10th annual Mormon Lit Blitz Call for Submissions

Since 2012, the annual Mormon Lit Blitz contest has encouraged people to use Latter-day Saint ideas, values, beliefs, or imagery in very short stories, essays, poems, or other forms of writing. An anthology of contest finalists over the contest’s first five years is available here. We are now accepting submission for our tenth annual contest. 

Submission details: 

Submissions for the Tenth Annual Mormon Lit Blitz writing contest are due on 30 April 2021 to everydaymormonwriter@gmail.com. Submitted works may be in any genre so long as they are under 1,000 words and designed to resonate in some way with a Latter-day Saint audience. Previously published material and simultaneous submissions are acceptable. Up to three submissions are allowed per author.

Finalists will be posted on the Mormon Artist magazine website (lit.mormonartist.net) in June. At the conclusion of the Lit Blitz, readers will vote for their favorite pieces, and a $100 prize will be given to the audience choice winner. All finalists will later be published in a print anthology, and their authors will become eligible for our new book development program.

To facilitate the judging process, we prefer to receive submissions as .doc, .docx, or .pdf attachments with the author’s name and contact information in the body of the email but not included in the attached text. Please email submissions and any questions you may have to everydaymormonwriter@gmail.com.

As a writer, you retain the right to republish your piece in your own collections or other venues. By submitting, authors give us nonexclusive rights to publish their work electronically and in a future print anthology (with an anthology copy as payment). As stated above, previously published work is fine if you still have the rights to the piece and if it meets the above contest requirements.

Stay in touch: 

For updates about the 2021 contest and other Mormon Lit Lab news, follow the Mormon Lit Blitz Facebook page or sign up for our email list.

If you would like to support our efforts to create space for Mormon literary work, please consider making a monthly donation pledge on our Patreon account.

Thank you for your interest in Mormon Literature!

Giving Birth to Books: A Call for Proposals

In Nauvoo, women like Ann Carling, Vienna Jacques, and Patty Bartlett Sessions were called to an important work: serving as midwives for the Latter-day Saints gathering from different backgrounds to build new communities and a new identity together. As the Saints crossed the Plains and settled in the West, midwives and others cared for the needs of Zion’s mothers and regularly met in council to discuss women’s and maternal health. Though many converts had left networks of family and community to settle among the Saints, pioneer women were not alone in the work of giving birth.

At the Mormon Lit Lab, we take inspiration from our forebears in the faith. Though a book hardly has the same value as a baby, we recognize that opportunities for support and counsel and ease any creative process. Over the past nine years, we’ve created opportunities for dozens writers to create short work that reflects their identity as Latter-day Saints or plays with Mormon themes and heritage in some way through the Mormon Lit Blitz contest. We’ve connected contest finalists with thousands of readers, who have seen new possibilities for Mormon literature in their work. At the release party for The Mormon Lit Blitz: The First Five Years, we made an announcement about a next step in our group’s work as literary midwives. We are launching a new program to support past Mormon Lit Blitz finalists who want to develop a book.  

Our literary midwife program will consist of three main elements:
1. Each accepted writer will attend a group orientation and get a one-on-one follow up planning session with an experienced Mormon Lit Lab advisor, culminating in approval of a process and budget plan.
2. We will match writers with a sponsor or sponsors who provide a small budget, typically up to $1000, to cover costs associated with the book’s production and promotion. Grants will be dispersed in stages, according to the pre-approved plan.
3. We will hold a series of online council meetings to provide guidance on different elements of writing, publishing, and promotion. Attendance at each will be optional, based on writers’ plan and sense of their own needs.

Writers interested in publishing under the Mormon Lit Lab brand (along with our test crop of Grace Like WaterSong of Names, and the Mormon Lit Blitz anthology) will have that option at the end of the development process. Publishing with us is not, however, a requirement. Writers who are accepted into a given year’s development class retain all rights to their work and are free to submit their book to other publishers. Our interest is helping books come into being.  

