De Anna Omana a Luz Marina Mendez de Arellano

De Anna Omana a Luz Marina Mendez de Arellano

Y mi amiga se fue…

Una vez te dije nos volveremos a ver 

Pasaron los años y así fue…

Pero una mañana fría con tu hijo hablé

Y llorando me dijo: Mi mamá se fue

No podía creerlo y jamás lo haré

Amiga te fuiste sin volverte a ver;

De aquellos días solo me queda tu hermandad, tu alegría, tu sonrisa, y la promesa que algún día te abrazaría.

Quien diría que esta terrible pandemia te sorprendería en la forma más triste que alguien lo haría. Llevándote lejos un sombrío día para regresar nunca a tu morada vacía y dejar a tu gente en tanta agonía deseando verte noche y día.

Y asi fue…Adiós amiga mía.

A photograph of Luz Marina Mendez de Arellano, smiling
De Leity Rodriguez a Rafael Eduardo Rodriguez Pulido

De Leity Rodriguez a Rafael Eduardo Rodriguez Pulido

Carta de despedida a mi “Personaje Inolvidable”

Dormido te quedaste en el sueño eterno

Dormida te sueño en ensueños

Constantemente apareces en mi pensamiento, y yo, te contemplo con admiración, mi “Personaje Inolvidable”, como desde muy joven te nombre. Años atrás, se te enredaron los hilos de los sueños y ya no pudiste organizar la madeja de hilos, para mí, intacta en la memoria.

En marzo 6, 2020, cuando te visitamos con Alejandra, tuve el presentimiento que no volvería a verte con vida, y el 20 de julio se cumplió el presagio. Sorpresa de una muerte anunciada, no hubo una pregunta, una vacilación, solo la certidumbre: no puedes ir a Colombia, no puedes viajar a Cali, no hay puertos abiertos.  Y tuve que aceptar en silencio la impostura de la pandemia: una despedida sin presencia, sin  familia ni amigos reunidos para abrazar el rito, llorar y reír; para relatar y compartir el anecdotario de “Don Rafa”, como aún te llamamos nosotros tus hijos y tus amigos . El pintor, el hacedor de mil cosas con las privilegiadas manos, el del pensamiento versátil, el soñador, el poeta y el loco.

Hice un altar para honrar tu memoria en mi vida, un altar para elevar tu espíritu de transición a la Luz, por siempre. Un altar en mi casa en Filadelfia, ya que no fue posible hacerlo en Cali, la ciudad que adoptaste desde joven por la calidez de su gente, de su clima, porque allí encontraste el amor y sembraste semillas.  Gracias por todo lo que dibujaste en mí, por el amor al arte, la música, la lectura, por la creatividad, la curiosidad infantil, la persistencia, la perseverancia, por la capacidad de empezar una y otra vez; por ser auténtico, por SER.

 “Mi Viejo” del cantautor Piero de Benedictis,  1969

Cuando Piero lanzó ésta canción tenías 41 años, y yo 16, no eras un viejo, pero eras mi papá y te venía como un hombre mayor con las diferencias de la edad, de los conceptos y la percepción de la vida. Te la cantaba, y la cantábamos juntos ¡preciosa reminiscencia!

Estribillo de la canción

“Viejo mi querido viejo, yo soy tu sangre mi viejo

Soy tu silencio y tu tiempo”

Con todo mi sentimiento tu hija,

Leity

Filadelfia, junio 15, 2021

Rafael Rodriguez altar portrait
Jody Powers to Joseph and Carol Mason

Jody Powers to Joseph and Carol Mason

Dear Mom and Dad,

I never thought I’d live outlive you. When I had cancer and was given 18 months to live, I’d joke, “Why are you always so healthy, Dad? Why’d you give me all these bad genes?”

You were healthy, before this all happened. That’s what’s putting me in a little anger and shock. Yes, you were 91. But you’d never really fallen before. And then when mom fell two weeks later, we put her into rehab, and she got COVID from her roommate in there. That’s what angers me. She shouldn’t have passed, period.

At least I got to see you the last 10 days of your life, Mom. I never got closure with you, Dad. That’s what kills me.

