Otilia, my Portuguese “mother” died on Saturday. If you read my last article, you know that in it I lamented the thievery of death. The day after writing the article, I received a text message from Otilia’s family that she had a precious few hours remaining. Though I knew her death would come, I deplored the thought that our time here on earth would soon be over. She was a remarkable person.
Leaving the gardening for later, I hurriedly made ready and went to the hospital not knowing fully what to expect. I stayed at the hospital all day Friday, rarely leaving her side. The morphine had her sedated, but, more for me than her, I passed the day reading the Bible aloud, talking to her, and praying with her. Most of the family was absent. Quite frankly, they admitted that they just didn’t possess the courage it took to watch her die. As is often the case, it was more painful for them than it was for the very one who was dying.
Nonetheless, Otilia had some very good genes, and her daughter got the lion’s share. Neusa or Kika (pronounced “keeka”) as her friends call her, stayed strong throughout. I imagine she has had it all of her life, but this weekend I saw the spunk and love of life that she inherited from her mother. She will now be the cord that binds the family together. She will take up her mother’s mantle, whether she wants to or not. That’s just how she is.
Hence, what I lamented last week, I celebrate today. What death would take away on Saturday with Otilia’s leaving, love began to give back on Friday by forming a special bond of friendship with Kika and her husband, Toninho. He has a heart as big the national deficit, which belies the translation of his name – Little Tony. I’m convinced he doesn’t have the first mean bone in his body. He’s quick with a smile, even with tear filled eyes. I love the balance that I see in my new friends. They’re good people, and not that I consider myself good, but they’re my kind of people. In that, today I glory.
Though I just lost someone akin to a mother, I have gained two very good friends who could easily be my brother and sister. My family in the states is irreplaceable, but with slight apologies to them now, I feel like I have gained so much lately.
Throughout the day Friday, we laughed when we weren’t crying. We talked about days gone by and days to come. We talked about fishing and kids. We talked about hope and pain. We talked politics and religion, and not once did anyone get angry. Saturday when Otilia passed, it was difficult for everyone, but after the funeral today, I again offered my shoulder to cry upon and lent my ear to be filled. With gratitude they accepted my words as those from someone more than just “mom’s pastor.” As I turned to go, little Tony called to me and said, “We’ll talk this week.” Those are the words of friend.
Through all of this, we lost someone very special to us, but we rediscovered the value of friendship. It was a difficult path to discovery, but one that I would gladly go through again.
Written by Michael Andrzejewski