"They left me with your shadow, saying things like Life is not fair & I believed them for a long time. But today, I remembered the way you laughed & the heat of your hand in mine & I knew that life is more fair than we can ever imagine if we are there to live it" ~ StoryPeople
I do not like January 16th, not at all. Because ever since Ylaria flew away, January 16th reminds me of how very unfair life can be. I was thinking that tonight as I was walking home and shedding some tears. I miss my little best friend. And then, I remembered this quote, and I knew Ylaria was trying to send me a message: that despite all of the sadness and the missing her, I was so incredibly fortunate to have her in my life and that life really is more fair than we can ever imagine, if we are there to live it. In honor of Ylaria and the many ways in which she showed me how to live life to its fullest, I wanted to share some of (and there are MANY) my very favorite Ylaria moments with you. I settled on 5 because Ylaria was 5. It seems fitting.
1. Gingerbread House making: One of my very favorite Ylaria moments was getting to make gingerbread houses with her and her family, my family- on December 4, 2010. I had flown into Vermont on an impromptu visit for the weekend and on a spur of the moment comment, I said that it would be fun to decorate gingerbread houses because I had never done it before. It was beyond freezing outside and we were going to be spending a lot of time indoors. I figured this would be a great activity. And boy was I right. From the competition going on between Belen and Gino about who had the best gingerbread decorating skills to my incredible inability to use a frosting bag (ask Belen) we laughed so much we cried, our stomachs hurt, and we almost couldn't breathe. Life should be full of moments like that, where you are surrounded by love and laughter. Every time I was with Ylaria these were in abundance.
2. Getting a time-out: Once, when Ylaria was still in treatment in NYC, I spent a night babysitting/hanging out/having way too much fun. Gino had gotten free tickets to a Yankee game and at the very last minute, Ylaria refused to go so I stayed with her in the Ronald McDonald House and just hung out. We watched TV, played a game of hide and seek, and she decorated my arms with Dora band aids and laughed every time I said "meeermaid". We were having a wonderful time. And then it happened. I got in trouble. To this day, I still can't remember what I did, but whatever I did, it was NOT good. At. All. And, Ylaria made sure I knew it. I was quickly put on a time-out. Literally. I sat in a corner on the floor with Ylaria giving me a stern look, shaking her finger saying : "No talking." I said: "OK" and laughed. (Cut me some slack, it was funny.) She got even more serious and said: "No laughing." At which point I, again, said, "OK" and laughed even harder. It went on like this for a while. With Ylaria saying "No laughing", "No talking" and me just agreeing and cracking up until there were tears falling down my face. I still laugh at this memory. It was so very "us". Ylaria ran the show. I was simply her side-kick and we both knew it. I wouldn't have changed our arrangement for the world. I loved being her side-kick.
3. The "Seven Seas": I shared this story with a friend of mine recently and to not forget it, I will now share it in writing here. In one of my first visits with Ylaria, we went down to the Ronald McDonald House playroom to read. When Ylaria and I first met, she was 2 years old and very quiet; she never really said anything. (I am convinced she was just sizing me up.) She selected a Dora the Explorer book and I began to read it to her. I don't remember what the story was about, but at one point, we came to a page where Dora was talking about the "Seven Seas" and they showed a picture of a sea with 7 waves, each wave having a number. I read the numbers out loud to her while pointing to the numbers in the illustration, "one, two, three, four, five, six, seven". We turned the page and they had the same picture again, at which point Ylaria pointed to the numbers and said them out loud. I can't even describe how I felt in that moment. I was so proud of her that I was practically in tears. I loved reading with Ylaria and over the years of our friendship, we went from me reading to her to her reading to me. I still remember her sweet voice and how very seriously read her books to me. She was simply brilliant. Had she been able to grow up, she would have been able to do so much. At 5 years old, she had already changed the world by simply being in it.
4. "I love you": As I have shared before, I met Ylaria in November 2007. I soon became a frequent visitor. What can I say? I was hooked. Any Ylaria time I could get I took and I treasured. One night, about a year after meeting, I was having dinner with her and Gino in the Ronald McDonald House. We were being goofy at dinner and she started whispering "secrets" in my ear. It took me a moment to realize she had said "I love you". When it was my turn, I whispered the same to her, at which point she looked at me confused and said, "No, I love you." And I replied, "I love you too." Apparently, this was not acceptable because she turned to me and said in a loud voice, "NO, I (pointing to herself) love YOU!" (pointing to me). It was priceless. I laughed. And simply agreed with her, "Ok, Ylaria, you win. You love me." That memory still makes me smile and feel so incredibly special. If only everyone could have a friend like Ylaria, this world would be a much better place.
5. January visit: By January 2011, Ylaria's cancer had spread and it was clear that her time was limited. Belen and I were in almost daily contact at this point. I began to debate whether or not I should go to California. I was torn. I didn't want to bother or be in the way but I really wanted to spend one last moment with her. Belen finally convinced me to fly out there and I booked a ticket to leave the next day, January 4th. It was the best decision I ever made. When you love someone, no time is ever enough. Not 75 years, not 100 years, and most certainly not 5 years. Having the time to say goodbye and share in one last magic moment with Ylaria means more than I could ever explain. We watched movies, ate Chinese food, drank bubble tea, and did some arts and crafts. I got to hold her hand. I got to hug her. I got to tell her that I loved her. I got one more moment.
Tomorrow, I am going to celebrate all of Ylaria's magic. I'll start by taking a long morning walk and leaving Dora band aids in special places. I'll buy flowers. I'll hug my friends. I'll look for pink and yellow. I'll read a good book. I'll listen to songs until the very end. I will honor Ylaria's life by living my own; it's what she would want.
If you are reading this, I encourage you to create your own magic moments tomorrow. Do something you love, tell your family and friends how much they mean to you, remember to be grateful for all of the small moments that make your day. And when you do all or any of this, remember Ylaria. Her magic lives in all of us.