You were in that room with the white walls and not able to even open the door. I could only visit three times. Still, I talked with you every day. No one thought you were going to pass, but the day you did, I could tell by the tone of your voice when you said, “I need to see you, Jody.” When they shifted you from the rehab center to the hospital where you were on life support, they let us in to see you. Your feet were white as a sheet. I just hugged you and kissed you. They said you could hear us, and I did see a tear in your eye. But you were dead. Gosh, I wish I could have seen you before all of this.

What really made you go is what I’d like to know. Even though you didn’t have COVID, I think you died because of that – with people not able to see you, I think you gave up. You didn’t want that white wall.

I’ve been thinking about the times Mom used to take the grandkids to Washington, D.C., and the Art Museum in Philly when they were young. And remember when she put them on a roller coaster? I have so many good memories thinking of my children with you, Mom. And when you and Dad would bring us to Thanksgiving at Aronimink Golf Club. That was nice. 

You were good parents. Period. Dad, we connected like no other. My husband used to always get angry at me — “Why do you call your dad your best friend?” Well, you were. We’d laugh together all the time — till we couldn’t speak, so much that my eyes would well up. I miss that in my life.

We used to go to the Giant in Radnor. You drove me crazy in there! Everyone knew you. They’d be behind the butcher counter: “Joe! Joe!”

“Dad, aren’t we just picking up food and Band-Aids for Mom?” I said.

You turned around to the cash register lady: “This is my daughter, Jody.”

I couldn’t believe all these people knew you. But they loved you. That was my dad.

I’ll be honest: It’s really hard when you lose your best friend. I miss you both so much.

Love,

Jody

 

Eileen Patricia Falchetta to Eileen Frances Falchetta

Eileen Patricia Falchetta to Eileen Frances Falchetta

Repeat after me: “I am SOMEBODY. I am SPECIAL. You are a light — Eileen means light.”

Mom, from as early as I can remember until last summer,  you always stood beside me and made me say those words in a mirror.  After you listened to me complaining about all my First World problems, we would sit on the couch and you would play with my hair and ask, “Dolly, where do you want to take a ride this weekend?”

2020 was a year for us. Despite the fears and sadness of the pandemic, I thought it was a true blessing in disguise. I got to work from home two doors away from you, my best friend. We would wave every morning, make drives to the grocery store, FaceTime at night watching Jeopardy, sit on the patio drinking whatever fun cocktail we could create with the random stuff in our fridges — never, ever, for a minute running out of things to say to one another. Never, ever, for a minute did I think these would be the last cherished times we would have together.

You worked at a funeral home two days a week and you’d call me crying at the stories of families you would have to listen to, adjusting numbers of those who could attend a service. “I am not supposed to give anyone hugs, but all I wanted to do was just give them a hug, Dolly. What could I do? How can I help them?” You were an essential worker. Mom, if you only knew the stories people shared with us about how you helped them get through their tragedies. Mom, you were their light!

It’s so hard — every day. I look out at your house and see the memories. See Dad, who did everything with you and loved you more than anything else, trying to just keep his head up as he sits outside with his single beach chair listening to music you two used to dance to. I see Joe all dressed up, going to work in the morning, and think you would tell him how proud you are of him. Your bud Vinny got married to Deanna — the day after your birthday — and you would have loved everything about it. Not just because you loved Deanna so much, but also because they got married in a simple/humble way: jeans, laughter, just us. How lucky we are. Two of your three kids met their partners while you were there — right there — watching us.

Your service was so hard, Mom. I felt so numb. I don’t know if you would have even liked it. We were late — people rushed us. We had to move quickly. There were Covid restrictions. I felt extremely uncomfortable and I had to pretend I was okay all day. I didn’t know what to say — how could I talk to a select small group, talk about the impact you had made on my 34 years? How could we truly explain all that you had done for people, even strangers, at the same funeral home where you worked, and where just weeks ago I picked you up for our monthly pedicure. The only thing that made me smile as I fought back tears was remembering the one time we both got locked inside your office when we went to the funeral home on a weekend so you could fix a mistake in an obituary. We laughed through tears that day — the memory of one of our many shenanigans got me through.

