I lost my older brother, Raymond, to cancer. He left his family in New York to take care of my bedridden mother up until eighteen days before his death.
I suddenly and unexpectedly lost my brother from another mother, Dominick, two days after our last conversation. He was the one who always had a kind word for me; a person I could count on to make me smile with his stupid jokes. I could feel his smile radiating even via the phone. The loss of a fifty year friendship that disappeared in the blink of an eye and knocked me to my knees.
I lost one of my favorite cousins, Frankie, who I re-connected with years after my divorce in the strangest way. He'd spotted me in the background of a picture his daughter had taken at a Salsa club back in the eighties.
I lost my second mother, Paula, a woman who embraced me with love at one of the lowest moments in my life. Her heart was so big she counted me and my daughter as her own.
And the final blow came on October 10, 2015 when I lost my own mother, my Queen.
I am still reeling.
I was/am completely drained.
What I didn't realize until just this moment, is that every single one of these people manifested in my life between six months to nine months before the battle for my life began -- about the same amount of time it takes for a fetus to grow and be healthy enough to survive.
There's the wise man who rides the bus with me in the morning who has the added sense of humor that not only made me smile, but gave me the strength to look at things from a perspective I hadn't quite respected enough. I consider him a soul brother.
There's the woman in Wisconsin I'd met online who used her skills as a therapist to help me purge myself of the guilt I had about things I had no control over. When she visited New York last summer, there was no doubt in my mind I'd known her before; that we were members of a soul family. She is my soul sister.
Though we'd been friends for years, there is the neighbor who cooked dinners for me, who never complained or judged me as I poured my heart out to her -- while I depleted her supply of wine. She never once complained and rarely accepted my offer to replace what I had drunk. People in our complex often assume we are sisters as we resemble each other. That, I don't think, is a coincidence.
And finally, there's my sister-friend from work who saw me as something greater than I saw myself during this past year. She never, ever once gave up on me even while I was ready to give up on myself. She says I've helped her through a tough time. I really hope I have.
Each of these souls has given me what I needed at the time and each allowed me to go easy on myself in order to heal.
As 2015 winds down, I want to show my appreciation for all who said a kind word, all who showed me and my family love. I won't name you each individually lest I forget someone for there are so many. The only way I can show you my appreciation is to get back on the saddle and do the things that I love.
2016 will bring about major changes in my life that I have already set in motion. My immediate family -- my daughter, my grandson and even her fur baby, Rocky -- they are my first priority.
As the oldest of the surviving children of two of the most heroic people I know, I will do what needs to be done so that there is one place each of us knows we can go to as a safe haven. Someplace we can have fun, laugh, cry and even fight as we strengthen what's left of the ties to our original clan.
And finally, my passion -- the one thing that keeps me breathing: my writing. I have several projects in various stages of "un-ready-ness" that I have organized into folders and will turn to in the coming months.
The one thing I can share right now is the planned re-release of Sinner's Ride with added content and a new cover in celebration of its fifth anniversary in April. After that, who knows? The world is open to me for I have a new perspective.
To my last surviving brother, Pastor Pedro Torres who gave a beautiful sermon at Mami's funeral bringing us all to tears. We don't always get along, but don't get it twisted. I would lay my life down for my brother and sister. No doubt about it.
Thank you all for your love and support. I wish you all a very Merry Holiday Season; one that brings you joy, laughter and a new perspective as we enter 2016!