What Today Brings
"For life and death are one, even as the river and the sea are one.” - Khalil Gibran
We are all aware that one day this will end. Our lives, as we know them, will be over. Whether it ends extremely early at four or whether we pass peacefully in our sleep at one hundred and four, there will come a time when this life we are living is over. Why then, is it such a shock when one of us leaves? In the case of Antonio Bonifant, it is because we are not finished. We are not finished being with him. We are not finished laughing with him. We are not finished loving him.
The last time I saw Tony was a year ago when he and his stepfather, Ramon Cervantes, held hands with me as we said a prayer for my Uncle Ben who lay asleep in his hospital bed. Tony and Ramon wiped tears from their eyes because they knew it was coming to the end of my Uncle’s life. It is unimaginable that all three men in the room that day are now gone. Ramon left this world within a few months, only to be followed this week by Tony. Ramon and Tony both died in Mexico, not their adopted home of Versailles. Had they been in America when they needed immediate, life-saving health care, they might still be alive. Ramon’s fragile body and Tony’s fragile heart needed more care than the hospitals in Veracruz, Mexico had to offer.
Maybe both men wouldn’t have had it any other way. They loved Mexico and their roots as much as they loved their friends and lives in Versailles. Berthina and Ramon Cervantes came to Versailles in 1989 with their daughter Betsy. Later, their older children, Tony and Karin came to be with them. It was by a stroke of good luck that this very special family came to be close with mine. As my grandparents, Mammy and Pappy (Mildred and A.B. Chandler) reached their late eighties and the beginning of the end of their lives, Ramon and Berthina softened the load. As our families blended, we shared holidays and heartaches, illnesses and the tragedy of my own brother’s passing way too early. One of my favorite pictures of my brother Chan is him kneeling and hugging a seven-year-old Betsy. At the funeral, the Cervantes mourned his passing as much as, or harder than, any of his life-long friends.
I have come to believe that we souls travel in packs. The dates that one arrives or leaves this world are often glaring in their serendipity. My father died on my birthday for instance. Tony died a year to the day of my Uncle Ben. Perhaps we all made a pact before birth, deciding how long to stay and who would be in heaven to greet us when we are called back from whence we came. We will all find out because, as Jim Morrison said, “No one here gets out alive.”
It brings a smile to my face when I remember the crush Mammy had on Tony when dementia began to seep in. She would wink at me when he came in the room, a girlish, knowing wink. When he would leave she would whisper to me, “You know his girlfriend doesn’t much like him spending time here.” Nodding playfully because she was sure the young girl was jealous.
Tony was so kind to my grandmother, he was kind to everyone. He was one of those people that everyone would refer to as a man, ‘with a good heart.’ You could see in his eyes, a love of life, and in his wry smile, a sense of humor about it all. I feel sure that if there was an agreed upon pact before we were dropped into this beautiful mess, Tony would have made sure his beloved mother, Berthina, would be taken care of. Somehow, someway, she would have angels around her to protect her and let her know that this is all temporary. We will all be happily reunited again.
At this time of grief, I want to wrap invisible wings around Berthina, Betsy and Karin. I want them to know that there is a reason and they will understand one day. Our time here is limited and sometimes entirely too short. Most of all, I pray that they feel the love of their guardian angels, Ramon and Tony, who will walk with them every day that remains whether next door here in Versailles or their ancestral home of Mexico.