Death comes in threes


Death comes in threes. Superstitious as it may sound, but it did, or so I thought, when I lost three important women in my life. I lost them one after another, months in between. I haven’t had the time to grieve over one, and then I had to deal with a second, and then, a third loss.

They were not related to me by any degree of consanguinity; however, to me, they were family.

Of the three, I lost my dear friend, mentor, Esther in July. She taught and ingrained in me the love for classic movies, film noir, Katharine Hepburn, Audrey Hepburn, Gregory Peck, Spencer Tracy, Cary Grant, and all those behemoths of the Golden Age of Hollywood. She taught me what good, old movie to look for, and she did remember each one of them by heart. I have seen Sabrina, All About Eve, Mildred Pierce, Woman of the Year, The Women, Love Affair, A Star Is Born, Gone With the Wind, Casablanca, Random Harvest, Mrs. Miniver, The Best Years Of Our Lives, Waterloo Bridge, and the list goes on, so many times. And I still watch them in my spare time.

She also made sure I get my grammar straight and she even attempted to help me learn French. I had my struggles with my language learning. But that’s for another story waiting to be told.

Esther, to me, taught me the finer things in life. She taught me classical music as well. Now I know Beethoeven, Mozart, Handel, Tschaikovsky, among others.

Months before she died, it was not these things that I remember the most. It was one time, we were in the dining room, and from out of the blue, she told me, “I love you.” That brought me to tears. I felt that it was so sincere, and so heartfelt. Of course, I love her, too, but I didn’t have the chance to tell her because I was holding back my tears and I was trying to regain composure.

When God called her, there was nothing else we could do but to yield. She was called in July. For a time, I was in disbelief. I thought she would still bounce back, she would still recover from her illness, but she didn’t. When she passed on, my life wasn’t the same again.

Not long after she left, I lost Madeleine. I was at LaGuardia airport deplaning and I had just turned on my phone. I had a missed call from her daughter. Then another message came from another friend, Nadine, telling me that she had passed away the night before.

When I heard the news, I thought her suffering had ended, that she had finally been relieved of all the worries plaguing her. She would no longer be depressed, no longer be in pain—physically and emotionally.

With her, I learned life lessons. With her, I learned to value what little possessions I have and to be prudent with spending yet to enjoy little pleasures in life.

She was a woman of habit and she would get upset if anything in her routine changed.

She may have forgotten a whole lot but one thing she did not miss was my birthday. It was conspicuously marked on her calendar and on her journal. And of course, she would never let the day pass me by without us both enjoying a piece of cake with a small candle lit and to be blown after making a wish.

Her mantra is always, “You cannot win!” Sometimes I could hear her say, “You can’t fight city hall!” or there were days when she would remember what her father used to say, “You get what you pay for.”

She loved Christmas and the little trinkets she had gathered over the decades she would put out and displayed on the table and elsewhere in her house during the holiday season.

I was not able to say my proper goodbye to her; I was on a trip.

She, too, like Esther, in her most lucid moment, was able to tell me, “I love you!” She was in the hospital where I would visit her once or twice a week. I responded with a flying kiss.

Then another shocker came to me via Instagram messenger. A friend of mine from thousands of miles away alerted me to a Facebook post of our common friend’s husband seeking prayers for his wife, Juneh.

I found out she had a massive stroke. Not long after finding that FB post, I discovered doctors had raised the white flag, that they could no longer do anything about it.

Juneh and I were coworkers. We had known each other for decades and I considered her as my older sister. We were frank with each other. We didn’t talk every day or all the time, but when we did, it felt like we were never apart.

We last saw each other in Philly where her daughter participated in a robotics convention. It had been eight years since we last saw each other before this meeting. I didn’t realize it was our last.

When she dropped me off at the train station, I felt a sudden surge of nostalgia, of loneliness, I was in tears when I hugged her for the very last time. She was a big part of my life. I miss her terribly.

I bade farewell to 2023 with a heavy heart, having lost these three wonderful souls who were so much a part of me, of my life.

It will definitely take time for me to get through the stages of grief as I have to do it three times over.

As I look forward to 2024, I will cherish the fondest memories I have had with them, and I will remember the life lessons they taught me.

I lost three people I had no blood relations with. But to me, Esther, Madeleine, and Juneh were family. I love them as much as I love my own.

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