My grandmother died today, the autopsy will probably say it was a heart attack or cardiac arrest. However, I believe my grandmother died of heartbreak - she lived in a world where she saw her family seldom; her children unable to love each other; her grandchildren so wrapped up in their own lives it's like they almost forgot about her. I have come to this conclusion because as far back as I can remember my grandmother has been focused on keeping her flock together. When I lived with her as a child it was a ritual for all members of our family (Bunsen, Shook & Villalobos) to come together on Mondays or Wednesdays to eat dinner at the same table at the same time and discuss things. The liveliness and enthusiasm of the house on those days will be forever ingrained in my mind - because my grandmother was pouring her heart & soul into making her home the center of the family universe on those days.
As time went on, life became more hectic; more modern you might say & our weekly ritual reduced at first to just once every other week, then once a month & for a long time just the big holidays. This rift in time between times of togetherness truly wore on the relationships my grandmothers children had with each other - words often exchanged with vitriol behind them & our family, became "different families".
Then my grandmother, the woman who put so much effort into raising her 5 children to be unified watched her entire life's work unravel in front of her as her family disintegrated into a toxic sludge of hate, grudges, judgement & hurtful words. Everyone one of her children did something to hurt the other & this time they were not actual kids but adults who did not have to heed the will or word of their mother.
It was after this time that my grandmothers physical health really started its descent. In hindsight, it makes so much sense. She tried, along with her ever patient & loving husband to try to repair the wounds endured by her family. To see the good in her son, when few in the family would. To encourage a culture of love, not hate. Her endless generosity and 5-second mind allowed her to keep trying. I cannot tell you how many times I saw her crying because she just wanted her family to be united again. The best she could do was convince each ego to settle down for 1-3 hours in order to placate her. Her children became tolerant at best & developed the strongest bout of amnesia as to what it truly means to be family & love one another. Her hope wore thin. Her health followed suit.
There were glimpses of that familial unit she so truly longed for during this period - such as the one pictured here. On this day, she was able to visit me & my wife with a few of her children in Miami & explore some things she has never seen before with her husband. A day I believe that she truly got back on her feet, invigorated by a hope that this could be a part of a new beginning for her family as a single unit.
She's gone now, the autopsy will probably say it was a heart attack or cardiac arrest. However, I believe my grandmother died of heartbreak. In the aftermath of this tragedy, she leaves her entire family & husband - my grandfather heartbroken as well.
I can only hope that we can forget our egotistical ways, forgive our sins against each other, embrace each other with open arms in order to rise to the incredible occasion before us now - mending my grandfathers broken heart & spirit.
I know I will learn from this. I'm walking away with 2 lessons: 1. If I have children, teach them that loving each other is the only way to get ahead as a family, forgive often, understand that the people you love the most can also hurt you the most but that does not mean you should stop loving them. 2. Rage as hard as you can against death; eat healthy, exercise, interact with the people you love as much as humanly possible & above all never give up hope for the things you want.
I love you abuelita. I hope our family can finally show it too.