Through March 31, 2021, we will be accepting book proposals to be considered for inclusion in our inaugural development class. Only past finalists from a contest sponsored by the Mormon Lit Lab are eligible to apply. Book proposals should consist of brief responses to the following four prompts:
1. Tell us about the book you’d like to write.
2. What does this book offer to Latter-day Saint readers or others interested in Mormon ideas, imagery, and experience?
3. What parts of the writing, publication, or promotion process are you most interested in getting help with?
4. What is your anticipated timeline for completing the manuscript?
If they have already started a manuscript, writers may also attach a sample. 

If you are interested in making a small contribution to support our general book development efforts, you can make a monthly contribution on our Patreon account or send a one-time donation by PayPal to everydaymormonwriter@gmail.com. If you are interested in making a larger contribution and would like the chance to be matched to a project you feel strongly about, please reach out to us via email or Facebook message

Anthology Online Release Party

If you haven’t already seen, we wanted to share the good news. Our Kickstarter ended today, after funding early–and passing both of our stretch goals!

We plan to start shipping the books from the printer in the next couple days, to both contributors and Kickstarter backers. For those in the U.S., at least, books should arrive before Christmas. Fingers crossed for the rest…though it might be Three Kings’ Day.

In the meantime, we really wish there were a way for us to gather writers and readers together from the many cities, countries, and continents in which you live into one physical room to celebrate, but the constraints of space and a pandemic make that impossible.

A Zoom call is hardly the same, but we’d love to see your faces, hear a sample reading to represent each of the seven contests in the book, and take time for your questions and comments. We’ll be gathering virtually at 7 pm MST on Thursday, December 10. We’re asking people to RSVP: you can pick up the call link on the RSVP form. (The form even has a “maybe” button, so if you might be able to attend, still RSVP.)

Look forward to seeing some of you, sharing with you, and hopefully hearing a little about your favorite Lit Blitz pieces or memories!

-Nicole and James Goldberg, Mormon Lit Blitz editors

Anthology Kickstarter!

Yesterday, we launched a Kickstarter campaign for the anthology of finalists from the first five years of the Mormon Lit Blitz and related themed contests. Eric Jepson, who has work in the book, reminded me today to put up a post here. Between the time I started and the time I went to copy the link, the campaign reached its funding goal!

That means you can now pre-order a copy knowing we’ll be sending it out in early December. You can also help us reach our first stretch goal: funding enough to get started on a second anthology next year, covering 2017-2021.

Thank you to everyone who contributed. It means a lot to us to know these stories will be finding a good home on your shelves. We’ve loved all the work that’s come out of the contest and are glad to have it in print. These pieces stand the test of time.

Palabras de Mormón contest winners in El Pregonero de Deseret

This summer, we published English translations alongside original Spanish texts for the top three stories in the Palabras de Mormón contest, which we co-sponsored with the Cofradía de Letras Mormonas. All the winners, including several unpublished honorable mentions, were just released in the beautifully designed fall issue of El Pregonero de Deseret.  Take a look!

Second Runner-up: The memory of that rain I do not remember by Santiago Vázquez

Read the original version in Spanish.

“Palabras de Mormón” is a Spanish-language Mormon literature contest, which was a collaboration between the incredible organization, Cofradía de Letras Mormonas, and the Mormon Lit Lab. The winners received cash prizes and will be published in the Spanish-language magazine, El Pregonero, as well as here on the Mormon Lit Blitz.

We are pleased to present the second runner-up for the contest, the flash fiction story “The memory of that rain I do not remember” by Santiago Vázquez.

The memory of that rain I do not remember

Santiago Vázquez
Translation by Gabriel González Núñez

Flower petals then began raining toward the black depths of the heavens. The fragile, purple leaves rose upward until they vanished into infinity or melded into the trembling brightness of the stars.

“That will be your new home,” he said, pointing to one of them.

“My new home…,” I repeated without speaking.

“Are you afraid?”

“A little,” I admitted and noticed that some of the petals floated in place as if not wanting to ascend. “I will not remember any of this, right?”

