As part of the 2021 Dear Poet project, students around the country and the world wrote letters to Janice Lobo Sapigao in response to a video of her reading her poem “There Will Be No Funeral” aloud. Janice Lobo Sapigao wrote letters back to seven of these students; their letters and her replies are included below.
Janice Lobo Sapigao reads "There Will Be No Funeral" for Dear Poet 2021.
Dear Janice Lobo Sapigao,
It feels right to preface this with the introduction of my own Lola. Halfway across the world, she is in Manila, moving homes with the rest of her children, or rather, my titos and titas. The last I had visited was around eight years ago. My fondest memories were finding ruby rosaries and sticky longan in the market. I was too young to appreciate the goodbye, but I did, nonetheless. I have since had the fear, the worry, that I will not get and permanently miss my chance to say goodbye before something happens.
When I first read, and heard, your piece, it deeply resonated with my thoughts with our culture, especially during the early stages of the pandemic and quarantine. It was, in a way, startling to recognize the cultural aspects you wrote about and how they could very much be used for the celebration of life. I was wondering if there would be advice in how to do justice in displaying one's culture in my own poetry and prose.
And the line, “There will be no party, no lumpia, no noodles for no life long enough?” It brought back many memories of whenever I attended a family outing with the rest of my relatives. There has always been the presence of pancit and noodles, especially birthdays. I was taught at a young age that noodles symbolized longevity, as I listened with a mouth full of barbeque and rice. However, I did attend a funeral once. It had been for one of my Titos. We had spent the first days praying in different houses with different families, where we shared our sorrow. Some days I think of the day before, as it was Halloween. He was not afraid, still having a smile on his face. I suppose I want to ask you this: how could we, as poets, find and instill courage in discussing and envisioning ourselves in topics like these?
When I read that the burial would be unmarked, I felt an urge for justice. How could someone who had been a bringer of life be unnoticed? I could very much feel the connection and love between your Lola and you, one that could span across oceans and land. The vivid imagery you created with unnamed earthquakes and stretched-out sunsets will be ones I will never forget. I hope that your Lola will rest in peace. I want to thank you for your poetry and performance; it really helped to find discover your perspective. I would love to hear from you sometime!
From one Filipino to another,
Thank you for telling me about your lola, which is a connective and thoughtful way to also tell me about yourself. The lola I write about is my first cousin’s paternal grandmother, who raised me, my brother, and my cousin–in a household of adult caretakers. I miss her voice, her smell-kisses, and her cooking. I wish I had spent more time with her when I was younger and older.
This poem consists of so many stories, lines, and conversations fragmented into one narrative. The lines come from conversations with cousins who work for airlines, with sterile things I’d heard from doctors, with conversations with my mom who spoke to me and others in Ilokano and Tagalog. I know you asked about how us poets can discuss difficult or sorrowful topics, and I share these source conversations to say they are happening all the time, and I hope we listen.
I have been thinking about writing as listening. Every now and then, a line comes to my mind, and I write it down. And then I can be walking, and then another line will come, and I’ll write that down, too. Last week, I heard the wind shake harshly and then softly around me, and I realized that there are some lines and voices there, too. I think it’s so important to recognize, listen, and document all of the voices–even and especially the ones without sound, without body. They’re there.
I am also sorry to hear about your uncle. It’s always tough to lose someone, even if it has been a month or years afterwards.
Thank you for your letter. I hope to read your poems one day soon.
Dear Janice Lobo Sapigao,
I have read a couple of your works for an imaginative writing class. I wanted to let you know that I love your poetry and have found myself being truly inspired by your writing style.
One of the poems I have read was called “There Will Be No Funeral”. A kind of unfamiliar grief welcomed me, and I found a new fear in the lines.
I want to thank you for opening my eyes to something I should not avoid. I have a lola in the Philippines, and although I have never met her, I’ve begun to feel even more anxious that I may never get to meet her. My family does not have the funds to visit my lola, and my relatives worry for her health scares every now and then. I pray I get to know her personally.
I have a couple things I am curious about as I am still trying to figure out if writing is something I should expand in my life. As a fellow human of filipino heritage, do you feel your background has made you a target of unfairness and harsh criticism? If so, how do you heal from those experiences? Do you believe in writing styles, and what is your take on how to find your very own? Do you think college is necessary or a helpful hand in terms of connections or creating a foundation for yourself?
Thank you very much for taking the time to read my letter. I adore your poetry and wish you all the best! Marami akong natutunan, salamat sayo.
