Love and Death

The grief is a funny thing.

It seems to come out of nowhere and wrap itself tightly around me without letting go making it impossible to breathe.
Just as suddenly it drops its clutches from around my chest and life goes on - business as usual.

Rafael_garcia That has been the rhythm of my days this past week.  I've been consumed by grief over the passing of my beloved brother-in-law, Rafael Garcia ("Aqui como to' los dias") and then, well, life just seems to go on.

We're preparing a memorial service for him and it falls to us, Amy and me, to go through piles of pictures and hours of video to put together a remembrance of his life.  So we laugh because he was such a clown. and we cry because he will be sorely missed.

We've been working for hours and days collecting the important moments of his life and sometimes the grief clings to us like a scared and drowning child, threatening to take us down too. But then it lets go and I see a photo of him playing with his grandchildren and it reminds me of how much we have to be grateful for.

My niece, Annette, his daughter, has been here with us for days, going through photos, laughing out loud as we recall stories about him. Then we sit and weep.  He was a good man. My sister, Ofelia, his wife can barely speak to anyone. I can't imagine the size of the hole he has left in her heart.

I know the process of grieving will take weeks and months and I am just embracing it.  Death is part of life.  The tears are just a measure of how much he was loved. It is OK.

The final irony is that he was celebrating his 19th birthday on January 8, 1959 when his party was disrupted by a band of bearded rebels parading into Havana.  He passed away on February 19, 2008, the same day the still-bearded leader resigned his post.

I write this through a fog of tears, hoping it makes sense, though not really caring.  I just want to get the thoughts out of me. I want to tell how his death is affecting me. I want to pay tribute. I want my life to get back to normal. I want it both ways.

I'm glad (so, so glad) I insisted on taking so many pictures of him and his sons and wife and daughter and grandchildren. I'm glad to have documented many of his best moments on film. It's a relief now that we're wanting to pay tribute to his life.  It helps us tell the story.

The loss feels deep, gut-wrenching, overwhelming.  I think I'll just stew in this for a while. And very soon, I'll get back to the business of blogging about the minutia of my day.  And give myself permission to celebrate my own simple moments.

Right now, I just need to cry.

~In loving memory~
Rafael Severino Garcia
January 8, 1940 ~ February 19, 2008

Cuidate, viejo. Te extraño muchisimo.