“No. And yet you will. You will remember it outside of your memories. You will remember it when the rain, which is so different over there, touches your skin. You will know that somewhere very far away and yet very close, on the other side of the rain, at the origin, is where I will be. I will be the memory of this rain you will not remember.”

Segundo accésit: Recuerdo de la lluvia que no recuerdo — Santiago Vázquez

Read the English translation here.

Recuerdo de la lluvia que no recuerdo

Santiago Vázquez

Y entonces comenzó a llover pétalos de flores hacia el negro abismo del cielo. Los frágiles copos púrpuras ascendían hasta perderse en el infinito o fusionarse con el trémulo fulgor de las estrellas.

—Aquel será tu nuevo hogar —me dijo señalando una de ellas.

—Mi nuevo hogar… —repetí sin palabras.

—¿Tienes miedo?

—Un poco —admití mientras advertía que algunos pétalos flotaban sin decidirse a ascender—. No voy a recordar nada de todo esto, ¿verdad?

—No. Y a la vez sí. Lo recordarás fuera de la memoria. Lo sentirás cuando te toque la lluvia que allí será tan diferente. Sabrás que muy lejos y muy cerca, del otro lado de la lluvia, en el origen, estaré yo. Seré el recuerdo de la lluvia que no recordarás.

First Runner-up: Birch by Jonatan I. Walton

Read the original version in Spanish.

“Palabras de Mormón” is a Spanish-language Mormon literature contest, which was a collaboration between the incredible organization, Cofradía de Letras Mormonas, and the Mormon Lit Lab. The winners received cash prizes and will be published in the Spanish-language magazine, El Pregonero, as well as here on the Mormon Lit Blitz.

We are pleased to present the first runner-up of the contest, the story “Birch” by Jonatan I. Walton.

Birch

Jonatan I. Walton
Translation by Dan Call

She fell like all the others. She tumbled between weeds, dry leaves, and humid earth until arriving at the base of the valley, where she had grown together with her sisters. The wind in that region carried her a little further, separating her even more from her family; nature’s cycle gave her the chance to carve out a spot in the rich earth and grow. Time wrought upon her the same as on anything. The seed sprouted, and as she saw the sun, was able to recognize who had shone upon her all that warmth she felt prior to birth.

She felt happy. She was alive. She understood that life was hard, and that only a few manage to overcome, with help, the earthen and clay barrier.  In her case, the invisible wind had carried her toward the light and warmth of the sun; and placed her in a wide space so she could freely rise up.

But many questions intruded on her existence, doubts she couldn’t answer on her own: why her and not some other seed? If everyone met the requirements, and they all had the same shot. She’d grown together with her siblings in the same bouquet until she had become a seed. If they were all the same, why had only a few made it? Why her?

An emerald moth told her that we all have reasons for growing and living; everyone and everything has a fundamental purpose in life, a cycle to complete and a mission. “I, for example, eat your leaves and you provide me with sustenance,” he told her while biting into one of her leaves with his mandibles. “Perhaps you think I’m hurting you, but your leaves will soon grow back, you’ll go on living and I’ll go on my mothy way.”

As she kept growing, the anxiety made her tense. To what end was she born? Why was she so far from her siblings? The seasons dressed and undressed her, and she grew into a robust, strong tree. Thousands of insects and hundreds of birds lived between her leaves and bark for ages.

Painted men, with clothing made of animal skins and feathers passed by her, and she witnessed colonizing wars. She thought that perhaps one of them would burn her to death, or some arrow or bullet would go right through her. But none of that happened; only a young soldier with a strange accent laid down beneath her to recover some strength, before going on his way. “Maybe I’ll end up as pulp for paper, or printer’s ink, o part of a shovel or a rifle, or some doll, maybe. Maybe an herbologist will take and turn me into part of some cure.” She thought like this while the earth spun, aging her bit by bit.