I recently started taking Ilokano classes again, and I want to say, agyamanak for your letter, and for reading my poems.
I understand the ache to want to see or visit our loved ones, especially when they (we?) live so far away. I understand the pain and sadness of not being able to go mainly because of money. Imagine if our love and longing was enough to get us to them? How borderless flight is and would be. How often we’d be in the air and on the ground, in the arms of our loves.
Money helps us live, survive, care. I know it is also very hard to come by, as much of it depends on what we give, risk, or spend our own labor to get it. I hope that you and your family get to see your lola when the time (and especially the funds) allow. An Ilokano language teacher once corresponded with me about “going home to the islands,” and when I read those words, I felt a rush of memories, including seeing a bird’s eye view of my mom’s home province, Pangasinan. I hope that you, too, will get to go home one day soon.
My father passed away when I was younger, and I didn’t get a chance to know him myself, but I learned so much about him from listening to the stories about him from my aunties, uncles, and older cousins who knew him. As an adult, I started writing to him in a journal or diary, and I like to think I can have conversations with him that way. I miss some of my family who are in the Philippines now, but I am so thankful for the technology that exists now that can bring us together, even if it’s for a minute or ten. When I was a sophomore in high school, I wanted so badly to just be able to use the internet while sitting on my bed. I thought that was just a dream of The Future, and now, we can have the internet anywhere! Now, in my thirties, I don’t want to forget how what we have available to us now is a reality. I share this to say that you can still get to know your lola, and that stories about her are just as precious as stories that come from her.
To answer your big questions that I hope to answer in poems if not here: Yes, absolutely, being Pinay has felt targeting, at times. It has also felt empowering. I have felt this in and out of Filipinx community, and I found comfort, healing, and joy in reading, asking questions, learning our complex histories, finding kinship in other Pinays’ poems and friendship, and having necessary and difficult conversations with family and friends. And yes, I do believe that there are different writing styles, and I don’t know if our voices get found more than they change as we grow. I think I started to hear and see how my voice in writing and telling my own narratives changed while I was in college, which I am grateful for, although, I do have friends and students who took their time with their college journeys.
I think that the hardest part of writing (and living?) is trusting ourselves. I have so much faith and trust in myself, that I let the multiplicity of voices guide me. I am excited for you to hear all of your selves in your stories and poems, too.
Dear Janice Lobo Sapigao,
My name is Kaylee, and I’m a Freshman in Highschool. I recently read your poem, “There will be no funeral”, and I was touched. Your poem just made me think of the things people have to overcome everyday. Whether it be a money problem or in the 2020 case, COVID. While reading the poem it did bring tears to my eyes.
I personally relate to the poem because last year I lost my grandpa, my childhood dog, and my great-grandmother. This past year has been miserable for everyone in different ways, and through your poem I saw that many people had dealt with the things I have. These three passed away pretty unexpectedly and it was very hard with my grandpa. I asked myself the same questions, “what am I going to do without him in my life”. I continuously asked myself all of these what if questions, because my family had the same struggles regarding money once he passed. It was all heart breaking, but looking back at it now there was nothing anyone could’ve done to prevent any of this. When you said; “there's no money No undertaker will proclaim her life...It's too expensive”. This specific part moved me deeply. I can connect with this personally because my family had the same problem, but there was nothing we could do about it.
In your poem, the emotion is just seeping through and it is moving. Anyone can feel the emotion through your words and how beautifully it is worded. I think it is important to share personal stories to let the reader know if they went or are going through a similar situation, they aren’t alone. That is what you have done with this poem, sending the message to the reader saying others have experienced this as well. When it said; “How will I carry her when only darkness has the space? Where will we put my grandma when we can’t afford our grief?”, during funerals most associate them with letting go of the person lost. But when we don’t have that we can’t associate anything with it. All of the stages of grief, denial, sadness, anger, confusion, etc. are thrown in the air and it can be difficult to handle. When we don’t have this closure the process of grief can be or is harder to deal with. Each person controls their own approach to conquering this sorrow. I would just like to tell you your poem helped me a lot and I think it can help many others in a similar situation.
On a brighter note, I do like to write poetry...sometimes. It is a way for me to express my emotions through writing. Writing my emotions makes me feel better about myself because I am letting it all out on a paper I can refer back to. In your poem anyone can feel the emotion seeping through the lines, I just thought that was outstanding. The way you describe the loss and grief is so personal, it could make anyone feel that. My poems can definitely be a hit or miss but that's what comes with writing.
