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My Father’s Footprint

Jul 13, 2021 | Survivor Voices

By Fernanda Mendoza 

The following is the opinion and personal experience of the writer.

I never imagined my life would change in such a drastic way for the rest of my life. On January 10, 2021, my father was murdered. My father was my everything.

First, let me share a bit of background. My father is my uncle. When I was six months old, he adopted me after four years of being married and not being able to have kids. I became their greatest blessing. It is not common for someone to take on another person’s responsibility, but he cared for me, lived for me, protected me, and loved me unconditionally. He was my rock and the only person I could make proud by simply being his daughter. He always saw the best in me. He was the only father figure I knew, making him THE BEST human ever. He was funny, playful, a goofball, hardworking, noble, faithful, generous, humble, and most importantly, a good man of God. He always went out of his way to help others without expecting anything in return.

I did not realize that January 10 would be the last time I would hear his voice. I’ve always known nothing can guarantee our life, but never did I think that would have been the last time we would speak to each other.

It was Sunday morning. My father was going on with his daily routine as he always did. He was riding his bike to my aunt’s house but never reached this destination. A 15-year-old we had never met took my father’s life away that day. By the time I found out about this tragic event, my father had already lost his life.

I realized I had lost my everything – the person who gave his whole life for me, who lived and worked hard to provide me with the best. He was my best friend, my protector, my defender – but now he is gone.

At first, I thought it was just a bad dream, but once I realized that it wasn’t a dream, I started having flashbacks of my life with my father. I felt like I, too, was just stabbed to death. It’s such a deep pain that not anyone or anything can take away. Right there, I just started to cry my heart out. I felt disappointed and discouraged. I wanted nothing to do with faith. My religion was the last thing I wanted. I kept asking God why, why him!? Why him and in such a horrific manner?! I couldn’t understand why this 15-year-old decided to take a 61-year-old man’s life. He never had any kind of contact with my father; he didn’t even know his name! My father never did anything bad to anyone; he didn’t even like confrontation or arguing.

Just knowing I didn’t have closure with my father leaving earth made it worse for me, but I held on to something he taught me when I was little in the middle of that pain – having faith in God. In the middle of my deep despair, I decided to forgive this kid who took my father’s life away with his own hands. You may wonder why. I had two choices: I could live the rest of my life, being unforgiving, making this process more complicated and painful, or forgive him and release these emotions by allowing justice to take over.

Every input has an output. Every action has a consequence. I decided to make the best out of my pain and live the footprint my father left in my life here on earth. I chose to remember and cherish my father’s memories and always remember the great person he was and the blessing of having had him in my life.

Ever since I got to an age where I understood life, I realized how blessed I truly am. The fact that I still have faith or believe in God is because of a humble man who once took me into his life, giving me the best of him, and expecting absolutely nothing in return. My father had many blessings! He was able to raise me, see me graduate from high school, give me away at my wedding, enjoy three grandkids, and celebrate 29 years of marriage with my mom.

He enjoyed life to the fullest, making the best of every situation, lived a healthy life, and was faithful to his beliefs, but most importantly, he lived them (his belief).

It’s a long road ahead of us, including hearings, trials, and court dates, but I’m at peace. I know who my father was and that grants me serenity.Now, I feel for this young kid. My father isn’t here, and nothing will ever bring him back. However, this kid’s life was just beginning, and now it is over with this one choice. As long as he lives, there’s still hope, and I truly hope he changes his ways, reflects, and learns that he still has a chance to change and make a difference.

There’s no way I’m ever going to let anyone take away the blessing and impact my father’s life had on me and will continue to live through me. If you ever feel discouraged or need to talk, I’m here for you – you, who has been in this deep pain and don’t think anyone will ever understand. Don’t feel bad if there are days where you don’t feel like going on with your life. Mourning is important. However, let me remind you that your loved one would love to see you smile again, to see you going on in life remembering the best of them, encouraging others who might have lost someone in such a matter.

Maybe we will never find answers; perhaps we will. Closure might feel impossible because our loved ones will always be present in our lives in some shape or form. It won’t get easier or less painful, but why not make something positive with our anger and pain. Face the reality that you’re still here on earth

Let’s make a difference in this world. We as survivors can gather our pain to let others know it’s not impossible to live life remembering our loved ones. Let’s embrace who they were here on earth by leaving a footprint and making a difference.

Anyone who has lost a loved one in such a tragic way will be impacted for the rest of their life. In such a way, they’re never going to be the same. Like me, they might not smile the way they used to or be the person they were before this impact, but as long as I live, I want to be the voice that shares.

We are not alone.

I want to be here for anyone who feels lonely because they have been left to grieve on their own. People may have thought you “needed your space,” which we do, but there is a time for everything. We need time to cry, time to laugh, but also time to feel supported. 

Please know, I understand you, I feel you, and I’m with you. Learning to live without your loved one is scary. That emptiness, that missing part of you, that phone call, text, voice, holidays, and other gatherings will never be filled. I know that everything reminds you of them. Sometimes it feels like it’s just a dream, or they just left temporarily. I have had to learn this is forever.

As Survivors, we never had the privilege of preparing ourselves for this loss. It’s okay to feel scared to move on. It’s hard, but it’s not impossible to live life and embrace the memory of our loved ones. Little by little, remember only you have control over your thoughts, emotions, and actions. Love yourself so you can love those around you. It’s easy to hurt those who love us, but we do it unconsciously, and that’s okay. What’s not okay is to live a long time hurting others because we’re hurting. It’s time to find ourselves and continue living, finding something that helps us heal.

Homicide Survivors is a big step and truly helps. It helped me personally to process my emotions. It showed me that I’m not alone and there’s someone who can hear me. They listened to my questions and my thoughts. I could be myself and open up in every way. It’s a bittersweet moment meeting great people through these circumstances. It’s okay to want to shut yourself off from people for some time, but I encourage you not to lose yourself in the pain.

In loving memory of Jose Mendoza Martinez  09/25/1959 – 01/10/2021

 

Help us meet our fundraising goal of $6,000 for families impacted by homicide, now until August 13th. HSI is one of the charities participating in A Community Thrives, a program that supports community improvement ideas with grants of up to $100K.

No matter how much you give, every dollar counts in helping us reach our goal.

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