Puerto Rico Trip: 2020 A Memorable Year

Puerto Rico Trip: 2020 A Memorable Year

Writer and Dreams Abroad founder Leesa Truesdell during her Puerto Rico tripLeesa Truesdell’s beloved grandma, Tata, is a continuing influence on her travels, inspiring her to fall in love with adventures abroad from an early age. While teaching English in Madrid, Tata passed away. Since then, Leesa has developed in ways her grandmother would be proud of. After taking an emotion-packed trip to Puerto Rico in December 2019, Leesa was able to honor her grandmother’s memory. Now, at the close of 2020, she takes time to remember the one and only Tata and all that she learned from her.

2020: A Memorable Year

It’s 2020. When I wrote my last piece about Tata, I did not realize how much would change and how fast it would happen. This year has been tough for all of us. It is times like these when we must remember to tell people what they mean to us often, live with conviction and purpose, and remember that every person you meet has a story, so listen. Listen up and listen hard. 

Last year, I was in Puerto Rico. Letting go has never been easy for me, nor has saying goodbye. When I returned from Spain, I worked and did not stop working. It is almost as if I did not give myself a chance to fully let go of the sadness that would creep up every time I heard a song or was reminded of her. I realized I needed to take a break from overdrive and go back to the place where all of my traveling began. So that is exactly what I did.

Feelings on Arrival

When I landed, I didn’t feel the usual buzz of anticipation when you get off and exit the aircraft. This was probably because I knew this trip had a purpose external to my personal destiny. I was there for Christmas Eve (my grandma’s favorite holiday) but also, to let go. For much of my adult life, “letting go” meant backing away from being right in a conversation. Or, letting family members have the last cookie at a holiday party.

This trip just had that feeling… yeah. It could have been a subconscious all-in-your-head feeling. But, I still did not feel that that let-me-jump-for-the-luggage-carousel-to-find-my-bag-so-I-could-explore vibe. This had a different feeling altogether. However, it was up to me as to how I chose to live in the moment. Since Tata no longer was there for me to tell her how much I loved her, it was time to set her free. After her passing in 2017, it was about time.

As I drove to the other side of the island, memories of her stories and Puerto Rico flashbacks bounced into my mind. Years of listening to her stories filled my heart. They came out right when I needed them most. It was as if those memories armed me with what I was about to encounter next. 

She would talk about Puerto Rico and her sisters over and over again. In the end, I felt like I was the adult and loving grandparent she had been to me for thirty years prior to that moment. These moments made me realize how much people have to tell if you listen.”

— Leesa Truesdell

A photo of Leesa and her grand mother, Tata. Leesa reflected on her grandmother's life and the messages she carries with her today during her Puerto Rico trip

Why Am I Really Here

When Tata passed while I was in Madrid, my father had a small portion of her ashes encased into a ceramic heart. The purpose of this heart was so that I could have her with me at all times. Truth be told, she had been in my heart since the moment she took her last breath. Although we were separated and on two different continents, I knew when she passed. Time stood still. 

So, while the sentiment was thoughtful and sweet, Tata needed to return home. She had been locked in a tiny heart for years. This was not how she would have wanted to have been remembered. I believe with conviction that she needed to be set free. She lived her life traveling the world, yet was not afforded the opportunity to go home one more time before she passed. 

She talked about Mayagüez many times over the years — as long as I knew her, which was my entire life. But, she never returned. Puerto Rico was not calling during her life until the end. That was why it was my responsibility, down to me and nobody else, to release her and to let her go. Over the years, I heard her stories and when dementia set in, she spoke of the island even more. I listened. I listened hard.

Leesa looking at a picture on a camera while at the beach in early 2020 during her Puerto Rico trip

Ashes to Ashes

The location and personal ceremony I had with Tata one last time before she physically left my hands and rejoined the earth was an experience that I will remember for the rest of my life… I will never be able to put it into words. I had so many things I wanted to tell her. And, so I did. I let go. We let go together. 

William Parrish : It’s hard to let go, isn’t it?
Joe Black : Yes it is, Bill.
William Parrish : What can I tell you? That’s life.”