Now she was an adult but couldn’t (for some unknown reason) have offspring. She saw that her siblings were growing, and that some were being used as firewood and fences: a group of settlers had invaded those parts, and cabins sprung up as forests were cut down. But she went on unnoticed. The English arrived and the climate turned colder and colder, and her tree-heart felt heavier.

The birds told her that in other regions her species was held as sacred and that her distant relatives, able to withstand the great frosts, formed vast expanses of forest. But there, she was just another tree, looking like any other tree, not standing out in any way.

The sun came and went, the wind shook her from time to time, when she felt depressed. Her dreams of being someone important disappeared, like her autumn leaves. Time passed; she was old and large.

It was night or day, she couldn’t recall. It rained hard. All was so dark that it wasn’t possible to make out the stars or anything else. The furious wind blew, strong and threatening. The frightened birch asked the wind to calm down, but it couldn’t hear her and seemed to rain down even more copiously. Suddenly she heard a crack; her trunk, her support, had split, causing her to noisily fall to the earth. The birds flew off, avoiding being crushed, towards the safety of closer trees. She knew her roots would die. A drop of syrupy sap fell, a tear and reproach. She cried.

The sun kept coming out, drying her out. Many times the children from nearby farms flashed smile after smile as they played hide and seek around her dry trunk. The years went by, and her trunk dried to the point where it was nothing more than hollow bark. No saplings, no belonging to anything useful. Far from her family. She was born without motives, lived without motives, now she was dying without motives.

Months later she heard hurried footsteps. A young man with light brown hair knelt frightfully before her, in the hollow part. He seemed tired, but certain about what he was about to do. He carried with him something large, rectangular, and heavy, covered in a thin, worn out brown leather. It was a beautiful day, still morning. A light gust of wind lifted the leather just enough to let her see what the young man was bearing, as the sunlight revealed golden sparkles: they were thin sheets of gold, beautiful and held together by three rings, also made of gold. It looked like a huge book with engravings carved on its pages.

In her own way, the birch smiled like she hadn’t smiled in ages. She knew that everything which had happened, everything she had suffered, all that longing brought her to this shard of fleeting time.

The young man carefully hid the golden plates in the body of the tree, and, stroking the coarse birch, said, “Hide them well, so that they don’t find them.”

The birch smiled happily and died.

 

 

[Note: “Joseph soon learned why Moroni had charged him so strictly to guard the record taken from the hill. No sooner was it rumored that he had the plates, than efforts were made to seize them from him. To preserve them, he first carefully hid them in a hollow birch log.” (Hinckley, Gordon B. [1979], Truth Restored, 2002, p. 13)]

Primer accésit: Abedul — Jonatan I. Walton

Read the English translation here.

Abedul

Jonatan I. Walton

Cayó como todas. Rodó entre malezas, hojas secas y tierra húmeda hasta llegar a la base del valle, donde había crecido junto a sus hermanas. El viento en esa región la llevó un poco más allá, separándola aún más de su familia; y el ciclo de la naturaleza le dio la oportunidad de hacerse un lugar en la rica tierra y crecer.

El tiempo como en todas las cosas pasó. La semilla retoño, y al ver el sol, pudo reconocer quien le brindaba ese calorcito que percibía antes de nacer. Se sintió feliz. Estaba vivo. Entendía que la vida era difícil, y que pocos logran vencer, con ayuda, la barrera de la tierra y la arcilla. En su caso, el viento invisible le había llevado hacia la luz y el calor de sol; y la puso en un lugar amplio para que pudiera elevarse libremente.

Pero varias preguntas invadieron su existencia, dudas que no podía contestar por sí misma: ¿por qué ella y no otra semilla? Si todas cumplían con los requisitos, y todas tenían la misma oportunidad. Se había criado junto a sus hermanas en el mismo ramillete hasta ser semilla. Si eran todas iguales, luego ¿por  qué solo unas pocas y no todas? ¿Por qué ella?

Una polilla esmeralda le dijo que todos tenemos motivos para crecer y vivir; todos los seres y las cosas tiene una función fundamental en la vida, un ciclo que cumplir y una misión.

