In 2010, twenty-five years after Reyna’s new life in the United States began, Papi is diagnosed with liver cancer. Reyna and her siblings have little communication with him, but the diagnosis pulls them back together again, and Reyna begins a journey of finding her way back to her father.
Reyna Grande begins book two of her memoir with a flash-forward to the end of her father’s life. This tactic foreshadows both the plot elements that will make up the second half of the book (how Papi “managed to chase […] away” his children) and the thematic tilt it will take: exploring the journeys and distances, both physical and emotional, that she and her family must go on to find their way back to one another in the face of pain and confusion.
On a day in early September of 2011, Papi’s doctor tells Mago, Reyna, and Carlos that it is time to let their father go. Reyna is reluctant to do so—the doctor doesn’t know about “all the times [she has] already lost him.” As Reyna looks at her father, though, and sees how ill and unresponsive he is, she understands that his mind has already gone—his body is fighting a losing battle. Mago, Carlos, and Reyna look at one another and know what must be done. They tell the doctor to take their father off of the machines keeping him alive, and wait for twenty minutes as Papi’s heart slowly stops beating. As his body shuts down, Reyna holds her father’s hand, and notices that it is the exact same shape as her own.
In this scene, Reyna achieves a measure of forgiveness for her father by recognizing a major similarity between them. In seeing herself in him, she is able to forgive him for some of his past mistakes—as this half of the book goes on, Reyna’s readers will come to see just what an amazing feat her grace truly is.