Saturday, March 28, 2015

Nadia My Friend (2) The Last Glance

Nadia holding a four-leaf clover

This is following Nadia My Friend (1). I am writing this for my memoir.

Wed 3/25/2015 
It was the morning of Wednesday March 25th when I learned the tragic news. By the evening of the same day, I was informed that the funeral will be held on the following day. Later I learned that it is general that funerals are done promptly in Mexico.

Because my physical and mental condition has not been very good since January, I was concerned if my body and soul can endure this absolutely brutal event. It was very difficult to make decision of whether I should be at the funeral. To tell the truth, I was scared to see my friend not moving, and friends and family are mourning. I was very scared to face the reality.

Even by the evening I was thinking it would be better not to go.

This day I exchanged messages with some of the mutual friends. One of them was Sylvia. She inboxed me around 9pm. "Is it prank or something?"

I told her that it is not a prank, the fact that she actually passed away and the reason. Also, I confessed her that I am physically weak now, and not sure if I could endure the ceremony.

She said "OK Mayu, I will tell you something. I lost my childhood BFF at 15. I only saw her at the funeral but did not to the burial. I regret it till this day. I got sick, so bad. I held all inside."

The word "regret" strongly hit me in my head. I absolutely do not want to regret. I swear that I have to maintain and prepare my condition and need to be there the best I can.

Sylvia and I could not sleep until 1am exchanging messages.

On this day I posted on FB a photo album "Nadia and me", which has over 60 photos of Nadia and I from around 2002. I still have some more photos, but they are not digital and stored in my home in Japan.

I passed Nadia's news to friends with the photo album. When I named the names of the friends I met through Nadia, it was easily over ten people. This is the evidence that Nadia was always the bridge connecting people to people. She really connected me to people, great people.

It was very nice of my friends, even some of them does not know Nadia, that they wrote to me kind words to comfort me. Very kind people. I was moved.

My husband was very worried about my health. Even so he agreed to go to see her one last chance with the following condition: Not to be emotional or crying in front of her (especially in Asia, it is said that the dead people cannot leave this world for heaven if the left people get saddened and cry. The spirit of the dead would get lost in this world.) He basically asked me to be calm not to harm myself.

He drove me to the venue (I do not even know how to drive in Mexico!), accompanied me to the funeral. It was a very good thing that I had him who can support me closely in this sad time of the life.

Nadia Laughing

Thu 3/26/2015
I asked my coworker's help to confirm the location of the funeral house. The Mexican coworker Socorro confirmed the correct location on the Google Maps. She said "Call me if you need help. I am very familiar with the area."

I was lacking of sleep and tensed this day. My condition was not the best thing. I had been contacting with people to pass the news.

The only one things I am still concerned is that I cannot get a hold of another oldest friend Alejandro. He is not using FB and he has not replied my email.

The funeral house is called AIMAR on Blvd Fundadores in Tijuana. I leanred this is the street where multiple funeral houses are located.

I was informed that the services was from 7pm, but according to my husband's Mexican coworker, normally the body is picked up from the hospital around 6pm, and they will have family time from 7pm. It would be good to visit after 8pm. The services would last until midnight.

The venue was only 10 minutes from the border, and 25 minutes from our home in the US. My husband came back from back a little early, we had simple dinner and left home around 8pm.

We arrived at the venue around 8:30pm. We were asked to park our car behind the funeral house, where the humble residence of the owner was. We parked in a very tiny spot, the area was filled with cars.

It was a night with no coldness or no heat. It was a typical California night. The funeral house looked not that big and relatively new and clean. It was a private venue that can hold only one services at a time. There was a simple rest area on the 1st floor, and the 2nd floor was the church-style place with some couches.

Once stepping in to the building, we saw a lot of people in a small area. Carlos, the brother of Nadia, found us and and came close to me. We gave long and quiet hug. Nadia's father was nearby and we shook hands and hugged each other.

Carlos told me "Afra and mom are upstairs. Whenever you are ready." Since we had nothing else to do on the 1st floor, I made up my mind and we decided to walk up the stairs.

After climbing the stairs, I saw lots of people sitting on the couches and others standing and talking. There were lots of attendants.

In front of all the couches, I saw the alter and the vivid red rims of flowers. I cannot recall well but I believe those were fresh red roses. The flower rims had banners with sender's names and messages. I saw one of them was from her classmates from junior high school.

By the time my eyes are used to the vivid red colors, I saw the white coffin in the middle of the alter. The coffin looked awfully small even Nadia's height was shorter than I am.

On the left side of the coffin, along with the more flower rims, there were two pictures of her. One was the colored one that she is holding a four-leaf clover in her left hand. The other was the dark one that Nadia and I took in front of the border. Her smile was in full bloom. My eyes were instantly filled with tears as her smile came in to my eyes.

Great smile of Nadia, in front of the border

In my mind, I told myself  that I must see her with my both eyes to convince me to accept what has happened. Also I felt this is the duty for me to see her not moving. Although my feet started to move towards the alter, Afra found me and came to talk to me.

We hugged each other long and quiet. I literally lost words, and could not give any words to her even she understands English. Afra told me "Thanks for coming" in her rapid English. "Mom is over there." She pointed where her mother was.

I saw Afra and understood that she had been working constantly as a host for all the preparation work related to the funeral while holding sorrow deep in her mind.  

