El Paso man mourning wife's 2015 death shares loss online
El Paso man mourning wife's 2015 death shares loss online
Feb. 16, 2017
EL PASO, Texas (AP) — Death ends a life, not the love people share.
The love El Pasoan Rich Salazar continues to have for his wife, Carmen Ramirez-Salazar, has not waned since she died suddenly two years ago.
The El Paso Times (http://bit.ly/2l4xgX2 ) reports the two met while Salazar was a DJ at a local night club. They were married in 2010 after dating for 10 years. They had a baby girl. They were happy.
When Ramirez-Salazar, 33, died of a brain aneurysm on Jan. 9, 2015, Salazar found himself searching for ways to cope. He tried to imagine life as a single dad without the woman he loved.
He longed to talk with his wife, his best friend.
So he wrote to her, jotting down his feelings and thoughts. He hashtagged them #letterstocarmen and shared them on Facebook. He also started a website.
"When a person leaves this earth, you can still hold on to them," Salazar said. "People say let them go but they have it backwards, we need to hold on to them through memories. They are physically gone but you continue living. You use those memories as tools to keep the foundation you built together, to keep surviving."
Salazar posted his first letter the day after his wife's death. He recalled how he would wake Ramirez-Salazar, a nurse, up each morning with a kiss to tell her that her morning coffee was ready.
"Saturday morning I awake. An emptiness in my heart," he wrote on Jan. 10, 2015. "I turn to my left side of the bed and find she is not there. I immediately reach for my little girl's foot. It's so warm. My wife always kissed Alessandra's feet and said, "My puchi patas," and I said, 'No, my puchi patas!' This is just one of those moments I remember."
Salazar continued writing letters to his spouse. Some updated her on new moments with their daughter or on his own struggles coping with losing her. Others were simply reminders of his love.
He said the letters started as part of the grieving process. He posted them on Facebook because he knew how much people loved his wife and he was trying to keep her memory alive.
"I'm sure everyone has lost someone in their lives, but for me, it was giving me the ability to cope," Salazar said. "She's not talking back but I'm telling her everything that's going on. I was pulling things from the past to remind myself that I was still alive, that my mind was still here, my soul is still here and I still have my daughter. If I didn't do that, I felt like she would disappear and what we had built together would disappear."
The letters, he said, were also a way to feel as though he was updating his wife on their daughter Alessandra's progress. She was only 3 years old when her mother died.
"Initially, it was a daily reflection of what I was doing with Alessandra and trying to tap into her and what she wanted me to do to keep raising Alessandra," he said. "I was trying to keep that little light going for me and for her so I wouldn't go into that dark place (depression)."
Ramirez-Salazar was known as "Alex" to the people who loved and knew her best. The Burges High School graduate received top honors at the University of Texas at El Paso, earning a nursing degree.
She started her career at Las Palmas, was also a hospice nurse and was working at The Hospitals of Providence when she died. She was moving toward a doctorate degree in nursing.
She died after having a brain aneurysm at work. It was determined that she had a arteriovenous malformation (AVM), an abnormal connection between arteries and veins. AVMs are usually congenital.
Salazar said his wife's death brought to his life a new purpose, a new meaning.
Salazar's personal struggle to make sense of his wife's death has blossomed into a space where others have shared their stories of loss.
"I have not updated the website in a long time because people much rather go to Facebook," he said. "I get 300 to 400 likes on one letter. I also get a lot of messages in my inbox from people who are going through it and some who just like to read the letters and want to leave a comment. I've already met with several people because of the letters. I would walk in a store with Alessandra and people will stop me just to tell me they are following me on Facebook and how much they love my letters."
It is the reason he continues to write.
"Now, whenever I meet people, I have to give them hope," he said. "They hear my story, they see my face and they know there is hope."
Martha Valdez, Ramirez-Salazar's mother, said Salazar's letters to her daughter bring her comfort because she knows that she was loved but she said reading them is still difficult.
"They are beautiful letters," she said. "I love that he shares the experiences he had with her and what's going on with my granddaughter, Alessandra. But they also make me very sad. I do appreciate very much how much love he had for my daughter. He had a lot of love for her. It's beautiful to know that he loved her as much as he did."
In his most recent letter, Salazar wrote, "I continue to write to you because I miss you. I continue to speak about you because I miss you. I think of you every day. I don't know what else to do. To try and fool myself and say I'm okay. I AM OKAY ... though. All I know is that I miss you terribly. I pray you're okay. I pray you know that I'm okay. I pray you can still see we are ok. You're in every part of my existence.....I miss you!"
Salazar said he believes God selected him to be an instrument of hope and that Ramirez-Salazar lives on in the hearts of everyone she has touched and nurtured.
"All the memories are still there," he said. "We had the perfect life. We both dedicated ourselves to being good to other people and each other. Everybody loved us because they saw how close we were. We were loving life, that was her email address, lovinglife827, her birthday. Her energy was just so strong.
He added, "After her death, I realized I was still that person. I couldn't give up, it would destroy everything we worked so hard for."
In his eyes, Ramirez-Salazar's spirit, energy and zest for life did not cease to exist in January 2015.
"Love doesn't die, you just have to find a way to keep the light going," he said.
Information from: El Paso Times, http://www.elpasotimes.com