—Yo, por ejemplo, como tus hojas y tú me sirves de sustento —le dijo mientras mordía una de sus hojas de punta dentada—. Tal vez pienses que te hago daño, pero luego tus hojas se repondrán, tú seguirás viviendo y yo seguiré mi camino de polilla.

A medida que crecía, la espera le ponía tenso. ¿Para qué había nacido? ¿Por qué tan lejos de sus hermanos? Las estaciones lo vestían y lo desvestían, y creció hasta ser un robusto y fuerte árbol. Miles de insectos y cientos de pájaros vivieron entres sus hojas y su corteza por mucho tiempo.

Hombres pintados, con ropa hecha de cueros de animales y plumas pasaron cerca suyo, y fue testigo de guerras colonizadoras. Pensó que tal vez moriría quemado por ellos, o alguna flecha o alguna bala lo atravesaría. Pero no pasó nada de eso; solo un joven soldado de acento extraño se recostó a recobrar fuerzas, y se fue.

«Tal vez sea pasta de papel, o tinta de imprenta, o parte de alguna pala o algún rifle, o alguna muñeca quizás. Tal vez me tome un herbólogo y me convierta en parte de algún remedio». Así pensaba mientras la tierra giraba envejeciéndolo poco a poco.

Ya era adulto, pero no pudo (por alguna razón desconocida) tener progenie. Veía que sus hermanas crecían, y que algunas iban siendo utilizadas para leña y cercos: un grupo de colonos habían invadido esos lugares, y las cabañas aparecían a medida que los bosques eran talados. Pero el seguía sin ser visto. Los ingleses llegaban y el clima se ponía cada vez más frío, y su corazón de árbol, más pesado.

Sabía por pájaros que en otras regiones su especie fue sagrada y que sus parientes lejanos, aptos para soportar grandes heladas, formaban grandes extensiones de bosque. Pero ahí era solo un árbol más, parecido a muchos otros árboles, sin destacarse en nada.

El sol iba y venía, y el viento lo sacudía de tanto en tanto, cuando parecía deprimido. Sus sueños de ser alguien importante desaparecía como sus hojas en otoño. El tiempo pasaba; estaba viejo y grande.

Fue de noche o de día, no recordaba. Llovía fuertemente. Todo estaba tan obscuro que no se distinguían ni estrellas ni nada. El viento enfurecido soplaba fuerte y amenazador. El abedul estaba asustado, pedía al viento que se calmara, pero éste no oía y parecía llover más copiosamente. De pronto escucho un crac: el tronco, su sostén, se había quebrado haciéndolo caer estrepitosamente al suelo. Los pájaros volaron, escapándose de ser aplastados, hacia el refugio de los árboles más cercanos. La raíz moriría, lo sabía. Una gota de la savia miel cayó como lágrima y reproche. Lloraba.

El sol siguió saliendo y secándolo. Los niños de las granjas cercanas le sacaron varias veces alguna que otra sonrisa al jugar a las escondidas en su tronco seco. Los años pasaron, y su tronco se secó al punto de que ya no era más que corteza hueca. Sin hijos, sin formar parte de algo útil. Lejos de su familia. Nació sin motivos, vivió sin motivos, moría sin motivos.

Meses después escuchó pasos apresurados. Un joven de pelo castaño claro se arrodilló asustado frente a él, en la parte hueca. Parecía cansado, pero seguro de lo que estaba por hacer. Llevaba consigo algo grande, cuadrado y pesado, tapado con un fino y gastado cuero marrón. Era un día hermoso y de mañana. El viento en forma de brisa levantó un poco el cuero dejando ver lo que el joven había llevado, y el sol presentó destellos dorados: eran finas hojas de oro, hermosas y sujetadas por tres anillos también de oro. Parecía un enorme libro con grabados tallados en sus páginas.

El abedul a su manera sonrió como no lo hacía en mucho tiempo. Supo que todo lo que había pasado, todo lo que había sufrido, toda esa espera conducía a ese fragmento de tiempo finito.