Thank you for writing this beautiful poem. It was an honor to read and connect with it. It spoke to me in so many ways and I appreciate you for it. “There will be no funeral” told me it is okay to express emotions to the public because it is natural and others might feel the same way.
You are an amazing writer. You honored the memory of Concepcion Cruz Agullana and others so perfectly.
I am so sorry to read of the loss you’ve experienced in such a short amount of time. The past year has been so tough, so relentless, and I feel so much for you and so many young people who have had to endure layers of grief. During this pandemic, I listened to a Minnesota Public Radio segment with Host Angela Davis where she talked with grief experts, and they talked about how our lives changed so quickly over a short period of time. I also followed healing and grief accounts on social media, and I remember someone wrote about how grief is love with nowhere to go. I feel that same sense of immovability, sometimes. Now, maybe because I feel I have had a long relationship with grief, I think that grief does move us to write or to share memories and stories of our loved ones.
Thank you for detecting the deep emotion I put into my poem. It is my hope that people are reminded of their hearts when they read my work, and I am glad that my poems can lightly tap at folks’ pasts, observations, or experiences.
I hear often the idea that there’s nothing that can be done when enormous, challenging moments occur. I hope it’s okay to stretch that notion a little further–I think there is always so much that can be done. I think of poet Claudia Rankine’s line from her book Citizen where she quotes, “We have all the answers. It is the questions we do not know.” I think there is always some answer that’s deeper than deep, past what we accept as beyond our actions. I hope and believe that our grief, and the injustice of losing those we love, will move us to continuously act, write, and feel.
Thank you for your powerful letter. May we always feel through everything.
Dear Janice Lobo Sapigao,
Hello, my name is Sophia and I am a junior from Kansas City, Missouri. I read your poem “There Will Be No Funeral” in my English class and I was frankly a little taken aback by how much it resonated with me. The way you talk about your Lola feels so intimate it feels like I knew her just from reading your poem. The love you have for her is evident and as I read the poem I felt like I was mourning in my own way for a woman I never knew. I especially love the line “my lola, an unnamed earthquake” because I feel like the poem is gaining momentum with all the repetition before it and that line slows it down and the poem takes a breath. It takes a second to mourn the woman herself as well as the lack of a proper memorial.
Your grief for not only your Lola but also her funeral really hit home for me as I lost my own grandmother at the beginning of 2020 and haven’t been able to have a proper funeral for her because of the pandemic. It’s been tough especially on my mom because we haven’t gotten that sense of closure that comes with funerals. That’s why I love the parts of your poem that talk about all the aspects of a funeral that aren’t happening because it encapsulates that feeling of dejection so perfectly.
In the format of your poem you use a lot of excess spacing between the words to create emphasis but also in the poem as a whole. Personally, I interpreted this to mean that there was an excess of space as opposed to the lack of space for your Lola’s body but I was wondering if that was your intention?
I want to thank you for writing this poem. It is beautiful and it made me feel understood and validated knowing someone else has experienced something similar.
Thank you for your gracious letter, and I am so sorry to have learned about you losing your grandmother. I think that grandmothers are so special, and I wish I had more time to spend with mine. When my friend’s grandmother passed, I sent her a long list of grandmother and grieving poems including Ocean Vuong’s poem “Kissing in Vietnamese” and poems by Warsan Shire and Rose Booker. I hope that there are more and more poems about grandmothers–loving them, missing them, becoming them, and honoring them. May there be a whole genre of grandmother stories.
When I was writing my poem, I was researching Filipino funeral traditions, and my research led me to memories of funerals in the Philippines and in the United States. I am sad to say that I have been going to funerals my whole life for people I’ve known and lived with–such is the way, I think, of immigrant families and intergenerational households. I remember the details I included in spurts and fragments, and to answer your question, I wanted to create enclosure and space. I think the formatting most closely reflects the floating and fleeting thoughts that occur when trying to make sense of a loss. I really like and appreciate your take and analysis that it also shows a lack of space for my lola. Yes. Absolutely.
I think poems help us feel affirmed and hopefully less alone. I think poems are proof of lives lived, and I hope to include the ones of my family. I think of a poet named Hanalei Ramos who once wrote something like, “I still have this piece of jewelry. It proves someone loved me once.” I think of poems that way, too.
Thank you for your letter. Please keep writing.
