Christmas 2017 was freezing cold here in NYC. You had just persevered through Hurricane Maria and you were back in NJ/NY for the holidays.
The weather was too severe for us to join you on the Dyker Heights Christmas lights tour, especially for our new baby.
But wait, our family had just gotten invited to a Christmas party that happened to be around Dyker Heights.
I waffled back and forth to see if I should go through the effort of trying to meet you only for a few minutes in one of the busiest parts of NYC, on the busiest day of the year. It was painfully cold and though the three kids were asleep in the back, any of one of them could wake up at any moment. Was I forcing something?
Kevin was chauffeuring the family around as usual and he said it was my call. Even with the crazy congestion, if I really wanted to meet this Facebook friend, he’d do it but I’d have to make the decision right quick.
“It feels supernatural. I can’t explain it. I have to meet her. It would only be enough time to give her a hug after all that she’s been through since moving to Puerto Rico. But we’ve shared more meaningful exchanges than some real life acquaintances. So, yeah, if you really don’t mind getting caught in this holiday gridlock, I feel like we must meet. Who knows when we’ll have this chance?”
Kevin accommodated me by driving as close to the part of the tour you and your family were in. I hopped out the car and ran a few blocks to find you.
I remember you were easy to spot because you were in a bright white winter coat. “Look at you, all white, lookin’ like Mariah Carey in her Winter Wonderland.” Looking back, you were bright white like an angel.
We hugged, we teared up, I met your husband and kids, we took selfies. Then I had to go run back to our car before the kids stirred.
Fast forward to April 14, 2018, Saturday. I was in the passenger seat coming home from Long Island. We were stuck in major traffic so I started scrolling through my Facebook Newsfeed.
Ooh, I had meant to read your blog post about your 40th birthday but I hadn’t gotten around to it. Looks a bit odd since you didn’t post it yourself.
Wait, Pierre posted something else on your behalf. Looks like an actual burial on Facebook Live!? I have never seen such a thing.
Maybe you guys were posting something to show how differently they do funerals and grief in Puerto Rico, or showing how much your island was still affected by Maria, even losing loved ones months later. A burial on Facebook…hmmm…
Wait, why are the comments telling someone with your same name to rest in peace? I think your name is common in Spanish.
WAIT, WHY ARE THE COMMENTS COMFORTING PIERRE AND THE KIDS!?
I check your Facebook page and see messages of grief and shock.
THE BURIAL I HAD WITNESSED THROUGH FACEBOOK? I had just witnessed YOUR burial.
I start whimpering and moaning, face crumpling. Kevin asks from the driver seat, “Jihee-yah! Jihee-yah? What’s wrong? What happened?”
You were the most vivacious spirit on my Newsfeed. You were passionate about God, homeschooling, your natural, vegan lifestyle, your family, God’s miracles and provision. Your smile was SO big and SO bright. Unforgettable.
I am still in shock. I see your face smiling back at me everywhere, just like in your family of five photos. When I get up through the night to use the bathroom or put Olive back in her crib after nursing her, I see your face smiling back at me. I feel angry.
Is this real?
You just celebrated the heck out of your 40th birthday. You just came out of Hurricane Maria, stronger and wiser than ever.
I will never understand why and sometimes I just can’t stand that His ways are higher than our ways, makin’ no kind of sense to us mere mortals.
I know I only met you in real life just that once, but I’ve truly appreciated getting to know you through our online exchanges. After we met, you commented that we hitched fo’ life now. I’m beyond glad that I snaked my way through your touristy tour to just get a chance to meet and hug you.
I’m sad that you died so suddenly, leaving your beautiful family behind.
If you were alive, I would have written you about how my first son now looks for signs just like his mama. When I told the two boys that my friend had died and that I was in shock, my big one gasped, “That’s why we saw that dead rose earlier, Mommy! You were saying why is there a dead rose in the parking lot. It’s because your friend died.”
No one could have known that your move to Puerto Rico allowed you to be buried in the land you have always longed for. Enjoy paradise, my beautiful, joy-filled friend.