I still have your prayer book. I keep it with me every day. When I don’t know how I am going to get through, I think of you and that prayer book. I also think of how you wanted to bring a hairdryer with you to the hospital because you didn’t think you would be there long and I told you that was ridiculous and I would do your hair the next day. How crazy grief makes us think, Mom. I often think, “if I let her take the hairdryer, would she still be here?” Dumb, right?

61 years young. How could we lose someone with so much life to give, so much brightness, someone who so many people have told me, Dad and the boys “she made everyone she met feel so special”? It is so hard to have lost you, especially when we could not say goodbye (which Joe struggles so hard to understand even when we explain), when we couldn’t do a nicer service, when we also couldn’t do anything that would distract us from this significant piece of our hearts that left…

I saved a card you wrote me: “Our daughter is the best thing in our lives.” Mom, you were the best thing in mine. I don’t know how I am still pushing through and being positive, but I hear your voice…I am somebody, and I am special, Mom. I am a light, and I will try to keep shining for you because that’s what you would want.

 

Love always —  your Dolly 

 

Barbara Whyte Felicetti to Bruce Whyte

Barbara Whyte Felicetti to Bruce Whyte

Yo Bro, I’m OK that you died in the early days of the pandemic, you were too. Five years in the nursing home was a bitter pill after a life as “Mr. Big” in N.Y. It’s a relief that you aren’t out there fighting the boundaries, goading the nursing home admins and staff, resenting that no one wants to take the time to philosophize about larger issues with you.   So yeah, I’m OK with it except that the hole in my heart is pretty big. Barbara
Barbara Kigozi to Joan Kigozi

Barbara Kigozi to Joan Kigozi

My mom passed on March 28, 2020. She’d just turned 81 two weeks before.

Because my younger sister Pamela lived in England, she was able to put us on video call, and we cut a cake and danced together. My mom sat there and drank her wine. We all cheered her on, and drank wine on our end, and had no idea what was coming.

Her birthday is March 13. By the 15th, she was starting to cough.

She had three girls and one boy. Out of the three of us, I always say that I was my mother’s favorite child. She was subtle in how she expressed that; parents don’t have favorites, right? But they do! Enough that my sisters would joke about it and tell her, “Oh, your little girlfriend,” [talking about me]. And out of all of us, I’m the one that looks like her. I was very close to my mother, in ways that were both healthy and unhealthy.

My parents, they sent me to the States [from Uganda] when I was 14. Moving away from my parents at that age sort of created this phobia, particularly toward my mother, where I spent most of my adult life fearing her demise. I talked to my mom sometimes two times, three times a day. I would call her every day. In some way, I needed to know she was okay. I don’t think that occurred to me until she passed.

The day I found out that she had passed, I was struggling with three emotions: Oh my God; this relief that I would never have to fear her passing ever again; and then, of course, the reality of it set in.

My mother dying in the way that she did, because she was sick of COVID, I wasn’t able to talk to her leading up to her passing because… she couldn’t breathe properly and it hurt to even speak. That was the most painful thing.

She eventually text messaged me about three days before she passed, saying, “I’ll be okay. I’m getting better, I’m still weak.” Days later, she went to sleep and never woke up.

I got the 3 a.m. call. My sister was on the call from England, my stepfather, and my sister Catherine in Massachusetts. And the first thing I hear from my younger sister, the words, “Mom is gone.”

My mother taught me to always be there for family. If it wasn’t for family at home in Uganda, I don’t know how we would have been able to repatriate her.

When she passed, we had to have her at the undertaker in England for six months. It was the hardest six months I’ve ever lived through. My family in Uganda had to arrange everything. I had to sit in my house and watch her funeral on Zoom with my best friend who had to sit in another room. We couldn’t even hug each other because of COVID.

It was an amazing, amazing funeral. My mother was buried in a way that only a queen can be buried.

