Dealing with death, family, and Jesus
“We’re thinking of putting ‘Our Beloved Yiya’ on your grandmother’s headstone. Are you ok with this? Anything you’d change?…Adam?”
To say it has been a tough few weeks would be like saying South Carolina summers are oppressively hot. Obvious? Of course. But the true feeling of the thing can’t be easily expressed through words.
Three weeks ago, I had a bizarre and surreal experience while sitting at work. Physically, I was sitting at my desk hearing a coworker ask me a question, but my mind travelled far away. Mentally, I was in Travelers Rest, SC where my grandmother Yiya was sitting on her couch. I felt like I needed to go see her. Right then.
So, we did. Sarah picked me up from work with whatever clothes she could grab, and we made the 5 hour drive to South Carolina to spend a weekend sitting, talking, and laughing with my fiery but loving grandmother. We ended up watching one of the “Barbershop” movies together. Yiy thought it was hilarious and tried to insist we take it home with us when we left.
My grandfather, Yiya, and me (I’m in the middle).
Yiya (pronounced Gee-Ja) has been one of my closest friends for my entire life. She watched me when I was young while my parents worked, and we often shared bottles of Malta Goya while watching her favorite Spanish soap operas together. Most of the spanish I can speak today is result of the words she taught me intentionally or tacitly by shouting choice phrases when I jumped out of closets trying to scare her. She only stood about 4’10” but her presence was apparent when she entered a room, and she commanded respect from her siblings, relatives, and children. She wasn’t a bully, per se, but she certainly didn’t take bs from anyone.
Except from me, that is.
Yiya and I enjoyed a unique and special relationship that I’ll cherish for the rest of my life. She was the ideal grandmother and she lived to protect, serve, and love her kids and grandkids. Especially her very first grandchild whom she admittedly spoiled, but didn’t seem concerned enough to remedy the situation.That’s why it was so gut-wrenching and painful when I received a text from my dad while on vacation two weeks ago. “Call your mom. ASAP. Its an emergency.”
I knew immediately.
Yiya was gone.
What followed was hours of crying, laughing, remembering, crying again, and praying. A ton of praying. I knew Yiya believed in Jesus, and that she’s now whole and healthy enjoying heaven.
I’d never before (thank God) lost someone I was so close to before. My family is an extremely tight-knit group, and the little lady who we all loved and feared (she had a habit of pinching, pulling toes, and just generally causing discomfort as part of her love language) — was gone.
In thinking through Yiya’s memory there are a ton of things I want to extend into my family and throughout my life as part of my personal memorial of her. She loved God and studied the Bible faithfully. She protected her family at any cost, and was willing to say or do tough things to keep them safe. In short, she loved…hard.
There are also things Yiya never got the chance to do. When she was 12, her mother sent her to Philadelphia from Puerto Rico to make money in support of their family. She had no family with her, no community, and a punishing job that she slaved at to provide for her siblings. This opened the door to a lot of pain and suffering in her life, and unfortunately she had very few people to comfort and support her.
This fact kills me.
So, one thing I’d like to do out of respect to her is to more intentionally and directly serve people during their times of pain and crisis. God has gifted me with a sense of empathy that I sometimes resent, but know I’m called to use to serve Him and others. There are many ways I believe this can take shape, and one will be through the regular writing about life, people, and the God I serve.
I believe Jesus created this world and all of the beautiful people in it. Many of those people are struggling with depression, anxiety, dead-end jobs, or just confusion in regards to the Bible. I want to help those people.
I’m not a pastor, counselor, or expert in theology/philosophy. I’m not “the man” for any of those topics. But, I can be a man who points to the The Man, who is Jesus. There are so many like my precious Yiya who are working so hard, and just need someone to care. By writing more frequently on topics of depression, Bible Study, and our work I will, God-willing, be that person.
Yiya would’ve loved that.