In 2013, I visited Rome - a city I had always wanted to see. One of the most exciting things about that trip was meeting up with my childhood penpal for the first time ever. I wrote about the anticipation here and about the actual meeting here.
When I returned home, we gushed about our trip. Later...she told me she was sick. Cancer - that awful, awful scourge that has covered this world with such a darkness and a mercilessness. She was upbeat, she was positive. We traded messages, I prayed, we made plans. The last conversation she had, she told me she did not have good news. But she was trying her best, she said. She sent me a happy smiley but I am sure she was in so much pain. I sent her one back. The worst thing about having friends so far away is that you cannot hold their hand or hug them. A happy smiley and my thoughts and prayers were all I had to offer. I messaged her after that and got no response. This morning, it dawned on me that I had not checked in on her in a little while. I checked on my last message and saw that it had never been read. I went to her page and I speak no Italian but I did not need to understand the language to understand the story being told through the photos, the messages, the tags.
She was without a doubt the highlight of that trip. When we met, it was like we were friends for years and years, even though we were in a way. She opened her heart to me, her friends, her city. The warmth and beauty of her soul were so genuine in a city that at times felt so cold. It did not matter that I was black or a foreigner or whatever - we were friends when we were 11, and here we were in our 30s - friends then and forever.
I still have the first photo she ever sent me so many years ago in an envelope stamped 'Roma'. She, leaning against a wall, in an oversized sweater, long brown hair over her shoulder, pretty smile. She was happy to make friends from an island so far away and we were so much alike even though we were so different,
She was so young. She was my age. But while I cannot speak to how many lives she touched, she certainly touched mine. I am so glad we got to meet and even though it was a short moment in time, it was a memorable and beautiful moment.Our next rendez-vous was to be in Trinidad. We had talked about this. I looked at the screen this morning and I just cried. She was as good a friend as any I see every day. When I had joys to share, I shared them with her. When I was cold and lonely in London, she always made me laugh. I am heartbroken. We will never make that trip to Cuba together now, but I promise to live each day with hope the way she always told me to. Life is so short and it is not fair.
The hardest part is I did not even know until this morning. That is eating me alive. My heart was heavy and so I checked and checked and checked - going crazy with checking messages, sending messages to her friends, trying to translate messages into English, and forcing myself to think positively when deep down, with every post I tried to translate, every post that was not hers, every throwback photo, I knew otherwise.
Farewell, my lovely, my beautiful friend - both inside and out. Thank you for loving me despite boundaries. Thank you for being the light that you were. Thank you for living a life worthy of the love you have received. Thank you for once again reminding me to Live, Love, Laugh. I will hold you in my heart forever.
Grazie. Sleep well.