My world was completely flipped upside down on Sept. 21,2015—the day my grandpa left us. I still remember exactly how I felt when I heard the news, and sometimes that pain comes back to haunt me. I felt lost, incomplete, empty and overall just incredibly sad.

The day my grandpa left, a part of me left with him.

For my family—and close friends—finding out about the death of my grandpa scared them. Every single day of my life I talked about my grandpa; every single day I laughed remembering something about him when I was away, and every single day I prayed that he would continue to be happy, and healthy. I remember being a little girl and looking up to my grandpa. He was my hero, my role model, my best friend—in my eyes he was invincible. Death was not something I saw in his path; but now I look back and realize that I was just being naive. As I got older I realized my grandpa was getting old, and tired. Suddenly death became a possibility—the thought of that haunted me every single day.

I changed as a person after my grandpa passed away; it was too hard to continue being the happy-go-lucky girl I always was. There really was no reason to be happy anymore, at least that is what I thought at the time. But I realize now that my grandpa did not want that for me. He encouraged me all throughout my 22 years with him to live a happy life. To shine positivity, to be loyal, kind, caring, loving and compassionate—just like him. When I realized this, a new me was born. I am not the same person I was before my grandpa left because I can never be that girl again. But I’ve grown, matured and accepted the fact that my abuelito was tired. He is no longer tired. Instead, he is happy with my grandma, enjoying his beautiful rose garden and eating his conchita (Mexican sweet bread) with a tall glass of milk in the evenings.

My grandpa taught me so much about life: he taught me about the incredible power of friendship, and the importance of expressing love. He taught me about the beauty that is within life, and how you can find this beauty in almost everything. He taught me just how good a warm hug, and a nice smile can make someone feel when they are down. He taught me the importance of being responsible in life, but at the same time to not play anything safe. He taught me that taking risks is important, but that staying alert goes hand-in-hand with that.

I still cry when I think about my abuelito—he was very dear to me, and his death hurt more than I could ever imagine. My grieving has not ended, and if I’m being honest I do not think it ever will but I’ve come to terms with it; I’m okay with this. His love is a treasure that will never be forgotten.

“The warmth of his gaze said he loved us, the strength of his hugs said he’d keep us safe and the gentleness of his hands said we were all precious to him.”

(Left): January 29, 2016. My sister and I both got this tattoo remembering one of our favorite songs that grandpa used to sing to us. Every time I look down on it I remember him singing the song with the most beautiful voice, and smile on his face. (Right): July 15, 2016. Abuelito had a passion for his garden, in particular his roses. "If I had a flower for every time I thought of you, I could walk in my garden forever."

Te amare por siempre abuelito; thank you for blessing my life with so much wisdom, and love. I miss you more and more every single day.