“Virginia’s way”

April 1, 2021 - 12:00am -- Living City

“Virginia’s way”
How to cope after a dear friend passed due to Covid-19

By Lin Ruiz

People do things differently and try to cope with death in many ways.

A few days after Virginia died on May 4, I deeply felt the reality and finality of losing a beloved friend. I met her and her family sometime around 1997during a retreat of the Focolare Movement. We talked about our lives one night and the friendship that developed remained for nearly 23 years.

After her death, I realized that I needed to focus my attention on something constructive and work on my unfinished projects at home to take my mind off her sudden demise. I remembered that when she used to visit me in Brooklyn in the summertime, Virginia would always love to sit outside my backyard where we would share life’s experiences (with tears and laughter) while having some sweets and tea. This inspired me to work on my little garden and fill it with plants and flowers. I even added a small picnic table and chairs to make it cozy and relaxing. In her memory, I named it “Virginia’s Way,” a reminder that she passed this way many times before.

“Virginia’s Way” became a refuge from the summer heat, an escape from the cabin fever I’d feel being cooped up inside the house during the lockdown. It became my hideaway, my comfort zone, where I read books, wrote cards to friends, listened to my favorite music, or just spent quiet time alone. The sense of peace and tranquility evoked memories of her ever caring and gentle ways. It also brought solace and comfort to see the colorful flowers in bloom, the burst of nature and the life it brought about.

An emotional rollercoaster

I was shocked and devastated, losing a trusted and a loyal friend. She was a confidante, a sister, a mother, and a friend rolled into one. When she got sick, I really thought that she would come out of it because she was a strong person.

There was also a sense of guilt: what could I have done better or should have done differently, and the ifs: if the vaccine had been available then, she would not have gotten sick. There is not a day that I do not think of her, the travels and projects we did together. It is a perpetual absence that can never be filled or replaced by anything or anyone.

Coming to terms

My faith and the friends that live with me the spirituality of unity are the major pillars that give me strength and comfort, helping me overcome the grief and pain. Together with Virginia’s family and friends, we offered nightly prayers, rosaries and novenas by Zoom for the next 40 days, which culminated with the celebration of the Holy Mass. This is a practice in the Philippines that is  observed after the death of a family member.

I am profoundly grateful to have known her and her beautiful family whom she loved so much. She was so happy and proud of her children’s accomplishments; they did not fail her.

I am consoled thinking that I had the chance to meet a kind and giving person. I had learned so many valuable lessons from the beautiful experiences we shared together: her inner strength in times of adversities and difficulties, her patience and calm demeanor when she struggled with demanding situations, and her resolve to always be the first one to reach out and forgive. I knew that she loved and was loved till the end. She will continue to be an everlasting gift to her family and everyone whose lives she touched.

Always a generous giver that she was, I recognized that she left me so many gifts of wisdom that I can always open, every time I need a word of encouragement or a word of advice. These serve as my guide and help me navigate through life’s intricate passageways, as if she were just a phone call away. “Share the other’s hurt and joys” helped me cope and heal daily: Virginia exemplified and lived this too.

I am ever thankful for everything that she was.

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