Afra and Nadia would share a room in their home, and I was allowed to share the room with them when I stayed over their home. Also, Afra used to work for a Japanese company and studied Japanese language. I personally felt a little close to her.

Another woman came close to me when I was looking towards Nadia's mom. It was Nadia's friend Barbara. It was the first time to meet her, but I knew she was close to Nadia on facebook.

Barbara held both of my hands and gently told me Nadia would often talk about me, she told her she really enjoyed the trip to New Orleans that she made with us. I was moved but yet could not generate any sentences in my head. The best I could do was to hold her hands back tight and said "Thank you."
Barbara was truly kind and warm-hearted. She would know a lot of things about Nadia and I decided to send her a personal thank you note through FB later on.

Then I walked up to Nadia's mom. It has been a while since I saw her last as I had not visit Nadia's place, but she looked the same as I remembered. Whenever I would visit their home, she would welcome me by hugging me and said "Mi hija~~". This day she again called me "Mi hija.." but the voice was wet and choked up with tears. We hugged each other very very long quiet moment.

Mom spoke to me a lot in Spanish. I could not understand well, but I understood that she was talking about how I had good long relationship with Nadia and she left us all of a sudden. I just wanted to cry out loud, but instead I did my best to purse my lips and cried with my eyes, as I promised with my husband.

Mexican family relationship is close and tight. They are tied firm together, they stay together. That's my impression.  I clearly remember once when Afra had to move to Orange County for her work, mom was at the kitchen table holding handkerchief crying. I lost for words when I think of her now lost her daughter for good.

Luis was nearby mom. Luis was like Nadia's brother. We hugged and greeted. I imagined Luis would be helping the family as he was close to Nadia and her family and lives very close to them. Luis introduced me to their mutual friends from SDSU. They were trying to cheer me up with a chat with light jokes, I tried my best to catch up with the conversation, but my mood was far away from socializing at that moment. (Besides I could not speak for the shock when Luis asked me if I am still going to see baseball. That was the last thing I did with Nadia.)

Luis said he would see Nadia much less than the past, like once every three months. He said he went to the movies with Nadia for Fifty Shades of Grey, just to be in the loop of trend, to try to catch up with the rest of the world. This made me smile as it was so much like them.

Luis and Nadia would commute to school crossing the border, which took them 3 hours every early morning in their early 20's. They spent so much time together. Even at the services some of their SDSU friends asked Luis "So are you sure there was nothing between you two?"

While friends were enjoying conversation, I got destructed and was checking towards the alter. Honestly,Really, I was not in the mood to fully enjoy chatting with people on that spot. I moved out of the friends' loop and started to prepare myself looking at the chubby white coffin. Nobody was around the alter area.

It took me quite some time to get prepared to walk to the alter. When I felt I became calm enough, I talked to my husband "let's go", I held his hand firmly and headed to the alter.

The coffin had two lids, the top one was open to show inside. According to Sylvia, this services was the last chance to see the inside of the coffin and the lids would be closed for the following services.

Nadia was there laying down with make-up nicely. Her one hand was laid on the other hand, and the nails got polished. Even so, she looked far from what she was when she was moving around, she was like a wax doll. "I should not cry otherwise she cannot leave for heaven." Still it is so painful and sad to see her not moving, I could not hold my emotion. I had to close my mouth tight and water pumped up from my eyes.

There should be so many things to tell her and ask her, but I was trying hard to put my emotion down. I could only tell her "Nadia, you are beautiful."

Coming back from the alter, Afra came to me and asked if I want some water or juice. I thought she would be missing her in a silence once this busy and crazy moment is gone.

Luis y Nadia

I read somewhere that people wear somewhat casually for the funerals in Mexico, yet I saw majority of the people were wearing black or other dark plain colors.

Luis, I and my husband sat on the couch and talked for a while. It would have been around two years since I see him last. I asked him what he does now. We talked a little bit, then the priest came in and stood near the alter and the mass had started. It was around 9pm.

I am somewhat familiar with Christian situations, but Mexico is a Cathoric culture. They were chanting "Santa Maria, Madre de Dios..." again and again. (I believe this is the one they were chanting) I also heard them chanting "Orar por ella (pray for her)".

The mass lasted for one hour. There were some singing in the middle. I did not know any of the songs. Would be different songs from Christian churches. Nadia's full name "Nadia Yazmin Aguirre Barajas" was repeated by the priest. That was what I could catch during the mass.

After the mass, I spoke with Luis briefly but not enough, yet we decided to leave the venue as it was getting late and I was still concerned about my body condition. I waited near Nadia's mom for my turn to talk to her as she was surrounded by several people. Mom told me "Our home is always open for you, please come visit anytime. Afra is still there." She said in Spanish but I understood this one. I handed her the money envelope and I gave her a long hug once again.

Carlos was upstairs. I briefly spoke with him, gave him a hug, and walked down the stairs. I saw Nadia's dad talked with other people. I gave him a nod and left the building.

Afra was outside the building with other people, but once she saw us she left the group and walked towards me. She said "Our home is always open to you. Come visit us anytime." I told her that her mom said the same thing in Spanish, and I somehow caught it. We smiled a little each other, hugged and said good bye.

On the way home in the car, I told my husband. "Thank you for taking me, coming with me. I was so glad I was there. I have no regret." I felt a little better after witnessing Nadia one last time. I was less tensed, and I felt I accomplished one of my duties.

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