How do you even begin to attempt to tell the story of a person that was taken way too soon by such an ugly/deadly disease? Unless you’ve been through it personally, the answer to that question is that you can’t. But, I guess the closest thing to knowing what it feels like is to watch someone you’re close to or just love/care about go through it.
It is with a huge amount of sadness that I say this is exactly what happened to a very special person in my family, my aunt Stephanie Melendez. She had been fighting and going back and forth with this terrible illness for years. She was fighting until her very last breathe was taken on October 18, 2017 at 4:30 am. Stephanie was 33-years-old; daughter, sister, wife, and most importantly, mother, to three beautiful girls.
I’ve been thinking about what to say about this for nearly five days. These things/situations are always the worse; it’s like you want to be helpful and supportive but what do you even say? Pretty much nothing you say or do is going to help the person or people in this situation, they just lost a loved one to cancer. I think that’s always the worse part, wanting to be helpful and do all these things to attempt to console them, but feeling so helpless at the same time because you know nothing is really going to help them or make them feel better except getting that person back. Well that’s been my issue since Wednesday morning. So many things I wish I could say and do, but nothing feels right or anywhere near good enough.
I hate the fakeness that tends to come out when people pass away and during funerals. Suddenly people you haven’t seen or spoken to in years starts to come out of nowhere with all these words and feelings, but where was all this when the person was alive? Obviously it’s fine and one thing to express your condolences towards the person’s family and passing, but there’s a difference between that and coming out of left field making it seem like you guys were so much closer than what you really were. It’s not authentic and you’re only lying to yourself. That being said, I’m not going to pretend like I was super close to Steph, because I wasn’t, but I am going to say how I feel about her and everything that’s happened.
I want to do it in a way that describes her but also as a letter to her in a way that says everything I want to and wish I could’ve said to her.
Stephanie had her issues, and she made mistakes, but who doesn’t? There were a ton of things that used to be said about her BECAUSE of the mistakes she’s made, but you know what? She was an amazing freaking mother, and she always put her girls first no matter what. My thought is, you can make all the mistakes in the world, as long as you don’t involve or harm your kids in the process and step up when it comes down to it, that’s all that would REALLY matter. I used to hear a lot of things, facts, rumors, whatever you want to consider it, when they all still lived in New York, but I really didn’t care for 3 major reasons; 1. It was never my business what she did or didn’t do behind closed doors, 2. Her girls were always happy, healthy and taken care of, and 3. When she was around me she was always so sweet and genuine.
You know extended families when you see each other after a long time of not, they ask you the usual questions; how are you? How’s school? Are you in a relationship now? How’s your boyfriend/girlfriend? But it’s just typical stuff, so you don’t ever actually know if they care or simply asking because they feel like they should for the sake of conversation. But with Stephanie, it was different, she would ask these kinds of questions but there was something about it that you could just tell she actually cared about my responses, she always seemed interested and I loved that. And this meant the world to me because I could tell when others would ask and not really care so much. She also taught me how to hold a baby and change their diapers; with her supervision at certain times and even a lot of times without it, I know she trusted me with her girls because she knew how much I loved them and vice versa how much they loved me.
When Stephanie, her husband and their girls moved to Florida I was so unbelievably sad. I don’t even remember saying bye to them. But it was sad because I was going to be going from seeing them pretty much every Saturday, to really not seeing them at all. They were only in Orlando, so it wasn’t THAT far obviously, but it was far enough, especially since it wasn’t like I was going to be able to travel back and forth to see them. In general, it just sucked. But I guess that’s why social media is so convenient, because we were able to keep up with each others’ lives. On and off through the years I would comment on her snapchats of the girls, and how much I missed them all and wanted to visit. She would tell me she missed me too, so did the girls and that I would always be welcomed to stay with them if I did visit. That always made me feel good and happy to hear. I’m actually jealous of my brother because he was able to go over there and visit them twice; technically it was for school/work but nonetheless he got to go stay with them and spend time with them for a few days, that which I never got to do. I had wanted to for a few years now but for one reason or another it never got to happen.
When I first found out you had been diagnosed with cervical cancer I was shocked and scared for you. I don’t remember who told me or how I found out exactly, but my first thoughts were definitely shocked, nervous for you, and the girls. Now, when I found out how long you were actually dealing with this, but hadn’t gotten any treatment, I’m not going to lie, I was mad at you because I couldn’t figure out how you could’ve known about this but not done anything to treat it. I realize now that was selfish of me, because of course it’s cancer so you were probably terrified. You also had a baby that was dealing with a heart condition that you put before yourself which was typical for you, so it all made sense afterwards.
When I found out you were in remission a few months ago and saw that video if you ringing the bell and reading the sign, I can’t tell you how happy it made me, I watched it about 2-3 times and couldn’t help but have a smile on my face. It was over, you were in the clear and weren’t going to have to worry about any of that again…or so we thought. Unfortunately, about two months later, you relapsed, but it wasn’t an ordinary type of relapse, it was as if this time around it came back for vengeance because it was back and hit harder than ever; but that didn’t seem to matter to you because you were prepared to fight it just like you did the first time….our super woman. And that’s exactly what you did was fight from that point on.
