The Saturday after Christmas, I asked my husband to wake up with the kids while I slept in. But he shook me awake as a text buzzed through his phone. His best friend from grade school (whose wife had become one of my best friends) pleaded for prayer. His daughter, Fastina, was rushed to the emergency room and he was afraid she wouldn’t make it. Jeff ripped off my blankets and barked, “Get dressed! We’re going to the hospital.” Minutes after stepping on the post-op floor, a nurse led me to a room where my dear friend clutched her daughter. She was dead. At the age of 21. I was too stunned to cry. I wrapped my arms around my friend who collapsed in my arms and sobbed. The seconds that ticked by felt like an eternity.
Fastina Derestil was anything but ordinary. She was a survivor born in Haiti who moved to America where she survived two open heart surgeries. She was a radiant beauty with a raucous laugh. She was a beloved wife who birthed a beautiful baby boy two weeks prior to her passing. She was extraordinary. My husband had the privilege of documenting her milestones in photographs. And as we pored over pictures of her high school graduation, her wedding, her baby…I felt my chest get tight that this precious life was no longer. And I thought to myself, “I’ll bet her mother would give anything to hear that laugh again. To give her hand a squeeze. To say ‘hey’ on the phone.”
We live for the big moments. Week-long family vacations to Florida. Christmas Day. Birthdays. But it’s those ordinary moments we complain about and yet miss the most when our kids grow up, when they move on, when they’re no longer…Fastina’s passing woke me up. I want to memorize the way my daughter’s face scrunches when she’s trying to sneak a candy cane from the cabinet…I want to read “Go, Dog Go!” over and over to my son and hear his high-pitched voice read the words with me…I want to savor the simple stuff of life.
I started a journal for each of my kids and every night before I go to bed I try to jot a little entry in each one. For my son the other night, I wrote, “You asked to ‘get snug’ with Mommy and read the story of Noah’s Ark. You asked for a pet giraffe. Good luck. Daddy won’t even let you have a goldfish.” For my daughter today I wrote, “You asked for three pieces of quiche at breakfast today! I’ll bet you could be a contender for that hot-dog eating contest on Coney Island someday!”
How can you honor the ordinary?