There are not enough words to describe the pain you feel when losing people you love. I dedicated this altar to two very special individuals in my life, the first is my grandfather, Alejandro Gonzalez and second is my godbrother Nicholas Gonzalez (also known as Nick). I decided to make my family’s altar to include the things that they both enjoyed. I decorated the table with papel picado and gold display boxes. I chose the red table cover because red is a very warm color and I wanted that feeling to be a part of the alter. The color of the paper has no significance other than it complements the red neatly. As I was designing my table my mom tried to give me a little table so that I can place it in a corner somewhere but I took it upon myself to take over her long table right at the entrance of our house. This area in the house is somewhere we are forced to walk by all day and every day. I wanted the table to be something we could all enjoy because it isn’t an object of mourning, it is a reminder of all the great times we had with our loved ones. We must be okay with the idea of death and know that it is a part of life. Too many people have detached to themselves from the reality of death but it is natural and a part of everyone’s experience here on earth. We have all lost people we love and it is important to know how to deal with our losses in a healthy manner. I just remind myself that I have one more person to watch over us and be our guardians. I only included two pictures on my table, one for each of them, because I wanted the items to speak more than the photos did. The photos are just an easier way to your message across. I wanted to keep the table simple and pretty because I think that is a good representation of our loved ones, I didn’t want anything to take away from the pictures I had of grandpa and Nick. . Aside from the photos of Nick and my grandpa, I have included items that represent both my grandfather and Nick. The items on the table are depictions of what they meant to, not only me, but to our entire family.
My grandfather was a born and raised in Chihuaha, Mexico and came to the United States in his mid twenties. He married my grandmother and they had one son, my dad. My grandfather was a very involved father but as I got older my father told me that he drank excessively and he pretty much did what he wanted. My grandfather never hit my grandma but both my grandma and father have told me that he would leave to drink at bars and the police would call my grandma to go pick him up. He was machismo in the sense that he never really allowed my grandma to venture outside of the role she was expected to play. She cleaned, cooked, and made sure to provide all the essentials for my father and grandfather. She worked for a small portion of her life but he was the primary breadwinner and he made most of the decisions for the household. My grandfather always loved hosting parties, music, and having a good time.
The relationship I had with my grandfather was special because he was practically a second father to me. I spent a lot of time with him my entire childhood and I remember being his sidekick.My grandpa was macho, prideful, and protective of his family. There wasn’t anyone he was afraid of and my grandpa only stood about 5 feet 5 inches. The personality my grandpa had was a lot bigger than he was. He never let anyone be disrespectful towards anyone and always stood up for what he believed was right. He treated my sister and me like princesses but he also showed us the importance of being good and being confident. He never wanted us to feel like we had no voice. In some ways he was a machismo but in other ways he wasn’t at all. He always new how to make us feel better and how to have fun. One day I remember specifically was when I was about 6 or 7 years old. My grandfather had a blue pickup truck that he parked at the beginning of the driveway and he would open the back and sit there with his radio, cigarettes, and Budweiser. My sister and I would hop on the truck and play there for hours but on that specific day he took us to the local liquor store and told us we could get anything we wanted. So that’s what we did, I don’t think anyone had ever let me buy anything I had every wanted (and that’s still the case). He drove us back home with his essentials and we had bought what seemed like a year’s supply of candy and small toys. Around the age of 65 my grandfather suffered a stroke and we later found out he had lung cancer. He had a hard two year battle with his lung cancer and passed away in February 2001. The day he passes away will always live with me, not only because I loved him, but because it was the first time I felt real pain. This loss was hard on the family, because for once, we were missing a huge part of our lives. The items I chose to represent my grandfather were the candy, pan dulce, and the cross. I chose them because his nickname was Candy and there’s no better way to represent that other than with sweets themselves. I also chose these two items specifically for him because they take me back to our trip the store and they symbolize how happy I was in all the moments I shared with him. There was always pan dulce in my grandparents’ house and I always remember having that with my glass of milk on the nights I would stay over. Seeing him was always the highlight of my day. The symbol of the cross represents the faith that we had in our family and the faith that helped us cope with the loss of my grandfather.
Nicholas also enjoyed the things my grandfather did. Nick was born and raised in Placentia, California and got married in 2013. He and his wife, Jessica, had two kids, Jayden and Jacob. Unfortunately Nick passed away before he met his baby girl but the relationship he had with his son Jacob was special. Nick was a great father and always made sure that his son knew right from wrong, his manners, and how to work hard. He was at every baseball game that Jacob had and never failed to be a parent. I’m not too familiar with the relationship Nick had with his wife Jessica. They both worked full time, participated in family events, and symbolized a funny happy couple. As children my sister and I would always spend time with Nick and his two brothers. They were the brothers we never had. There were times we would go to the mountains, movies, and anywhere just to get out of the house and have fun. As we all grew up we still made an effort to get together, especially for some Dallas Cowboy football and just enjoy each others’ company. On July 12, 2014 I was getting ready to leave my house to meet up with Nick’s brother and as I walked to the family room to say bye to my parents, I saw them crying and trying to talk to people on their phones. That’s when they told me that my cousin didn’t wake up that morning. When I heard those words I felt nothing, it was as if my mind wasn’t in my body or I didn’t know what those words meant but soon after it hit me that he was gone.