Dear Janice Lobo Sapigao,
“There Will Be No Funeral” was relatable to me and the passing death of my grandmother in 2016. I wish I could relate to the Filipino aspects of your life, but that is something I was never taught. I am 5/8ths Ilocano, but my father figure was not a part of my life to teach me these traditions and foods that accompany certain occasions. I feel like half of my history is unknown. Your poem spoke to me and my aching to know my belonging of this race.
When my grandmother passed, she lived in a small two-bedroom apartment, and we did not know what we were going to do and how to find the money. Luckily, my grandma was a familiar person to the whole town; we were privileged to host her a funeral and services. I could feel the panic/ devastation in your voice in the line “No one will hear her long name how it/ stretches a sunset…” My remembrance is something I too worry about; being alive then dead suddenly and no one knowing my trace and forgetting about the life I lived. But then, I think of my grandmother every day and start to remember her impact on my life, even if I didn’t speak to her daily.
I noticed how you say ‘every body’ with a space in between the words. I am guessing you are using it as a term for dead bodies or humans, and not so much of saying everybody as in their own persons and spiritual being but their physical bodies. It stood out to me because it separates physicality with spirituality and reminds the readers of what happens when we leave our bodies and where our conscious might go. “When airlines carry the deceased/ they are called passengers…/ passengers in seats are called existing passengers.” I read this line and thought that it was materialistic and again furthering the distinction between bodies and spirits. I enjoyed reading your poem and relating to them in a way that made me think about my life spiritually. Thank you for writing your poem and letting us read your emotions, deepest connections, and concerns of your late grandmother.
Your words weigh so much for me. When you say, “I feel like half of my history is unknown,” I know this feeling. As a fellow Ilokana and Filipina, this feeling has fueled me to pursue learning about my cultural, personal, and familial histories. Reading, listening, writing, and learning about these histories has made me feel more understanding and empowered–as if doors that were previously locked or invisible were now available and open to me. I think that we, as writers, can go after the histories we don’t know, and we can take them out of those closed rooms into our poems, our skies, our worlds.
I also love the story you shared about how the town took care of your grandma’s funeral expenses. I appreciate the ways that love persists, especially where it’s needed.
Your analysis of my poem is spot-on, and I appreciate the care you put into your letter. May all of our poems have more emotions, more histories, more non-English languages.
Thank you so much–or in Ilokano–agyamanak la unay for reading my poem. If you ever want to learn more Ilokano, I recommend following @agadal_ilokano on Instagram, as they have many language resources about Ilokano culture, diaspora, and traditions.
Be well, and please take care.
Manang (older sister) Janice
Hi, my name is Kaya and I am a student at John F. Kennedy High School. I had the pleasure of both reading and studying your poem, “There will be no funeral” in my Freshman seminar. I would love to share my thoughts on your poem.
In reading your poem, It really resonated with me because I feel that you are giving a description to the way many people are feeling today. Today, people across the world are suffering as a result of a global pandemic. The worldwide quarantine has kept people in their homes and separated from their loved ones for over a year. During this time, many people have lost their grandparents, who were very vulnerable to the disease. Another challenge during this time, is the closure of businesses who could not afford to remain open while the world shut down. This caused many people to lose their jobs, causing additional pain and financial struggle.
I feel that your poem brings to life the feeling many of us and feeling at this time. When you talk about “there’s no money” and that “there will be no casket it’s too expensive” it connects to the struggles people are facing. In the last line you write that you “can’t afford our grief.” This was a beautiful way to express your emotions and conflict in a way that people are able to relate to. Funerals often help families to have closure when a loved one dies. But a huge part of that closure is the act of coming together, of sharing in a collective grief - we are in a time when this is not allowed - so many people have to bury a loved one without the rituals of mourners dressed in black, of priests saying prayers and of a shared meal. Your use of the repetition of the word “no” while discussing traditions illustrates how important each aspect of tradition is.
I would like to know if writing the poem helped you grieve and honor your grandmother? As i read the poem i felt the love you had for her and continue to have through the words and pauses of each line. In line 16, you described her as “an unnamed earthquake.” In those words were you describing her burial, her personality or maybe even both?
Overall, I believe that through your work you have brought a meaning to the unexplainable feelings many people are experiencing now more than ever. Through your words, your readers can see the love and grief you feel for “your Lola.” Thank you for sharing your poem, I speak for me and my peers when I say it had a big impact. I am sorry for your loss.
