via Unsplash

via Unsplash

Five years ago today, I lost my grandfather. Popi was one of the most important people in my life. He helped raise my sister and me. They say it takes a village to raise a child. We had my parents and my grandparents.

When Popi was diagnosed with cancer, I didn’t want to believe that it would eventually take him from us. I was in denial the entire time, until he was gone. Only then did I snap out of it. Heartbroken and raw, I struggled to accept the truth.

My grandfather wasn’t truly gone, though. He appeared in my dreams. A monarch butterfly—his favorite—kept visiting my family. His spirit, as my Noni kept telling me, lived on.

I can’t pretend to know what happens in the afterlife, but I do know one thing for sure. Real love is forever. It doesn’t die. Though my grandfather could be rough around the edges, he fiercely loved his family. The tender moments when he would hug me and tell me he loved me will stay with me forever. Sure, he was stubborn about some things, but he adored us all—especially his grandchildren.

I know that, if he were with us now, he would be so proud of all of us.