Nick always made it a goal to host days for the family to get together. He would plan barbeques, football days, pool parties, and holiday parties in efforts to keep the family close knitted. He was truly the glue of the Gonzalez family. Everyone knew that if they should ever need anything, they could always call Nick for help or even just a kind word. A big part of Nick’s life was dedicated to his faith and that is why I chose a cross to represent him. I also choose the Dallas Cowboy football and Los Angeles Angels baseball to represent him. Nick lived and breathed sports, I think most of his wardrobe was made up of jerseys or sports t-shirts. Some of my most fond memories of him were when we would get together as a family and play softball. There must have been about 30 of us that would get together about twice a year to play and we would spend all day on the field. It was truly something special because everyone could enjoy it. It was like a huge barbeque/game day for our family and friends. This tradition eventually started to fade and I remember how much Nick would try to keep it going. Every time we were all together he would mention something about it.
The both of them were always looking forward to getting the family together, taking care of their family, and making sure everyone was happy. They were the backbone of their families and the larger extension of the family and friends. I chose the candles to represent both Nick and my grandpa because they were important figures in my life that lead me to have the morals and traditions that I practice today. They were significant father and brother figures that I value every day of my life. They taught me to enjoy life, appreciate family, and be a good person.
I bought the skulls this past March on a trip to Mexico City because they symbolize our ancestry and the culture we still carry with us in the Gonzalez family. The skulls not only represent Dia de los Muertos but our lifestyle throughout the year. We always celebrate the lives of our loved ones that can no longer be with us.
The bottle of tequila and the shot glasses are just a fun representation of the parties that both Nick and my grandfather liked to throw. There was never a bottle too far away from them during any kind of celebration. The parties always consisted of too many people, loud music, and so much food. The cops were always warning us to turn down the music. As much as they enjoyed drinking they never embodied the violent nature that has existed in the Gonzalez Family. A brother of my grandfather was a violent drunk that had no limits. This was a fear we had all had with the people that drink in my family but the respect was always maintained when my family members did drink.
The Vicente Fernandez tickets represent how much we valued Vicente’s, better known as Chente, music. I don’t think there has ever been a family party that didn’t involve Chente’s music or at least a mariachi that played his music. As a child I enjoyed the music but my attachment to his music grew when I lost my grandfather and my cousin. Both of them had a great deal of love and respect for him. My grandfather would always play his music on his small radio and when he wasn’t out and about he was sitting on his lazy boy in the living room watching novellas and movies with Vicente Fernandez. When my grandpa and grandma were younger they had the opportunity to go to the house of Chente and meet him. They told me that Chente was very welcoming and down to earth. This made me appreciate him as an artist and symbol for our family even more. Nick’s grandfather was my grandpa’s brother so the attachment Nick had to Chente’s music was identical to mine. Every time we were together we would sing our hearts out and reminisce about all the memories we had of our grandparents. Chente is a representation of our family and it brings us together wherever we are. Nick and I, along with our siblings, were extremely close. Just recently I was listening to his music and tears came to eye because I started to think about how much I miss them and how I have so many great memories of them.
The hardest time is during the holidays but I try to remember how they would want us to be spending our time.. I know they would not let me cry and mourn their deaths, they would want me and the family to enjoy the celebration, enjoy each the company, and appreciate the things we do have. I have learned a lot about myself through this assignment and through the pain I have managed when I lost my grandfather and cousin. Life is short, it’s a cliché but it is one of the realest ones. You have to learn how to make the most out of every opportunity you are given and truly take the time to appreciate your time with people while they are still here. If you’re mad at someone, place your ego aside, talk to them, and move forward. There is nothing healthy in holding grudges and letting them come in between you and the life you can have with your loved ones. I never noticed just how similar my grandfather and my cousin were until I organized this paper, I truly think they were too good for this world. They were angels before we could ever know. The values I carry with me are ones I will always hold close and practice because I see just how much I got from them as a child. It is because of them that I have such a strong relationship and sense of respect for my family. My family comes before anyone else. I hope to pass the same values and sense of culture and tradition to my family. I believe family is the first support system anyone ever knows and they should really get the most from the time that they have with their family. Our time here is short and there’s no sense in having pointless arguments, egos, or prideful attitudes towards those people that we love. Most importantly its important to cope with the loss of someone healthily. I have seen the loss of our loved ones destroy some of my family members. It is easy to be angry, sad, lonely, any negative feeling or state of mind is easy to feel but having a positive outlook, although it takes more effort, is the only option you should give yourself. There are support groups if you don’t have family to turn to and there are other ways to deal with a loss other than all the negative feelings people naturally feel after losing someone close.