Thank you for your letter, and for naming the context in which my poem was shown to the world. I appreciate the timelessness and “right place, right time” happenstance of poetry. I wrote this poem to acknowledge the pain of loss, and also the very real and unfortunate cost of dying. I feel so much for the families you mentioned who’ve lost someone in the past eighteen months. I also, at some points during my shelter-in-place reflection, asked myself how many people were not able to fully express their love honoring their family-turned-ancestors? I wondered about how many, like my family members, could not afford their funerals.
I really love what you said here: “Your use of the repetition of the word “no” while discussing traditions illustrates how important each aspect of tradition is.” YES! I feel hella seen with that line. Thank you for naming it. Thank you for your empathy.
In short, and to answer your question, yes, the poem became a physical place I could create to hold her memory. I’ve read the poem at readings in front of a few select audiences (I don’t read it all the time), and I tell myself it’s the delivery of a eulogy I couldn’t say in front my family, but I hope that generations and futures can read it to remember their loved ones, too.
Dear Ms. Sapigao,
My name is Jackie and I am currently a high school freshman in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. My parents weren’t born here. My parents were born in Mexico, but live in America now. Ever since the early age of six, I’ve been translating all sorts of documents from English, to Spanish, ordering takeout food on my own, asking how to pay bills over the phone. This, of course, doesn’t bother me. What does bother me, is the fact that I’ve witnessed discrimination towards my parents from a really young age. At only five years old, I had the talk that my parents were at risk of getting sent back to Mexico because of their skin color. I was, and still am, to this day, traumatized and scared for what will come to the future of my family.
I can’t express myself like others can, Ms. Sapigao. Many of my classmates discuss their dreams when they’re off to college. I can’t discuss my plans because I’m not even sure if I’ll be able to go off to college. My parents don’t have that much money. They’re not very wealthy. Everything I have, including my education, comes from my sweat and tears.
Now, you may be thinking about how this may relate to your poem, “There Will Be No Funeral.” See, my paternal great grandmother Lola, and paternal great-aunt Chayo have passed away recently. My father never saw his grandmother again. His grandmother took care of him while his parents worked a low-paying job just to come back to be able to afford a bag of beans for his family of seven. When my father received that phone call that night, he absolutely broke down. He couldn’t do anything but cry.
My father never got to see his grandmother again since he left Mexico at the age of 17. He left behind his parents, uncles, aunts, grandparents, and even his four siblings that he hasn’t seen since he left either. He’s now 41. It absolutely shatters my heart.
Your quote from the poem, “There will be no casket...it’s too expensive.” Relates to a real-life situation that happened when mourning my great-aunt Chayo. My Tia Chayo was a cheerful lady. She was never afraid to die. She always said, “A mi la muerte me pela los dientes mija.” Which in English, translates to, “Death peels my teeth.” Which signifies the non-existent fear of dying.
Tia Chayo was an amazing woman. I’ve seen her once. It breaks my heart to think that the first time I saw her was to be my last. My family in Mexico wasn’t very wealthy, either. They sacrificed a lot of money to buy my Tia Chayo a casket. The thing that enrages me even more about my parents’ situation here in this cruel and corrupt country, is that my parents had to witness the funeral through Facebook Live. A Facebook Live. I’m so devastated and tired of seeing my parents suffer like this.
As we saw my family carrying the almost broken casket that they could barely afford, and singing Mariachi music as my abuelito, my fathers father, sang and played his guitar that he bought at a clearance section at the nearest store, with broken wood, and strings, with everyone walking to the community graveyard, my father’s tears rolled down his cheek as he couldn’t do anything but keep on staring at the static television with his family members hugging and crying behind the screen.
Your poem, Ms. Sapigao, was something I could relate to. Something I hadn’t felt while reading a poem in years. I really enjoyed the format of your poem as well. The fact that you italicized the words with importance and with a really empowering meaning made your poem really, really engaging to read. Not only this but there was one line that really stood out to me.
The line, “this small poem, the only eulogy where we’ll put my grandma her existence laid to rest in a poem,” made me love your poem even more. What I got from this beautiful line, was that money cannot buy everything. You may be put in a million-dollar worth casket, but still, have zero flowers decorating your grave. Although my family may not be able to afford an appropriate casket for Tia Chayo or Abuelita Lola, we still love them. Their voices and memories are engraved in our hearts.
Some questions that I have about the poem and about Lola, is what she was like. Was she a sweet, kind lady? Was she a stern woman? Did she live life to the fullest? How did you cope and try to get over this huge loss for you? I know people have many ways to cope.
As I was reading, I could tell you had a really close bond with Lola. It hurts to know she’s gone. While writing the poem, what came to mind? What experiences and memories did you have with Lola that motivated you to write this poem?
