugged him and whispered in his ear, “I’ll miss visiting you grandpa, I love you, good bye.” I walked away allowing my dad to talk to his father. When we left the house, I knew that was the last time I would see him. My mom shared with me when my dad told his dad about the Lord and how God changed his life. That day he accepted Christ. I was comforted to know my grandpa made his peace with God.
The following day, I returned from work with the news that my grandpa took his final breath. The only thought I had was, life really does happen fast.

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My grandpa picked grapes for a living to support his family. Because of him, he taught my dad to work hard, and because of my dad I’ve learned to finish the race well. I always felt bad because I never learned Spanish or I never paid attention to Mexican holidays, but true heritage is wisdom and the legacy he passed on to me, the next generation of Mexican Americans.

I’m grateful for the heritage my grandfather left me. I’ll miss him.

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What heritage do you wish to pass?

Good-bye Uncle

When it comes down to it, it’s the small insignificant moments we appreciate most about life. Yesterday, I sat and listened to my father speak at my uncle’s memorial. He told stories of looking for something to eat after they had partied together, he remembered when he lent his little brother his car when they were teenagers and the first time he held his hand in the hospital a week ago. I couldn’t help but release my own tears for a life gone. Looking at my uncle David’s old photos made me miss a man I hardly knew. He was a person who came in and out of the scene of family visits or conversations.
When I looked around the room, I saw people who resemble myself, who shared the Briano last name, and whose personality were familiar. It was odd to feel close but yet still strangers. This was my tribe and I hardly knew anyone. My dad talked about forgiveness and always being family not matter what happens.
Hearing my family members talk about my uncle David made me see we shared a lot of the same memories. His easy-going personality, and smile he gave to the world daily.

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After the service the mortuary owner hosted a dinner for us outside. The owner said he wanted us to spend time together and to share stories of David’s life with one another. It was nice re-meeting everyone. “Hi, remember we use to fight over Barbies?” my cousin and I said to each other. “I remember you as a baby!” and “Wait, which sister are you?” Someone yelled to the crowd to gather around and take some photos. We all laughed as we gathered around, already teasing one another for their height or someone for hiding in the back row. As I snap my photo of my uncles I thought how much David would have loved to have been here. He would have really loved this party we are having for him. When I showed my photo to my mom she said, “wait someone is missing….”

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Its uncle David who is missing. My dad reminded us that towards the end of my uncle’s life that he was seeking God. He had always said no to prayers and church but the last few months of his life he opened his heart up. The family was reminded that one day we shall see him again, healthy, young and once again see his smile. And for now, we have each other. As one of my twitter friends advised me when losing a love one, just being there for one another can help a great deal.