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After Life

Aleida with my dad and my son in 2012.

Last night I found myself surrounded by paper and crying in front of my television. I wasn’t crying about the mess (although a few things I found among the mess would have made me cry a year ago). I’d created this mess while trying to do some filing to prepare for tax time, which led to sorting and reorganizing.

I was crying because I was watching the last episode of Netflix’s After Life, created by and starring Ricky Gervais. In this series (which ran three seasons) Ricky’s character is grieving the loss of his wife. He appears to finally come to terms with her death in this last episode and it’s so beautifully done that I shed more than a few tears. I read this morning that Gervais explained the ending by saying:

“That’s what the ending is saying. ‘We all die, but not today’. […] Enjoy it while you can, life is so finite. Whenever you are born, and whenever you die, it’s all over. So enjoy that bit, that tiny little bit.”

About an hour later, still surrounded by paper, having not made much progress yet, I learned my dad’s oldest sister had passed away. Her “tiny little bit” of time in this world was longer than most, having turned 95 years old last fall. Tía Aleida’s house was where the family gathered Christmas Eve and ate her delicious Arroz con Pollo and drank her homemade eggnog. There would be music playing and fireworks on the street outside. I don’t remember opening or exchanging gifts as a big activity those evenings but I do remember that almost every year (while I was a child at least) she would remind me that my gift from El Niño Diós would arrive January 6 with the Three Wise Men. Christmas Day we would gather again at our house for more food, music, dancing, and even more family and friends. I miss those days. I’ve never been able to re-create that atmosphere and feeling here.

I started a post yesterday about going to the symphony this past weekend and meant to finish it today, but I woke up this morning full of melancholy. The cloudy sky is contributing to my sentimental mood and so I’m pivoting to write about family and our time in this world. Coincidentally today’s writing prompt is about what makes us strong. For so many of us it’s family, isn’t it? Family grounds us and reminds us what’s important.

As I think about the last couple of years and the changes I’ve managed it’s become even clearer to me that you have to appreciate every “tiny little bit” of life that we’re given. And for me these little bits of time that I get to spend with family have helped make me stronger. That’s why I moved here. I needed to be closer to my children and lean on them a little bit. And now that I’m here they can lean on me when needed.

I have a large extended family but they are many miles away physically and when I see the pictures shared on social, or when the cousins’ group text gets busy or we chat on Zoom, I wish we could all be together again. Seems like that only happens for funerals now. I know this is true for most families. We move away, lose touch.

What else makes me strong? It’s a pretty long list that includes things like yoga and my creative outlets, but mostly it’s my relationships. Though I don’t check in as often as I should, the relationships that I have with my family and friends make me a stronger person. I know I should call more, but they are never very far from my mind. And having S in my life has helped me stay strong too, although he would probably tell you that I don’t need him and that I’m very independent. I like to think that I am, but I know my life would not be the same without him. I hope I’m lucky enough to have him continue to play such a special role in my life for a long time to come.

Today I’m thinking about my family in Panama. I’m glad that Tía Aleida’s family was able to say goodbye as she transitioned to her afterlife. I know my dad was there to greet her with a warm hug. I know her family will lean on each other but take comfort in that she lived a long life with a peaceful end.

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