El joven escondió las planchas de oro en el cuerpo hueco del árbol cuidadosamente, y acariciando al tosco abedul dijo:

—Ocúltalas bien, que ellos no las encuentren.

El abedul sonrió feliz, y murió.

 

 

 

 

[Nota: «José Smith no tardó en darse cuenta del motivo porque Moroni le había recomendado tan estrictamente que protegiera los anales tomados del cerro, pues no bien se esparció el rumor de que él tenía las planchas, empezaron los esfuerzos por quitársela. A fin de preservarlas, primero las escondió cuidadosamente en un tronco hueco de abedul.» (Hinckley, Gordon B. [2002], La verdad restaurada, 2002, pág. 13)]

 

[Note: “Joseph soon learned why Moroni had charged him so strictly to guard the record taken from the hill. No sooner was it rumored that he had the plates, than efforts were made to seize them from him. To preserve them, he first carefully hid them in a hollow birch log.” (Hinckley, Gordon B. [1979], Truth Restored, 2002, p. 13)]

Grand Prize: In the Depths of the Heart by Moramay Alva

Read the original version in Spanish.

“Palabras de Mormón” is a Spanish-language Mormon literature contest, which was a collaboration between the incredible organization, Cofradía de Letras Mormonas, and the Mormon Lit Lab. The winners received cash prizes and will be published in the Spanish-language magazine, El Pregonero, as well as here on the Mormon Lit Blitz.

We are pleased to present the grand prize winner of the contest, the essay “In the Depths of the Heart” by Moramay Alva.

In the Depths of the Heart

Moramay Alva
Translation by Elayne Petterson

What determines whether you love someone? How much time should pass for you to start to love? Does it depend on how much time they lived together? Or on the moments when they lived together? By experience I have discovered that you don’t need to know a person for very long to love them. Some connections are almost instant and lodge themselves in the depths of the heart.

I love family history because it allows me to get to know many relatives, so I was very excited when I found out about my father’s family’s—the Márquezes’—family reunion. I had been searching for information about my great grandfather, Julio Márquez, and this was the perfect opportunity to find out more about him. I didn’t have much time the day of the reunion and could only greet a few relatives. It was the first time I saw Mayel, but we barely spoke. I gave him the research I had gathered, he thanked me, and I left.

A few months later he sent me a message. He had looked over my research, the research I had given him when we met, and he wanted my help. His wife had died a few months ago, and he wasn’t feeling well enough to organize the next reunion. I couldn’t believe that anyone could like family reunions like I did or maybe more and I was extremely happy to be a part of it, so I gladly accepted.

The next time I saw Mayel, he surprised me. We had only seen each other once before, and he greeted me with such familiarity, as though we had known each other our whole lives. A kind of fascination rose up in me and I couldn’t stop watching him. He was almost 50 years old and had a sincere smile; his black hair was speckled with gray, and his eyebrows were dense and black. He had an odd way of speaking to me, with a familiarity I had never felt, even from my close family. He loved family history as much as I did, but he had done more. He organized the biggest family reunion I had ever seen. With his characteristic enthusiasm, Mayel had successfully gathered more than four hundred relatives, from different cities, and the event was called the “Marquezada,” or the Great Márquez Party. He treated everyone oddly, speaking with such familiarity and care, as though they had years of friendship, even when they had met two minutes before. He displayed so much friendship that it was startling, but with his warmth it was easy to feel his sincerity. To him it didn’t matter how you looked, where you came from, or what you devoted yourself to; what was important is that you are family and that was enough for him.

