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When larger-than-life figures pass away

Late last night I was in a windstorm of mismatched pieces IKEA furniture all over my apartment when I heard my mom cry out loud, sobbing, that her brother had passed away.

Today, I find myself short one beloved Tio Pedro, or "Perico," as my family called him. To be honest, I'm not sure why we even called him that, but he always went by that name. Lately, I'd see him sport a cane, complete with a fedora and a million dollar smile. His declining health made him a little quieter these days, but his presence could still be felt. 

The truths of life get harder as we age. Our first heroes are of course, our parents. But our aunts and uncles take on this larger-than-life role, perhaps because we don't interact with them on a day-to-day basis. It's uncanny how much you can love and feel a person based on stories, despite being hundreds of miles away. You begin to formulate these superhero-type of storylines, "from a pueblo far, far, away came a man....." complete with plot twists filled with children, scandal, divorces, birthdays, weddings and other personality traits that fill in the gaps. But, much like the greatest novels and plays ever written, every storyline has a declining moment and eventually, comes to an end. And that is the hardest part of growing up. Finding out the flaws, the problems, facing the reality of illness and losing those larger-than-life figures that cemented your identity and became a part of your own storyline. 

Perhaps we are all cowards. Maybe we need these people to feel safe and feel like we belong somewhere. But, what are we if not our stories? Isn't life just one big attempt to combobulate our everyday occurrences? Tio Perico symbolized different things for our family. Personally, my uncle provided me with this balance of masculinity and nurturing that gave me a peek into a family unit I never experienced in Mascota, Mexico. His character traits, flaws and personality kept me connected to a grandfather I never met, a family life I'm one-step detached from, and helped me understand the rest of my aunts and mother in the process. 

I will always remember my uncle as the best dancer in the room. He loved dancing. As soon as he and Tia Lety hit the floor, no one could keep up. The last time I visited his house, he and Tia Lety gave me a six-pack of Coca Cola's so that the caffeine would keep me up during our long ride home. Even at his weakest, he sported a smile, gave hugs and put his best foot forth. He loved my cousins, he loved his sisters, and the rest of his family. 

This morning as I'm scrolling through my newsfeed, I'm seeing an outpour of love and support geared towards members of my family. Some people are sharing their stories and their memories. Perhaps, for some of my cousins, my uncle also served as this larger-than-life figure. And, much like Batman or Superman, you never think they'll go away. That's why it's important to keep their stories alive, both good and bad, so that future generations can sense their greatness. We must remember that even the flaws complete part of their story, so we mustn't be afraid to talk about those as well. It is important to celebrate the spirit, soul and life of our heroes. 

But most of all, it is crucial to take care of those that are still here. We all get so entangled in our everyday lives, or let scandal derail us from the path of love and forgiveness, that eventually we become strangers in our own families. It's time to change this. It's time to celebrate life while we still can.

To my larger-than-life figures that still remain, my heart aches for you. Tia Pina, the matriarch of our family and the one who bakes cakes bigger than her small frame, Tia Lucy, the funniest and most chic aunt I have, Tia Licha, who's heart is worth more than gold, and lastly my mother, who is the strongest and most unconventional woman I know, I'm deeply sorry for your loss. To my Tia Lety and all my cousins, may your hearts be healed during this difficult time. 

I love you all so much. Let's make more of an effort to celebrate each other more often. You're all my heroes. Thank you for the stories, and I can't wait to make new memories with each and every single one of you.

Your prima/sobrina/hija/tia/ahijada.....


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