Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Saying Goodbye to a Soul Sister and Shining Spirit


I was originally planning to do a new outfit post today from the photo shoot that Robbie and I did last weekend.  But as I sat down to go through the photos yesterday morning, something happened that put work and plans on hold. Last night, after an incredibly difficult day, I struggled with whether or not I could even post here.  I had so much to process, but wasn't sure if I wanted to do it on the blog.  Occasionally, I do share personal things here, like Bubby dog's illness and passing, stories from our wedding, and the occasional random pondering on life.  But usually, I stick to fun things like design and fashion, and keep the personal stuff on the back-burner.  In the end, I decided that I should share my thoughts with all of you, and to do it in honor of someone dear to me - someone with a spirit so incredible that it deserves to be shared.


In 2006, right after I'd met Robbie (my now husband), I also got to meet a very special person through Robbie's band.  This person's name was Margarita, and she would quickly become one of my dearest friends.  From the day I met her, I was in awe of how positive, intelligent, fun, compassionate, colorful, and unique she was.  She was absolutely gorgeous, held several degrees, and worked with many charities that helped humans and animals.  Margarita and I bonded immediately, and had amazing experiences together all over the country.  She was also involved in many projects I put together for my clothing line.  She modeled and participated in speaking engagements with me, and was a constant source of support and encouragement.  In 2008, she decided to move to Florida to start a new adventure.  We hosted a going away party for her that I'll never forget!  As the years passed, even with the geographical distance between us, she never felt far away. 

In 2010, Margarita was visiting Colombia (where she is originally from) and was involved in a terrible motorcycle accident.  After emergency surgery, she was transferred to Denver and went through a long, grueling recovery.  Margarita lost her ability to walk, but never once through her recovery did she complain.  She got herself the most stylish pink wheelchair she could find, and remained incredibly positive and hopeful.  When she was finally released from the hospital (after 6 months), she quickly became involved in several projects that promoted awareness of spinal cord injuries.  She actively participated in rigorous physical therapy, learned yoga, and became a mentor to others who faced similar challenges.  She was even crowned Ms. Wheelchair Colorado.


Marg's life post-accident wasn't without challenges, but she always overcame them in the end.  She suffered a terrible injury while walking her beloved dog Montana and ended up back in the hospital for several months last summer.  She had another injury on an uneven Denver street last month, and many others in between.  But she refused to let her "disability" slow her down.  She continued to travel, to learn, to grow, and to pursue new adventures.  She had to miss our wedding in October because she'd made plans to participate in a huge wheelchair race.  I couldn't think of a cooler reason not to be there. 

Yesterday morning, right after I'd sat down to work, I got an email from Margarita's cousin in Colombia asking me to call her.  I knew Marg was in Miami with her family, because on Easter Sunday she'd given her first sermon at the Metaphysical Church of South Florida.  She had recently received her degree in quantum healing hypnosis and was so excited to give this sermon on rebirth.  When I talked to her cousin, my heart sank.  The night before, Margarita had been doing her nightly exercises in her aunt's pool.  She had been working extra hard to strengthen her muscles in preparation for a potential surgery that would give her a 60% chance of walking again.  Her aunt was inside on the phone, and when she looked out to check on Marg and didn't she her, she ran out and discovered that Margarita had drowned.  (Typing this out is not easy.)  Margarita was resuscitated, but there had been substantial damage and she was on life support.  Her cousin asked me to reach out to Marg's friends so that we could collectively pray and send healing thoughts her way.  Robbie and I both got on the phone and started making some of the most heart wrenching calls of our lives.  Unfortunately, a few hours later, I got word from her cousin that Margarita had passed away.

My heart is heavy and I am still in complete shock as I write this.  But I felt the overwhelming need to share Margarita's incredible story, even as grief overcomes me and the reality of this situation sinks in.  More than anything, I wanted to share it because Marg had been working on a series for Bubby and Bean where she'd planned to share her story with you herself.  She had started writing a post that outlined her journey since her accident, and had planned on writing several others in hopes of showing others the potential to create a whole new life after overcoming major adversity.  It makes me so sad that she wasn't able to carry out this plan.  But I feel some comfort in being able to share it for her, and to give you guys a glimpse into how amazing and inspiring she was. 

As horribly sad and sick as I (and many, many others) feel inside right now, I wonder if Marg decided on that life support machine that it was her time to go dance again (she LOVED to dance; it was one of the things she most missed about being in a wheelchair).  After her most recent injury, she'd jokingly said "this cat is running out of lives!"  She'd also mentioned that she'd had four Near Death Experiences in 25 months.  She was so special, and her spirit was so huge, that I wonder if she was just a little too big for world.  And I think she was at peace with this.