At that time, they were only allowing 15 people at a funeral. My mother drew 120 people outside in tents.  My cousin knew my mother very well, and apparently they’d had a conversation about what she would want if she died. Her favorite drink that she wanted people to be served with, apparently, was Prosecco. So, she literally had servants walking around the grounds serving wine, and music, and it was absolutely amazing..

I knew she had touched many lives. I did not know to what depth. I never knew half of the things that my mother did for people. She was just a very peaceful, quiet giant. She shared herself so much.

She has since made herself so visible in such tangible ways. I was looking for old receipts and I found this letter. It was a handwritten, four-page letter that she wrote to all of us, my sisters and my brother, Tendo. That letter contained words as if she wrote it the week she passed. She had written that letter 20 years ago.

Her first words in that letter say, “I am so proud to be a mother of three ladies and gentleman.” She goes on to talk about how she didn’t always feel she was the best mother.

She’s so wrong. She was the best.

A portrait of Joan Kigozi by BEN ZIRABA NYENDE
A portrait of Joan Kigozi by BEN ZIRABA NYENDE

Marcie Fiorella to Geraldine Hewitt

Marcie Fiorella to Geraldine Hewitt

Dear Momma,

God, I miss you more than I could have ever imagined!  We have such a crazy history and I know it’s not always been positive, but my love for you has never changed.

You know how much my kids — Nick, Anna, Grace and Olivia — have adored you. Mom, they miss you more than I can say!

I wish I could have been at your side when you got COVID but the nursing home was shut down. I used to come to visit every other day to see you and we’d read our favorite book together, The Moon Shines Down. We loved those illustrations.

I’m just so damn sorry that I could not be there to hold your hand or hug you to say goodbye. I knew the end was near and my heart hurt so much that I could not be with you! My cancer diagnosis and the kids (they love me as much as they love you) just left me in a place where I could not come in to see you.

Momma, I love you more than I can say and I’m so very grateful for our time together! I pray that you are at peace and I know I will see you again.

Please know how very much you are loved by your family. I love you so much!

Your beloved daughter,

Marcie

 

Wayne Housley to Denise Housley

Wayne Housley to Denise Housley

Aunt Denise,

You were taken into the hospital February 24 after a fall and couldn’t walk. After first testing negative for coronavirus, you tested positive for it and pneumonia.

I talked to you and prayed for you that Friday, Saturday and Sunday. 

You were talking well and feeling a little better and we even got my whole family on the phone with you.

We heard Monday morning your organs were failing. We wanted to pray for you with you on the phone. The nurse from the ICU set up the phone so you could hear, but then told us “she’s crashing” and hung up.

We send our love and we miss you.

Minister Wayne Housley

Brenda Council, Nashira Council, and Kadriea Porter to Alreda Cain-Carter

Brenda Council, Nashira Council, and Kadriea Porter to Alreda Cain-Carter

I Will

By Nashira Council

As read by Brenda Council

I will be strong for you; I will carry on for you.

I will be the air around you; and the grass you walk through.

I will help guide you when you feel alone.

I will hold you through the good days;

I will lift you up in the hard days.

I am with you no matter the space. 

For I lived in love, learned with courage, and stood with strength.

I will be the memory and the spirit for you.

I will be with you in memory,

For my will now runs through you as you continue to live.

Be the bold, be the courageous, and be the love I gave you.

For I will hold you all close in my heart

Always.

Love always and forever.

Below: Kadriea Porter to Alreda Cain- Carter

Loren Berckey to Arlene Herner

Loren Berckey to Arlene Herner

Dear Arlene,

The thing that I’m most happy that I got from you was my faith, my belief that there’s something more guiding everything and putting everything together. That God put this whole thing together. You knew it was important but you didn’t force me to go to church, subscribe to any certain kind of religion or anything like that. You just put it in me and let it grow. 

You were also the one that got me interested in Lawrence Welk, and I will totally admit that is a guilty pleasure that, even long after you were in the home and I couldn’t stop at your house on a Saturday night, I still would watch it (I haven’t watched it in a year, but still).

I never got to tell you either of those things, but knowing that you’re up looking over me, I know you know how important they are to me and what they’ve helped me become.

Love,

Loren