Alexander Acosta Velasquez’s death taught a great lesson

As he suffered the final throes of stage 4 stomach cancer this past December, Alexander Acosta Velasquez wrote a final goodbye letter to his American Airlines coworkers, who had supported him with money and love.

“This isn’t my battle, this is God’s,” he wrote. “ From the bottom of my heart, I want to thank you.”

He died two months later, surrounded by his family.

Acosta, who was born in Bogota, Colombia and came to the United States in his thirties, lived a life that showed you can grow as a person, learn many life lessons and achieve much in your lifetime. He overcame many challenging obstacles to gain the love and support that surrounded him in his final days. 

Childhood to adolescent years

Acosta, my uncle, was born on December 23, 1970, in Bogota, Colombia around 11:59 p.m. He was very charismatic, funny, and always wanted to live his life to the fullest. 

Throughout his adolescent years, he played soccer, rode a bicycle, and studied hard.

Alexander Acosta sitting on top of a rock during vacation. (Jessica Acosta/SFMN)

He majored in aviation at SENA, Colombia’s famous national institute for technicians, in Barranquilla and graduated as an aviation mechanic. He was instantly hired by Colombia’s national airline, Avianca.

It was at Avianca where he fell in love with Celideth Peña and had a baby girl at age 31. He dedicated his life to providing for Alejandra. He and Celideth married but later separated, though they found a way to co-parent. 

Coming to America for a better opportunity

Acosta moved to Miami in about 2003 in search of financial stability. At first, he stayed at his older brother Oscar’s house for a bit. 

Although he left his daughter behind in Colombia, she often came to visit. “Even if the money was short, he made sure to do whatever to make sure each time I went it was a blast,” Alejandra told me. 

I was just two years old when he arrived. I don’t remember the first time we met, but at around five years old, I spent a lot of time with Alejandra and tio Alex.  I don’t really remember much but, I do recall always laughing when around him. 

He lived with us in Country Walk for a while and worked at a flower company as a supervisor for a few years to raise money to buy his own home. Alejandra moved to Miami with her mom in 2013 and spent every other weekend with her dad.

That same year, he joined my dad, Giovanny, at Med-Craft, a global aviation parts supplier, where he spent two to three years disassembling plane parts and painting them. 

Then American Airlines offered him a job loading luggage and more at Miami International Airport. He worked there for about 10 years. 

In August 2017 my dad joined him at American. “He was the person that guided me in the airport, helped me, and taught me.” stated my dad. “Being that I was new to the job, he helped me and gave me the initiative. And I give him, my brother, thanks for guiding me along the way.” 

Healthy Lifestyle

My uncle was always fit and lived a very healthy life. Exercising and being fit were always a way for him to express himself. 

Alexander Acosta cycling at Be A Pro For A Day in the Dominican Republic. (Jessica Acosta/SFMN)

Alex’s godson, Rosman Acosta and Oscar, got him into cycling. He bought a bicycle and went to the gym to prepare himself to compete in road races in the Dominican Republic and Colombia. 

He trained every day, even at his job, which provided a little gym. He also played soccer. He even played in a tournament in Moscow with his friends. 

In fact, my tio traveled all around the world with Alejandra. He would send pictures of himself in Paris, Italy, Greece, and once even planned a big family trip to sail on a cruise throughout Europe. 

It was always such a happy feeling getting to see him living his life to the fullest and exploring the world. 

Alexander Acosta posing in front of an art piece in Thailand. (Jessica Acosta/SFMN)

He fulfilled a dream by visiting Thailand in 2018 with Alejandra. Little did he know that was the last big trip he would ever be going on. 

The year in which changed all of our lives

In December 2019 he began feeling bloated and a lack of hunger. When he did eat, food became stuck in his esophagus. Doctors thought he had ingested something contaminated. Strong antibiotics didn’t help. 

He became private and serious, not his usual joyous self.

March 2020 was an impactful month for the world because of COVID-19, but it was also the month that my uncle was diagnosed with stage 4 stomach cancer. Then, when he went to get treated, he caught COVID. 

The hospitals denied him immediate treatment and sent him into quarantine. He worried and stressed about whether he would ever make it out of his room. He decided to suffer in silence rather than to worry anyone. 

“He kept getting skinnier and skinnier, and I kept asking him what was happening, but he didn’t want to say.” my dad recalled. “I had to find out through another family member, and he eventually came out and told me.” 

When my dad told me the news it felt like a slap in the face.

My uncle searched for a light at the end of the tunnel, but there was none. Hospitals provided treatments that did not help until he got to Cleveland Hospital, where they performed chemotherapy and found a growth in his lungs.

In December 2020 he became so weak he could not work. “I remember him asking me to write a letter for him to his coworkers because he loved them so much but he had to let them know that he no longer had the strength,” said his daughter Alejandra. 

He sold his home, stored his furniture and stayed with us starting in January 2021. I still remember the day he arrived, like it was yesterday. 

I lent him my room so he could sleep in. When he arrived, a friend carried him into my room because he was unable to walk. My athletic uncle was so skinny and helpless that it left me in utter shock. 

I stood next to my mom as tio told us something that I will never forget. “I am going to tell you something very important,” he said. “Don’t ever think negatively. I would always think, ‘What’s going to happen to me? What am I going to do if I get sick?’ I attracted negative energy.” 

As days passed, he deteriorated. He ate less and became so delicate that someone had to sleep next to him to make sure he did not fall off the bed.

On February 1, 2021, my dad carried him to the car and rushed to Cleveland Clinic to get aid. My uncle was critically ill. When they arrived, he was unable to breathe properly and his blood pressure dropped, so he was rushed into ICU.

February 3, 2021, he stopped eating and talking. “I would communicate with him by having him respond to me by blinking his eyes,” stated Alejandra. 

At the hospital, only Alejandra was allowed in due to COVID restrictions. She spent every last minute talking to him. At only 20 years old, she had to make hard decisions such as choosing whether to intubate or perform CPR on her father. She decided to go only with an oxygen mask to minimize suffering. 

Then came February 12, 2021.

A nurse entered the room to do a regular check-up and asked Alejandra to step outside. Once the nurse finished, Alejandra reentered and noticed the monitor was off. She instantly asked the nurse to turn it back on, but she refused. Alejandra insisted. “I don’t want you to suffer,” the nurse stated. But then she gave in. 

The monitor showed a flat line. 

Don’t let anything stop you from living your life

To this day, friends and family describe him as an amazing and hardworking man. They even donated about $9000 through GoFundMe to help with medical and funeral expenses. In appreciation, my dad printed multiple copies of the letter and pasted them throughout Miami International Airport. 

Tio Alex taught us a major lesson: Life is not always what we want it to be. We face many challenges but must always remember to take care of ourselves and live life to the fullest. As my uncle wrote, “I have nothing left but to ask God to bless each and every one of you.”

Jessica Acosta is a senior majoring in Digital Broadcasting at Florida International University. After her studies, she plans to pursue her dream career of working in the entertainment industry as an actress or as a TV personality/host.