During the first week in March, The Montclarion will be publishing content related to the two-year commemoration of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic and the effect it has had on Montclair State University’s campus community #Since2020.
If someone asked me how my life has been since the coronavirus (COVID-19) took over our lives, I would tell them it’s been terrible. I lost the three most important people in my life — my dad and two great-uncles — all in the span of one year.
When the pandemic started, I was ready to take all the precautions on how to stay safe throughout, but I wasn’t mentally prepared to attend three funerals.
On April 25, 2020, I lost my great-uncle, Wilson Fernandez, a month after we all went into quarantine. A stroke caused his passing. It was unexpected, as everyone in the family thought he was well and healthy, including himself.
The saddest part was I never got the chance to say goodbye to him. I went into quarantine a week before his death because I had tested positive for COVID-19. I never knew the last time I saw him, outside his front porch, was going to be my last memory of him.
In self-quarantine, grieving all alone over the death of my great-uncle, Wilson, my mental health started to go south.
I was slowly turning into a different person, someone who started to see darkness ahead and would never look forward to the next day. My great-uncle’s funeral took place a week after his passing. It was my first time attending a funeral since COVID-19 started.
The funeral home had a limited capacity for his viewing; only 30 people were allowed to go inside at a time and not everyone was allowed to go inside the cemetery for his burial. Only his wife and brother were allowed, while everyone else had to stand at a distance.
I thought this was going to be the last and only funeral I would have to attend for a while.
But then came Feb. 16, 2021, the day I lost my father, Carlos Fernandez. The day I lost him was the day my life did a 180. I thought COVID-19 and the passing of my great-uncle were enough to affect me mentally, but losing my father was the last straw.
My dad died due to an unexpected stroke at 42 years old, the same way my great-uncle passed.
He had so much to live for: seeing all three of his children graduate from university, walking me down the aisle at my wedding, our father-daughter dance and meeting his future grandkids, but life had other plans for him.
My dad’s viewing was different compared to my great-uncle’s viewing. The funeral home was not as strict with the capacity in the room. At least 80 people were in the room or waiting outside until people left.
It was one of the most memorable days of my life. I saw how many people came and it made me realize how amazing my father really was.
I’ll never forget sitting in the first row with my mom and two little brothers when I saw a white rose fall from the bouquet to the floor. My mom and I were stunned. We took that as a sign that my dad was in the room.
Although it’s been a year since my dad’s passing, it hurts knowing I won’t hear his laugh, see the beautiful smile I inherited or hear him call me, “Mi Princesa Bella” anymore.
Losing my dad, who was my best friend, twin, companion and essentially everything a father could be to his daughter felt like someone took my whole heart away from me. I was ready to give up on school, work, friends, family and most of all, give up on myself.
Since I didn’t have the person who motivated me every day, I didn’t see the point in living anymore. I was ready to give up on my life but I didn’t realize the mess I would’ve left behind.
After three months of agony, I decided to finally seek the help I needed in order to better my mental health and finally go back to being the happy me.
When I thought I had already been through enough, life decided to put me through another heartbreak. On Dec. 14, 2021, I lost my great-uncle, Jose Vincent Penafil, to a heart attack.
Losing my great-uncle, Jose, who was the comedian of the family, just a few days before the holidays, was another blow to my heart. I had the chance to say goodbye to him and tell him to say “hi” to my dad for me. He left behind his wife and two children who he loved so much and who I now look after because I went through the same pain they are currently experiencing.
His viewing was outside due to the number of people that showed up, but everyone was allowed to be close to one another. I won’t forget the moment I touched his casket telling him, “please take care of my dad up there, your favorite nephew.”
That being said, 2020-2021 was one of the most emotional years not only for me but for my family as we had to say goodbye to our three loved ones, who made family reunions memorable and always brought jokes to the table. My family and I wouldn’t have made it if it wasn’t for the amazing love and support we had from everyone who kept us in their prayers and thoughts.
I know from this moment forward I will dedicate all my accomplishments to my three handsome guardian angels who are looking after me. I promise I won’t lose myself along the way.