I remember finding out you had relapsed, I was sad again but for some reason not as worried about it, because I knew you had beat it once before, and you could do it again. Things got ugly and serious so fast after that. I’m pretty sure it was Jimito, my cousin, who told me about 2-3 weeks ago that your kidneys were failing so it was really just a matter of days/weeks now. When I heard that I was beyond the point of being at a loss for words. My first instinct was to reach out to Naisha (her oldest daughter). But what the hell was I going to say? Sorry that your mom is dying? Nothing I said would make her feel better or sound like anything she didn’t already know/hear. So, I opted to just being real and ask how she was doing REALLY, she responded, “I’m okay, no one wants to see their mom going through this.” That alone was enough to break my heart and send me to tears. But I wanted to keep talking to her, I was determined to somehow or another either take her mind off things for a little while or somehow make her feel better. So we started talking about Demi Lovato.
Now, if you know me you know that I absolutely LOVE Demi Lovato and even that is probably an understatement. Recently (through her snapchats) I’ve noticed that she’s been liking her more and more, and (although it’s probably not the case) I like to think I had something to do with that lol. So I started to talk to her about Demi. We spoke about how much we liked her, why we liked her, her documentary and how good it was, etc. She ended up telling me how much she wished she could go to one of her concerts, and with me, so I told her we would, to one of her shows for her tour next year and I fully intend on making that happen for her if it means making her feel just a tiny bit better and putting a smile on her face.
Fast-forward to a few days after this, we kept hearing about how worse you were getting and my mom and I were thinking/talking about how long it had been since the last time we spoke to you. We knew that although we wanted nothing more than for you to get better, the unfortunate reality was that your time was limited, and we wanted to able to speak to you and hear your voice one last time; so we called you. Actually, we called Naisha to hear her voice for a bit too first and see how she was, then we asked to speak to you, which was a little difficult because this was at the point where you were at your weakest so you could barely talk or move on your own anymore. My mom did most of the talking because, again, I had no idea what to say. My mom said hi to you, wished you well, and told you to keep fighting. With what little strength you had, you said hi to us followed by a series of “mhmms,” because that’s all that you could muster. At one point, I finally said hi and you said “hi…” then asked my mom, “who is that?” and she told you who I was and you were like “Ohhhh hi mama!” You sounded really happy/excited, which made me really happy. Then my mom asked you to sing something for her because she knew you loved music. You were quiet for like 2 minutes, then started humming for a few minutes before falling quiet again from being in and out of sleep. My mom started to end the conversation with you, she said she loved you, then I said bye I love you…and then I broke down. I started crying because deep down I had a feeling that was going to be the last time I ever spoke to you and I couldn’t believe it. It really was heartbreaking…And then the conversation ended.
Roughly two weeks after that conversation was when it happened. The ugly and disgusting monster that is cancer beat her, and as a result, took her life. It was Wednesday morning, I had gotten woken up by a phone call on the house phone, which I found weird for two reasons; 1. It was 7 o’clock in the morning, and 2. We rarely get calls on the house phone, let alone at that time of morning. The person left a message on the machine, but I didn’t hear who it was or what they had to say, I just know it was really weird. So I went about my morning getting ready for work, and then I saw my phone light up with a text from my mom, and for some reason that was it, that solidified the nervous feeling I got in the pit of my stomach. I just knew, or had a feeling, it was THAT text. And sure enough when I opened it, it was exactly what I feared. Stephanie had officially taken her last breath at 4:30 that morning. When I found out I couldn’t believe it, I broke down crying and shaking for about 10 minutes. This couldn’t be real, she couldn’t have actually died. She was supposed to get better and be okay again for Pipo and the girls. What’s going to happen now for them? So many questions and concerns running through my mind, but it wasn’t about me, it was about them and all the love and support they were going to need from this point forward, and now here we are….
Stephanie:I love you. I’m so sorry and sad that you are gone, but so unbelievably happy that you’re finally at peace and no longer in pain. You were an amazing mother to the girls, but you never have to worry about them being taken care of. And although it hadn’t happened in a few years, I’m going to miss the little talks on Saturdays we had when you guys still lived in New York. I’m so sorry I couldn’t be in Florida with everyone to pay my respects in person, but I’m really hoping somehow this makes up for that. 😔🙏🏼
Pipo & Girls: I love you guys so much ❤️❤️. I’m so sorry for your guys loss. Nobody should ever have to deal with this kind of loss, heartbreak, and pain. But you guys are all so unbelievably strong and loved 💪🏼❤️. None of you guys will ever have to worry about being alone or anything along those lines. But I guess that’s what’s great about having a big family, all of the love and support that comes along with that. I don’t want to say that everything’s going to be alright, because 1. I’ve never had to go through anything even remotely close to this before to know that, and 2. It’s not and won’t be for a long time if we’re being completely honest, and I know it may be hard to see and believe right now, but she really is in a better place right now, and this way she will literally always be with you guys. Your guys own personal guardian angel ❤️. And she’s probably up there in Heaven flying high with mamita right now watching over all of us ❤️🙏🏼
To The Rest of My Family: Let us please use this as a reason to become closer as a family, not more separated the way we’ve kind of all been the past few years. As cliche as it sounds, I think this situation can be used as a way to show/tell us to be more appreciative and mindful of our loved ones before it’s too late, because you truly never know when it’s going to be the last time you speak to or see your family or friends.😪
“The most beautiful people we have known are those who have known defeat, known suffering, known struggle, known loss, and have found their way out of the depths.
These persons have an appreciation, a sensitivity, and an understanding of life that fill them with compassion, gentleness, and a deep loving concern.
Beautiful people do not just happen.”- Elizabeth Kubler-Ross 💪🏼❤️🙏🏼🎗
I know that the majority of you who will read this that aren’t family, don’t know her or her family, but any little bit can and will help them during this difficult time. Click the link below to donate anything that you can.