My father was the youngest of nine children. When his oldest brother died in 1999, Dad became the only living sibling. That made his efforts to maintain contact with family even more important.
Family ties were a lifeline for my Dad, and being the elder was important. Over the years, he kept up connections with many nieces and nephews. One of them was my cousin Carmen.
My parents were always a big part of her life. She called Mom Aunty and included her and Dad in her many family gatherings. She kept in touch by emailing, writing, or visiting. Always devoted to her grandkids, she brought some along as well. That just made for an extra-special visit.
Carmen died last month. I was not able to say goodbye to or attend her funeral. As she was one of the links to Dad’s family, this loss was painful.
Carmen was a bolt of sunshine. Whether it was her infectious laugh, smile, or hug, she was a force of life. Someone once wrote that for someone small, she took up so much of their heart. What a perfect way to describe her.
After Mom’s funeral, Dad’s health and memory worsened. Carmen and her husband visited Dad, and I found great comfort in them reaching out. When Dad died, Carmen was with us again. In grief and sadness, family presence means a lot. With her frail health, the long trips to us became harder to make, but she came anyway. Not long after that, we started to visit her. I felt regret knowing that the connections being renewed had taken so long. Despite this, I felt blessed to see her and the family.
We chatted when we were able. It was usually about mundane things like baking bread, doing groceries, and trying to live a semi-normal life in these times. Those calls and video chats are now priceless.
Carmen messaged me in early February, checking on me and wanting the recipe for a Burmese chicken dish she was craving. I cooked that dish for her and the family on an earlier visit. She said she hoped to see me this summer. Those last words of hers to me sting, knowing that will never happen, and instead, I’ll be visiting her graveside.
No matter how much grief we suffer, each loss is unique. In a way, it’s a blessing that we experience each death differently. Every person we miss holds a special place in our hearts.
Carmen was also called “Menchie.” Though several meanings of that name exist, all of which captured an abundance of her beautiful personality, the one that stood out for me was “gift of God.” She was his gift, and through the loving life she lived, we were reminded that we, too, are His gifts.
I will miss you, dear cuz, but I will be forever grateful for your presence in my life.
Rest in Peace, Menchie. ❤️
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