Ironically (or maybe not), Monday, the night that Marg drowned, was also Jeff's birthday.  Jeff was a dear friend who I considered to be my brother (I was actually married to him years ago, and we stayed very close to in the years that followed).  I actually posted about him last year on the one-year anniversary of his death, and mentioned that this blog was started out of my desire to "relearn how to follow my bliss" after the great loss felt by his passing.  Remembering him, and now facing another great loss, I am reminded of how fragile life is.  We all say things like "life is short" all the time, but it is in times where we truly feel it, deep to the core, that it becomes real. 

As Robbie prepares to go back on the road with the band today, my heart aches at the thought of not having him here to hug through the upcoming days and nights.  I have lost many people who were close to my heart over the years, but right now, I feel more strongly than ever the importance of cherishing your time with those you love, and to always remember to tell them how much they mean to you.  I feel very lucky that I was able to tell Marg how special she was.  Honestly, it was kind of impossible not to tell her this on a regular basis.  She shined so brightly and overcame so much that you couldn't help but constantly express to her how much she awed you.  I am also reminded that we are all here for a reason, and that we are given an opportunity to do something meaningful with our lives.  I can't think of a greater example of this than my beautiful friend Margarita Verano, who in her short life, made an impact so massive that thousands of people (literally) are left forever changed.  


Margie - little daisy - thank you for the late-night adventures, the long phone calls, the compassion and love, the sunrise laughter sessions, the intense conversations, the overwhelming inspiration, and for teaching the rest of us what it means to truly LIVE.  This world is just a little darker without your sparkle in it.  Wherever you are, I hope you're dancing barefoot in the grass, reunited with your mom.  In your favorite words: "sunshine and synchronicity!"  Tu eres bonita Margarita.  I love you so much.

Love,
Melissa

P.S. I also wanted to share a short video that Marg put together last year about starting a new life after spinal cord injury.  Embedding is disabled, but you can watch it on YouTube by clicking here. It's beautiful and inspiring and I am so grateful that she created it to share with the rest of the world.  I'm also grateful that Marg included one of my favorite pictures of us in the video.  I'll always be a better person having had her in my life.

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59 comments:

  1. Wow, Margarita was such a wonderful soul and gave so much to others. It saddens me to hear of her passing, but from the kind and loving words you've written about her, I'm quite positive her legacy will live one. My thoughts and prayers are with her family and friends.

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  2. Having recently experienced a heart shattering loss that I haven't been brave enough to write about on my blog yet, I know that nothing anyone can say can make your loss easier to bear. From what little you've shared with us of Margarita's story, she was an incredible person and I truly hope (like you) that she is somewhere dancing and letting her beautiful soul continue to enrich the lives of those she knew in her life here. <3

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  3. Oh I am so so sorry for your loss. Your post is so beautiful though and so touching. I feel like just by reading your words that I learned so much about your dear friend. My thoughts and good vibes are with you.

    Lots of love
    xo
    Jenna

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  4. Oh my goodness, I am so sorry!!! I can't even imagine. I wish she'd gotten to finish her series for your blog but thank you sooooo much for sharing her story. I watched her video, how inspiring!!! I'm sorry that your husband has to leave today and hope you find some comfort in your grief. I'm praying for margarita's family and friends. Thank you again for sharing this in your time of mourning. She was a true inspiration!!!

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  5. I'm so sorry for your loss. She sounds like a wonderful girl, and I think her legacy will live on for a long time. Overcoming that kind of adversity isn't easy, and we could all learn a lot from her example.

    Sending you good thoughts and virtual hugs.

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  6. I am so sorry for your loss! She sounds like an absolutely amazing person, and I'm sure she will be watching over you!

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  7. thank you for sharing this, melissa. i'm so very sorry for your loss. i'm sending warm thoughts your way. it seems like the past few weeks have been very difficult for our music community. i so appreciated the love and support the band showed for Sarah - i hope you can feel our love coming back to you ... Margarita seems like a bright soul and a fresh breath of air. may you always cherish your memories with her. sending lots of love to you.

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  8. My heart broke a bit just reading this- after losing a dear friend to a pulmonary embolism in her sleep, losing someone so vibrant, especially when you call that someone a friend is terribly hard. My heart goes out to you and I hope that warm memories make the grief a little easier, though I know it doesn't change the sadness you feel. Thanks for sharing her story with us.