Reading your poem, “There Will Be No Funeral,” made me remember the memories I had with family that passed away. It made me feel special in the sense that someone could describe what I felt in words. Sometimes, what you’re trying to say is really, really difficult. Although writing gives you a sense of freedom. A sense to be able to write, create, and express your sentiments without anyone disturbing your thoughts. Writing is really beautiful. Especially expressing them in such a delicate and specific manner like your poem Ms. Sapigao.
Know that everything will be alright, and know that although Lola may not be present anymore, she will remain in your heart. Your writings.
Your letter brought me to tears. I know the mixed feelings you described, and I feel like, since we are both from immigrant families, we share a pain and understanding about the chasm American immigration systems create and uphold. We know how the love we have–like us–for our families is separated beyond reason, beyond justice.
I have a story very similar to yours. At a young age, I witnessed a male clerk being rude to my mom when we were in line at a social security office. He was speaking to my mother slowly, in English, as if she didn’t understand. He raised his voice. He was impatient. I remember it so clearly, and as a child I thought he was just mean. As I got older, I replayed the scene in my mind, and I realized, after witnessing patterns of stares, of rudeness, of impatience, from different parts of mine and my mother’s life–that he was being racist. That his rudeness is anger and misunderstanding that grows, and comes from workplaces, institutions, and systems that necessitate it. That people like my mother are not meant to be served, but culled by it.
It took me a long time to find the language for the injustice I’ve witnessed. I found it in school, in books, in friendships. For me, it’s been a combination of Ethnic Studies, poetry, social justice, and community organizing. In high school, I was involved in student government, and I realized it was actually more like event planning. When I got to college as a first-generation student (the first in my family to go), I realized that I could plan events for specific communities and social issues that needed more attention or were facing very real, tangible injustices. One of the first things that galvanized me was the Justice for Filipino American WW2 Veterans (JFAV) movement, and then it was learning about the Stop the Killings campaign in the Philippines, and then I learned more about women of color feminism, and the learning just never stops, you know?
In addition to living a life filled with poetry, I teach at a community college, which I adore so dearly because it focuses on teaching and learning. My husband, brother, and so many friends of mine have taken classes or graduated from a community college before transferring to a four-year university. I, too, have taken classes at De Anza College in Cupertino, CA when I didn’t have a job and could not afford to pay back my student loans just yet. It was there that I decided I wanted to teach at a community college. My students are incredible, and they are representative of community–all ages, varying life experiences and struggles, and all there to learn. I know that you are worried about college, I hope to share this as a viable option for you as you move forward with planning your future. All people have a right to education, and I think that the community colleges exemplify and make real this message. You are not alone in this struggle for education and dignity. There are so many people who can and will help. There are counselors, advisors, educators, and fellow students in college doing outreach. This is community.
You are an amazing writer and reader. When I write that, I mean, your words in your letter are exacting, purposeful, and used to convey a multiplicity of connections. I am so sorry for all of the loss you and your family have endured. I acknowledge that loss is not just death, but the grief around not being able to see family. I hope that you read and write all of the poems that reflect back all of your emotions. I do think that our loved ones are still around, yes, in spirit, but also in our minds. I was so sad to read that you attended a funeral on Facebook Live. I attended a funeral via YouTube Livestream, and I never want our circumstances to only allow for that ever again. Our technological advances can never really do what we need, and I think they haphazardly remind us of the barriers we feel in real life. They will always be too much substitute, and not enough of life.
Thank you for asking about my lola. She was very sweet! And kind! And protective! And she loved her family fiercely. I only wish that in her lifetime and mine, that was treated with the same measure of heart and care that she gave. Maybe that will be another poem one day. I think I am still missing and mourning her in big and small ways. I take myself through memories with her, and I let myself play her voice or laugh in my head. That helps heal. I also made a habit of finding writers, poets, and activists whose work I related to. Oftentimes, they are connected to community organizations that have resources or referrals. That word again–community–comes up for me like waves. I believe in it so much, and I definitely encourage you to keep building it.
During the pandemic, I have also found community in two homegirls who have also unfortunately lost people in the past couple of years. We get together on Google Meet or Zoom every now and then, and we just check in and talk about our lives. We don’t talk outright about our loved ones, but I know it’s what brings us together. That’s been a huge source of hope while coping.
Send your family my warmth and wishes for all good things. Thank you again for your attention and words.
Take care, and keep writing,