Keeping Their Memory Alive

It’s hard to believe that it has been 14 months since I lost Rudy, my brother, tragically in a car accident on December 30, 2016.

Rudy, wearing a blue t-shirt and nametag, about to eat a Farrell's ice cream sundae on his birthday

It’s so strange when a single date holds so much weight and power over us. We will never forget the day we lost the one we love, the smell of the air, the feel of the weather, our surroundings. What we may not pay as much attention to are all the little things we do to keep our beloved’s memory alive.

Two months after Rudy passed, I decided to get a tattoo with his initials and two “skullconuts”, one a little bigger, the other wearing a blue hibiscus. It was us. It was a reminder that even though Rudy’s not here physically, he’s still with me and will forever be my big brother watching out for me.

Photo of Alyssa's tattoo --"skullconuts". The one on the left represents Rudy; the one on the right is smaller and has a flower in its hair. It represents Alyssa. REF 83 is below the figures.

Last fall, our family organized a trip to the “Rise Festival”, a lantern festival in Nevada, in honor of Rudy. It was an amazing and beautiful event to be part of, both emotional and healing. We decorated lanterns, wrote special messages to release to Rudy, writing our aspirations, fears and struggles. It was so therapeutic, and to do it all together as a family was even more special. Although participating in events like this makes the void more prominent, I felt Rudy’s presence, and it gave me a chance to feel close to him again. The ceremony was beautiful to witness and amazing to be part of.

Alyssa holding a photo of Rudy with the caption at the top that says "In loving memory of Rudy Fuentes". The word RISE can be seen in the background.

Alyssa and her family at the Rise Lantern ceremony

Continue to do the things you loved to do together. In the beginning, it may feel as if it’s too hard or a bad idea, but it’s another way to feel that sense of closeness, to fill the void momentarily. One of Rudy’s and my favorite things to bond over was Marvel movies and Star Wars movies. The first Star Wars movie I saw without Rudy was so hard. I cried during the opening credits, and all these people kept looking at me like I was crazy. But at some point during the movie, a sense of calmness came over me. It felt as though Rudy was with me. And that’s why I continue to do the things we loved to do together. I know that somewhere Rudy is smiling and enjoying it from afar.

Alyssa holding a photo of Rudy with "In loving memory of Rudy Fuentes" at the top in front of a post of "The Last Jedi"

The first holiday without Rudy was SO hard. I didn’t want to do anything. Why should I celebrate? What was there to celebrate? Rudy was missing. The holidays are a time when families get to be together and are grateful to have that time together. But for me, the holidays are just a reminder of all that I have lost. The anniversary of Rudy’s death is just five days after Christmas. It was too hard. I wanted to skip the holidays all together. And that was my plan until my mom came up with an amazing idea. She put a Christmas tree up for Rudy outside our house and asked all of our family and friends to make or buy an ornament for him — something that reminded them of Rudy or had a little story behind it. We weren’t expecting too many people to participate but people loved the idea and came up with some amazing ornaments for him. We started receiving ornaments in the mail and then people starting showing up to help decorate the tree from Thanksgiving to Christmas. “Rudy’s Tree” came out so beautifully and wound up making the holidays bearable.

Rudy's tree with Christmas lights and a sign in front that says "Rudy's Tree"

The most important and easiest way to keep our loved ones’ memories alive is just to talk about them, to speak their names, to tell their stories and reminisce. As hard as it is at times, it always brings a smile to my face. My niece was only four years old when we lost Rudy. I don’t want her to forget him. I would hate for her to not remember who her godfather was. She is the reason that it’s so important to me to keep his memory live, to keep all of his pictures out so that she will never forget his stories, his face, his beautiful life.

Everyone always tells you that you need to live for them because they are no longer here to live this life. But don’t forget to live for yourself as well. Rudy loved to travel, to see new places and to eat somewhere new; he was such a foodie. Before I lost him, I didn’t travel too much, aside from the occasional trip to Vegas. But this past year, I have started to travel. I even got on a plane for the first time. One thing I can do for both myself and Rudy is to travel to see my favorite band. It’s morphed into my tribute to Rudy. At least once a year, I will take a trip to see my band in a different state at a different venue. I’m doing what he loved and what I love. It’s like being together. And everywhere I go, I carry Rudy’s picture with me. It’s like we’re taking these trips together. I am experiencing life more just as he did. All for Rudy and me combined. How much more perfect can that be?

Rudy's photo in front of a mountain with a group of people below

Living life for Rudy and me has been an experience in itself. This loss has taught me so much about  myself. I am strong. I am capable, even when I am at my lowest, even in my weakest moments. We have to keep pounding for another day is another battle.

Alyssa with her friends at a concert


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