A eulogy and apology, in memory of Mi Tia, La Loca, RIP

Una eulogy sinvergüenza.

I did not say goodbye. I did not go to her funeral. I did not even send flowers. When my aunt passed away, I didn’t do anything.  I was out of town for a wedding when my brother called and told Mi Tia Elvirame that she died in the hospital from diabetes-related health complications.

Immediately, I called my mother to see how she was handling having just lost her little sister. She was OK, but she was sad. She invited me to a small town in Mexico for the “novenario” which is the traditional nine days of prayer at the home of one of my cousins. But, I decided to decline.

It’s not that we weren’t close– out of my 15 aunts and uncles, she was the one that owned the neighboring ranch and whom I saw most often– I have 52 blood related cousins who mostly live in Mexico and though I don’t see them often, we are bonded by our deep love for “La Famila.”

I just wasn’t ready to mourn the loss of my Tia.

My mother says she was ready to go. She was in-and-out of the hospital so often, that even my beloved cousin, her only son,  was ready to let her go.  I knew she was sick.  But that’s not how I remember her. She was a free spirit. A renegade. A  She was “La Loca.”

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As a little girl I knew she shouldn’t be drinking Tequila because she only had one kidney, but that didn’t stop her. She loved fried foods and sweets and howling at the moon with a Chiwawa dog on her lap, while one of my uncles played the guitar, around the campfire. She lived on the Edge.

She was a free woman, not afraid to fight or divorce, or to date a younger man, or even a blood relative. I’m sure there were many other social conventions that she broke, because they didn’t suit the shape of her heart.

She once taught me about color combinations: Pink and purples make a warm blend, but whenever you put orange and green together, it’s like you are stuck in the 70’s.

She was an artist. She was an eccentric. She was like me: misunderstood. As a young girl, I saw that we had a special bond. I was The Foreigner, AKA “La Gringa,” and she was The Crazy Woman AKA “La Loca.”

It’s important to note, these are terms of endearment. When you are in a tribe with over 100 relatives, your grandparents come up with simple nicknames to keep you apart, which somehow makes you feel special. A number of  my cousins that were called: El Gordo, El Chango, El GÃœERO, El Cochino, El Viejo, El Pendjo, El Tonto, and El Feo…which respectively translate to: The fat one, the monkey, the blond one, the messy one, the old one, the stupid one, the really stupid one, and the ugly one.

Considering the options, “La Gringa” wasn’t so bad. But out of all these stereotypes, somehow the greatest threat was becoming “La Loca.”  If I was crying or talking back or worried, someone in my family might say “be careful or you’ll turn out like your Tia.” She was believed to have Hysteria–an exaggerated and uncontrollable emotional disorder that was supposedly common to women in my family. Any sign of being “too emotional” quickly turned into “don’t get hysterical!” Eventually, I internalized this threat and took it on as a core wound that said I’m too emotional. The world can’t handle my intensity.

Because I didn’t go to the funeral, I had to reclaim my own ritual. I lit a candle and bought a crystal. (In fact, I missed my airplane because I was driving across town to find the perfect virgin quartz.) When I finally settled in and created a sacred space to say goodbye, I was surprised to find, I wasn’t sad; I was angry. Outraged, actually.  My aunt was unjustly feared, mistreated and misunderstood, by my family, including myself.

I’m angry that I’ve not been more expressed. I’ve lived most my adult life, terrified of my own emotions. When strong feelings would come on, some part of me would push them down thinking I had to be rational– to be loved. This repression resulted in episodes of depression. I spent years terrified of becoming La Loca, and it wasn’t until she passed away that I realized there is nothing to fear. She was a wildy expressed woman, in need of compassion.

By this eulogy, I am hereby calling on compassion. And more permission. I am sourcing these two qualities within myself. This is my spiritual practice: Permission to feel. And compassion to help sequence my feelings.

As my aunt’s body was burned and her ashes buried above our ranch. I hereby burry my judgements on her, as well as my fear of my own intensity. As a result of her death, I pray that I become more fully alive.

RIP Elvia Espinoza.

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