Quote: Meet Joe Black

Life and Legacy Beyond 2020

What things are you doing or working towards now that are helping to shape the legacy you want to leave? How are you moving past 2020?

I ask each of you to join us as we begin our life and legacy chapter of Dreams Abroad. We want to make this a space where parents, students, teachers, doctors, executives, healthcare professionals, military service members, police officers, and more can come to speak about their lives. Our goal is to not leave our loved ones behind. We want you to share a note, a phone call, or an online greeting to let them know that you care. Please join our team as we reach out with information about how you can help us stay connected.

33 thoughts on “Puerto Rico Trip: 2020 A Memorable Year

  1. First of all I am so happy that you get to travel to Puerto Rico. I am from there. And second,I am so sorry for your loss, but I am happy that you got to keep ypur Tata’s ashes.That was a very thoughtful gesture from your father, is something that is very significant and I know she’s happy where she’s at.

    1. Hi Jessica,

      Thank you so much. I hope you have a safe 2021. I appreciate your kind note.

      My very best,


  2. First of all, I’m so sorry for your loss. That’s a void that never really goes away. Secondly, I love that you’re using her memory as a way to continue your travels and keep her in your heart.

    1. Hi Brianne,

      Thank you for your note. I truly appreciate it. She will always be in my heart and yes, the more I travel… the more she’s with me. I wish you a happy and safe 2021. Thank you so much for reading Dreams Abroad.

      My very best,

  3. Oh my heart shattered reading this because I can feel the love you have for your Tata through your words. I’m glad you carry her in your heart and in your travels.

    1. Hi Julie,

      Thank you for reading. I appreciate your words. This means a lot. It’s not easy losing a loved one. I hope you have a safe and healthy new year.

      Best wishes,

  4. Sorry to hear about the loss of your family member. It is nice that you had such a close relationship. It does make me think about my legacy in times like these.

  5. Indeed, 2020 is very memorable despite all the negativity it came with it. I miss travelling and I’m glad to see you have enjoyed your visit on Puerto Rico. It looks amazing, thank you for sharing your experience!

  6. I’m sorry for your loss. I can relate. It’s a wonderful gesture to visit Puerto Rico just so that you can release the final piece of her ashes there.
    It’s rare to find such devotion to one’s mother, let alone grandmother.

  7. So sorry for your loss and what a wonderful way to honor your mother by visiting Puerto Rico to share your mother’s ashes.

  8. It sounds like 2020 really was a memorable year for you. Wishing you all the joy and happiness for the coming year!

  9. I’m so sorry for your loss. It’s great that you were able to visit PR even with the current circumstances.

  10. Oh no, I’m sorry for your loss. It looks like you did have a memorable 2020. I do hope 2021 is a good one.

  11. I’m so sorry for your loss. I hate that feeling of having so much left unsaid. I felt that way with my grandmother. But we can still talk to them. They’re truly always with us.

  12. I’m happy you were able to travel to Puerto Rico. I haven’t been there. Also, its a nice thing that your Tata is always with you. Even without the ashes, she’s always in your heart. I felt so emotional reading this blog post.

  13. First of all, I am so sorry for your loss but I am glad that you keep the sweet memories about your Tata in your mind.

  14. I hope you have the best year yet. We have been thinking about travel but not too many plans yet. Excited to take it easy.

  15. Im sorry for your loss Im sure Tata will be missed. Year 2020 has been a tough and exciting year for us. I had my LO early last year before the quarantine started. It was hard but it gives me an opportunity to really focus on my LO.

  16. I’m glad that you were able to follow your heart and release your grandmother’s ashes in Puerto Rico. Letting go is not easy, but I firmly believe the love and joy always stay with you.

    1. Hi Beth,

      Thank you so much for your condolences. I wish you a very safe and healthy 2021.

      Best wishes,

  17. Like others have said here, through your words, you can really tell how much you loved your Tata. I’m so sorry for your loss, your bond sounded remarkable. You are so right on telling people how much they mean to us while we can, 2020 definitely showed that.

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