My cousin, Emilita, passed away this morning. I was fortunate to have spent time with her at Christmas the last two years and glad she moved closer to home so that she could come to more family gatherings. I took this picture of her sitting next to my grandmother with John in her lap at our Christmas family reunion at Camp Swatara in PA. I think she had one of her children in her lap in most of my photos. I wanted to tell her a few of my favorite memories and thank her for reconnecting in the past few years and have done so in my letter to her below the photo.
To my dear cousin, Emilita -
I am so glad to have known you and am so sad that you are gone. I cried four times today, but smiled when I thought of your booming voice. Your laugh was boisterous and your strength undeniable, but in the end, it wasn't enough to keep you here on earth. I miss you and selfishly wish you were still here; selfishly because I did not know you like your students, your sisters, or your children knew you. They were so lucky.
As a boy, I remember hearing that I had cousins in Idaho and being excited that they had moved to Maryland. I remember staying up until the early morning at Camp Swatara and talking about life, college, and our dreams. I remember visiting you in Inwood before Elias was born and then in the Bronx when he was a tiny baby. I appreciated the way we stayed in touch, but I wasn't so good when I got to grad school.
I was so glad to have reconnected in these past few years and have really appreciated your phone calls asking about how my parents handled difficult situations when I was younger. It made clear to me that you strived for the best for your children and were reflective about how you could be a better mother. I can only hope to do the same as a father. What I appreciate most about you though was that you let your opinion be known. For too long I have not spoken up about my beliefs and you taught me that I should. Even when my opinion couldn't sway a decision and I spoke up, I noticed it actually made me feel stronger instead of helpless. In the future, when I swallow hard and bite my tongue, I will think of you and try to summon the strength to speak. Thank you for that courage.
I just saw you at Christmas, but as usual, the family reunion was hectic and we didn't get a long talk like we used to when we were younger and I regret not making more time to have a longer talk this year. Your passing has made me treasure what time I had with you. Thank you for the memories. I miss you and love you.
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