Our Lady of Guadalupe church has been standing tall on Oak Street in Santa Paula since 1929. This was my church growing up. I have been there hundreds of times. My parents were married here. I was baptized here with my Ninos the Blackshears by my side. My Nana and Tata had a 25th wedding anniversary ceremony here. I made my first communion here, where I was so proud to have my Tia Josie walk with me and become my Godmother. I went to 9 years of weekly catechism here. I was flower girl in a few of my Tia's weddings in this church. I remember the Christmas play in the hall where my parents were Mary and Joseph and my little sister was just 3 months old and got to be the Baby Jesus. There was the weekly Sunday mass where the Nuns would use a old school overhead projector with a clean film with the words to all the hymns written down. It made it easier to follow along and I can still sing the songs. Even the Spanish ones. I have celebrated cousin's sacraments and weddings here. I have come here on Dec 12th to bring flowers to La Virgen.
Hundreds of times, so many events but now every time I walk in here I can only remember one thing. I can only remember my Tata's funeral. We went to mass last Sunday and all I could think about was his casket in front of the altar. The giant photo of him on a stand. All the flowers. As I looked around to see a lot of my family there last Sunday, all I could think about was that day that we all sat, dressed in black, holding each others hand and passing tissues as my Tia Mary gave a beautiful eulogy. I see my handsome cousins as pall bearers, and the babies Seli and Bubbs passing out the program that Patricia and I worked so hard on.
All I could see was his casket. The dark wood with the white flowers. After all the times I had been inside this church, that day has had the most impact. I feel like it left me scarred and it was so traumatic it's hard to go back. Because even though last Sunday was just a mass, it still felt so heavy on my heart.
3 years ago today our Tata died. And it still sometimes doesn't feel real. And reality hits at odd times and it crashes all around and I can't do anything but let the sadness of that reality take over. It's hard to believe that we have lived 3 years without him. In those 3 years my family has held tight to each other. We have cheered each other on. We have had some really amazingly happy things happen. Marriage proposals, new beautiful babies and high school and university graduations. My goodness my Tata would have loved all these new babies. I have no idea how he did it. There are a lot of us. And every time a new baby was born he adored them. So much that it was impossible to think that he could have more love to give. And then another baby would be born and he would love that one just as much. I never saw more pride in his eyes as when he got to hold a new baby. Like he knew that we were his legacy and he poured his heart and soul into each and everyone of us.
And now it's been 3 years since we have had him look at each and every one of us with that pride. And we now have to remember what that felt like and know that he gave each of us all he had. And it's time for us to honor that and make him proud of the people we have become, in how we treat others, and how we love each other. But days like today are really hard to get through. To have someone so loving, so smart, so magnetic taken from us will always hurt our hearts. I am not sure how the rest of my family deals with today but I am thinking about them and holding the tight in my heart. I know for me today will be a lot of tears but I just don't have the strength yet to do anything else. I don't know if I ever will that have that kind of strength on February 13th.