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Eva Mendes Recalls Bittersweet Moment Of Having a Baby 1 Week After Her Brother's Death

Eva Mendes, who recently hosted a Coffee with Eva Mendes event for the launch of her upcoming New York & Company collection in Los Angeles, shared how she dealt with the death of her older brother Carlos Méndez three years ago while in the final two weeks of her pregnancy.

Carlos, who lost his battle with cancer on April 17, 2016, was only 53 years old at the time. Just 12 days later, Eva gave birth to the now-3½-year-old Amada Lee, her daughter with longtime partner Ryan Gosling. “It’s so tough. Thank God I had my baby; it was a week after he passed. So there was something to move forward,” Eva said. “There was poetry to it all.”

“My favorite memories are when he used to, at Thanksgiving or a big dinner or Christmas dinner, roast everybody — but roast you hard,” she added. “Of course, I miss him incredibly, and that’s an understatement, but I’m holding on to that tradition. I’m so happy that he gave me that. I don’t think I could carry it on the way he did, but those are some fun memories because he would really get raw.”

Eva’s younger brother, Carlo Méndez, was the one to confirm the sad news via Instagram, writing that Carlos “fought with all his might and power” and left behind two children, ages 5 and 13. Two weeks before he passed, the actress shared a photo of herself with her older brother at a Hollywood Stands Up to Cancer event, captioning the pic with a heart emoji. Mendes, who had introduced Katie Couric at the event, told guests that “tonight I’m here with my family and my brother Carlos, who had [cancer] treatment today.”

Mendes, 45, and Gosling, 38, will spend Thanksgiving at Eva’s sister’s house with Amada and her sister Esmeralda Amada, 5, since “she has the most room at her house to host all of us,” said the actress, who last appeared on the big screen in the 2014 film Lost River, which was written, co-produced, and directed by Gosling, in his feature directorial debut. She says she is waiting for “that special project” now that her daughters are getting older. She partnered with New York & Co. in 2013 to launch her own fashion line, Eva by Eva Mendes.

“They’re starting school and so I’m feeling like I finally have a little time to myself. But also, I’m starting to find that ambition again that I lost a little bit,” she told PEOPLE on Thursday. “I was fine with losing it, it was a natural thing, but it transferred — the ambition was in the home. I’m still in the home, but I’m getting more of that call to work again. That’s exciting because it’s happening naturally. It’s exciting to feel that again.”

Eva, who was born in Miami, Florida, to Cuban parents Eva Pérez Suárez and Juan Carlos Méndez, was raised by her mother in the Los Angeles neighborhood of Silver Lake, following her parents' divorce. Her mom worked at Mann's Chinese Theatre and later for an aerospace company, and her father ran a meat distribution business. She attended Hoover High School in Glendale, California, and later studied marketing at California State University, Northridge, but left college to study acting under Ivana Chubbuck.

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She began her acting career in the direct-to-video horror film Children of the Corn V: Fields of Terror but was so disappointed in her performance that she decided to hire an acting coach. After a few minor supporting roles, she got her big break in 2001 as the mistress of a corrupt cop in Antoine Fuqua's crime thriller Training Day with Denzel Washington and Ethan Hawke. Training Day, which was a box office hit, grossing $104.5 million, earned Washington the Oscar for Best Actor at the 74th Academy Awards.

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