The day of the reunion, in August of 2017, I arrived early to help with the final details. Mayel was wearing his characteristic hat, which gave him a touch of sophistication. While we spoke about the reunion, one of my cousins mentioned his son who had recently returned from his mission in Brazil. Mayel unexpectedly said, “I was Mormon.” At first I thought he was joking, but then he spoke about his bishop and the reason why he left the church. “It was silly,” he said. I couldn’t believe it, but I felt very happy. Now everything made sense: this was the reason why he was looking for family! And I started dreaming: maybe he could return to the church, I could help him, I had to. After a few hours, the reunion ended. When I was about to get into my car, Mayel came to ask me something and he hugged me. He smelled of alcohol, a smell I can’t stand, but for some reason this time it didn’t bother me. It was the last time I saw him.

Months later, I opened my Facebook page. One of his children posted a status asking for prayers for his father, and that was when I found out: Mayel had been in an accident and was in intensive care fighting for his life.

Days passed with little news. Not much information was provided about Mayel’s medical condition and I was sure everything would turn out well. One Sunday morning, I remembered how we had chatted about the Church, and after thinking about it a little, I built up my courage and asked his son if he would allow a priesthood holder to give him a blessing. After all, he was a member of the church and I was sure that this could help. His son only answered with a “no.” For some reason I felt a great sadness, as though they had rejected the last chance at saving him. I couldn’t do anything about it, I could only pray that this would turn into a bad memory.

That Sunday, during Sunday school, I felt more uneasy than normal. The answer I had received from Mayel’s son had really hurt me and I couldn’t stop thinking about how much a blessing could help him. I was absorbed in my thoughts, trying to pay attention to what was being said in the class, when my cell phone vibrated. I read the message; I rose as fast as I could and left the room almost running. It was as though the world had shut down. I couldn’t hear anything. I felt a pain in my chest and started to cry. I met my husband in the hallway, on seeing my face, he asked me what was up. I could only say, “Mayel is dead.”

The next days were filled with messages in which the hour and place for the funeral services were constantly changing. I was still in shock; I couldn’t believe it. After a few days, the day and place for the viewing were finally decided. I made the necessary arrangements and we traveled there with heavy hearts. We arrived at the viewing when it was about to end. I started to understand that I had lost more than Mayel. I had lost the family connection that I felt. I realized for the first time that I had only felt this degree of familiarity with him. I was a stranger to every other person, even his children, even when we had the same blood. Now, the same happy faces I had seen at the family reunion were pierced with pain, and even though I had seen seen them more than once, they were strangers to me.

We arrived at the cemetery, that particular cemetery that I don’t like. The air smelled of flowers, the flowers that proclaim death, a combination of sweet perfume and stagnant water. That place had always given me a strange feeling, and although I enjoy going to cemeteries for my genealogical research, more than once I’ve wanted to leave that place running. The graves are so close together that they seem to be on top of each other, and even when some have flowers, they look abandoned, with that strange gray color that stones take on after years. The cemetery looked sadder than ever.

We finally reached the place; it was small, surrounded by other graves and behind a resigned chapel. It was the right place to put the coffin. I wanted to approach, but I wasn’t close family, so I stopped in the back and waited for it to be over. I couldn’t believe it was possible that someone so important to me was in this small space surrounded by cold earth. How was it possible for my hopes to be buried beneath this gray earth that smelled of the flower of death? The sun shined and it was hot, but my heart felt cold and empty. I sat behind everyone else and pretended to be okay. No one could understand my feelings, not even myself. I couldn’t understand how my heart was broken. How was it possible for the death of someone I barely new to affect me in this way? How can I explain that I cried more for his death than for my own mother’s? I felt guilty. I hardly knew him. I didn’t have the right to feel this. It wasn’t logical. But it was real.

There were not other “Marquezadas” after Mayel was gone. Others have taken charge of organizing the food, the venue and the dancing, but no one has successfully brought the warmth from before. I’ve met other relatives, discovered new faces, but I never meet anyone like him. I still cry when I remember and I ask myself why his memory is so deeply entrenched inside of me. I feel love and pain for someone that I barely knew, but the connection between us was deeper than I could have ever imagined. I miss the sincerity in his voice, the warmth when he spoke to me. I miss how I felt at his side. I’ve learned how difficult it is to connect with someone in that way, that some never do. And how much we should treasure it when it happens.