The smell of incense filled the air, as my eyes started tearing. I couldn’t focus and couldn’t sit still. I could see the pain and anguish in my mother’s eyes, and heard the silent sniffles from family members all around me. I truly ached to run as hard and as fast as I could, but my mother was holding me tight, trying to get me to sit still. As the incense smoke cleared, I saw my nine-year-old sister trying to be brave. She was trying to hold back the tears that she so much wanted to release. Like a candle glowing in the dark, she was the only thing I wanted to look upon. I wanted to will her tears away, to make the pain go away, but was helpless, as was my mother. Then like the candle distinguishing allowing the smoke to rise, she allowed the tears to flow. She had let her guard down and cried uncontrollably. However, with true bravery she straightened her shoulders, wiped her face, and performed the duties of an altar server to perfection.
Now, it was my turn. I needed to process up the church aisle to show honor to my Grunda, but unfortunately my body was out of control. My cousin, Jean, and my aunts carefully, with reverence, carried the wine and hosts to the altar. My mother was carrying me. If only everyone knew how badly I wanted to perform as bravely as my sister, but I couldn’t. I felt ashamed and embarrassed as I reached my seat. I know Grunda was looking down on me and thinking, it is okay, Antonio, I know you tried, but did everyone know I tried? Then, as the incense rose again, I felt a peace that can only come from God. My Grunda was gone, but she was with the God she loved so much and her spirit would remain with me forever. To this day, the powerful scent of incense burning reminds me of that moment of indescribable serenity in the church my Grunda adored.