When I fell in love with my husband, Gérman, it was a special kind of love, it was different. I fell in love with not just the person, but his artwork, body, heart and soul. He told me he wanted to make a family with me. But at the time, I was struggling. I had been in a three-and-a-half year-long relationship with an intelligent, creative Mexican man, we’ll call him M, who had unlocked a beautiful, inventive, and rebellious side of me. We were in an open relationship at first, but he was eventually unfaithful and was an alcoholic. I was the Frida to his Diego, but I didn’t want to live like that anymore.
My friend told me I needed to see a therapist because leaving M was a major decision. I went to Andaye.
When I say Andaye saved my life, I truly mean it. I can’t picture where I would’ve ended up were it not for her. I didn't know it yet, but Andaye would help me make one of the biggest decisions of my life: The man who I would choose to have by my side as a partner in life.
Andaye was warm and reassuring, but she was tough.
I told her I thought I should stay with M because I had already devoted three years to him and wanted to let it play out. I told M I was leaving him, and that’s when he promised to change. He said he’d stop drinking. He promised to get a job. He told me he wanted to get married not for a green card (he was undocumented) but for love and that he wanted to have a child with me.
“Andaye,” I remember looking to her with desperation during that crossroads moment in my relationship with M. “He promised all of the things I’ve ever wanted from him. I think I should give him a chance.”
Andaye looked at me with a no fucks attitude.
“And how many times has he made those promises before?” she asked.
“And how many times has he made them come true?”
“So why should you believe him now?”
She knocked the sense into me. Kind of slapped me very hard in the face with it.
It was what I needed to hear.
I left M and committed to marrying Gérman and our marriage has lasted three decades.
Andaye wasn’t just my therapist. She became a very close friend of mine and our family.
My husband and I did couple’s therapy with Andaye when we had been together less than six months and then several times throughout our marriage. She was a good friend to my husband and was one of his favorite dance partners. I was committed to teaching my children about the importance of therapy. When they were eight and ten years old, I took them to their first one-on-one therapy sessions so they would get accustomed to expressing their feelings. She was like a godmother to both of them. Even my mom and I did therapy with Andaye.
Andaye was an Afro Boricua raised in the South Bronx where her family fought deep poverty, racism, and exclusion just because of how they spoke and what they looked like. But Andaye fought against all limitations. Somewhere along the lines Andaye, born Clara, said:
“I can do this. I will do this. And I am going to show everyone what it looks like to succeed and to take control of your mind with focus, determination, and hard work. I am going to show you.”
She studied hard and got into Wells College, eventually getting her master at Hunter. There, she became a feminista Puerto Rican activist in the field of education. She had revolutionary thoughts about education and equity and she eventually got a job where she could try to change the system from within.
Outside of her education work, she was pushing for revolution. She gathered with her fellow Boricua and Latina sisters in Spanish Harlem where they exchanged ideas on not only feminism, but also socialism and liberation. It was a moment when being Black and proud while radical (much like today) was the symbol of the progressive left.
Andaye took things one step further. She wanted people to experience emotional and spiritual liberation. She wanted to teach us to talk through our pain too, not just take it to the streets or use it to fuel our commitment to the revolution.
She became a clinical social worker, licensed to practice therapy. Andaye entered the very competitive and also extremely white world of New York City therapists. She did the most public work by being out on the streets. And yet, she still wanted the work of social transformation to also take place in privacy, on a couch with a box of tissues nearby.
That’s where I met Andaye. I had seen her at gatherings of progressive Latinas but had never spoken to her. I didn’t know she was a therapist. A mutual friend, a Panamanian woman, introduced me to Andaye after giving me her well-read copy of Codependent no More by Melody Beattie.
My relationship with Andaye began with her giving me the wings to trust in love and frankly, to trust in her and see that she was going to be not only a brilliant therapist but a brilliant friend too. If you’ve read the book My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante or seen the HBO version, you will see that every brilliant friend is also deeply troubled and hounded by darkness, demons, and rage.
So when the text came in at 6:10 pm on Dec 27th, 2021 that Andaye had died during surgery.
Why was she even in the hospital receiving surgery? The reason is tragic and intimate: she fought a private battle with presumably the deepest depression a human face.
The joy I felt with my family melted into deep anguish. I’m honestly still processing her death as I write. It’s been hard.
Since I’m in the Dominican Republic, I’ve taken to talking to the ocean, the godmother Yemaya. I received this message one morning: Andaye was giving us a lesson even in her death. She was showing us that if you give up on life, you could die.
You can die from giving up.
There are many lessons that Andaye taught me that have impacted my life. In terms of relationship to Gérman, she helped me see what was staring me right in the face. She helped me put my feet on the ground and not be afraid to take risks.
I loved Andaye so much and she was such a light in this world. I am honored to share a little piece of her with you all through my experience, and I hope that you get to experience someone special in your life transforming you for the better just like Andaye de la Cruz did to mine. May she Rest In Peace. QEPD.
Thanks for reading Malu & You, a weekly newsletter where I share my unfiltered and intimate ways of living life on the front lines as a journalist, mom, and compañera.