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  9. This is such a beautiful, beautiful post that meant so much to me today. Thank you so much for sharing it, and I'm so very sorry for your loss. Sending lots of love and healing vibes your way. I'm sure this post will bring so much strength to many out there, so thank you so so much for sharing it. <3333

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  10. I am so sorry for your loss. Thank you for sharing Margarita's story. You are not alone. God is always with you - loving you, supporting you and guiding you through your loss. You live in the light of God's peace, and you are comforted. Namaste.

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  11. Beautifully written. Thank you so much. You are a wonderful inspiration. Sending you lots of love, thoughts, and hugs.

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  12. So sorry for your loss, I can't imagine how hard this must be. My thoughts and prayers go out to you!

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  13. My heart is so heavy...and my eyes filled with tears. I am so very sorry for your loss. I can see - through your words - and your lovely photos of Margarita that she was a bright and shining light. I have great faith that she will continue to be that. Much love, many blessings and continued healing.

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  14. p.s. I am really glad you decided to share this. She touched my life and I did not know her!!! She is very proud of you...

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  15. I'm so sorry for your loss. I can't even imagine what it would be like to loose my best friend. I'll be praying for you and her family.

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  16. My friend, JP knew her very well. I'm so sorry for your loss. I didn't know her but she seemed to be a beautiful and extraordinary person.

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  17. A beautifuly written homage to a strong and inspiring friend!!!! I'm so sorry she isn't on this plane anymore but so thankful that she's twirling free in another. Will light a candle for her tonight.

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  18. It just doesn't seem fair that somebody with so much spirit and so much to give and share would go through so much! I hope you can take some comfort in knowing that she definitely lived her life, I mean, she did so much and she touched so many people. Thanks for sharing her story, I know it must have been very difficult.

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  19. That is very tough to share... I lost a friend in 2009. He was hit by a car while riding a bike. It still hurts to think about that. Sharing this pain and the love you have with her family and friends doesn't make things easier, but it does make it possible to get through the day. I hope you and her loved ones get through this difficult time together.

    -Kiley

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  20. I am so sorry to hear about your loss and I can't imagine the pain you must be feeling. This post touched me deeply and I'm sure Margarita is smiling, knowing that she was loved and impacted so many lives. I wish you the best in getting through this difficult time, but remember that her beautiful spirit and memory lives on in those she touched while she was alive.

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  21. Wow... This is hard. I appreciate that you shared this with us, and that you can write here. I hope that you're feeling better. I'm so sorry for your loss. I'll be praying for you.

    -Abby

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  22. beautiful post. while I didn't know her nearly as well as you, she touched my life and inspired me so.
    <3

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  23. This broke my heart. Thank you for sharing her story with us -- I will be more grateful for my life and the health of my friends and family today because of it <3

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  24. It is always devastating to hear about the lost of a young life especially one who embraced life and lived it to the fullest. I am so sorry I did not get a chance to meet Margarita online or in person.

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  25. What an amazingly powerful force she was and continues to be in this world - her legacy will live on through her inspiring work. Thank you for sharing, Mel, you are blessed to know her and to share in her lovelight.

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  26. what a beautiful soul! i watched the video. it was nice to hear her voice, & see her moving. melissa, you have known some amazing people in your life. it's weird with the dates & things, does it sometimes seem like the come full circle? or are things like drops of ripples spreading into waves? hopeful.

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  27. Oh Melissa, I'm so sorry for your loss. Losing someone that close to you is something that can't be understood. Glad you to know someone that wonderful :) Praying for you.

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  28. So sorry for your loss Melissa <333

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  29. I'm so, so sorry for your loss. Your post is so beautifully written and nearly brought tears to my eyes. Margarita must have been a wonderful person and friend. I hope you're able to find some peace in the coming time while dealing with something so hard to go through. Many thoughts send your way.

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  30. Oh Melissa I'm so sorry. She sounds like she was such a kind spirit and the world is no doubt better for her having been in it.

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  31. i'm so sorry to hear about your loss, melissa! :(

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  32. Thank you all so much for the kind words. Many of her other friends have read this post, and I hope they know that the love in these comments goes out to them as well. (My readers kick ass!) I hope that we can all learn something amazing and profound from Marg's story, and the incredible life she created for herself that was cut too short. With love, melissa

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  33. my heart both hurts and rejoices...what a beautiful celebration of life you've painted above. i am inspired <3

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  34. Melissa thank you so much for this. WOW !!! I wanted to let you know that sharing yesterday with you meant so much. I truly believe she worked her magic to make sure we were connected during those last hours. I send you all my love and gratitude for this amazing tribute.

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    1. Thank you so much for reaching out to me Natalia, and for keeping Margie's friends updates during this sad time. I agree that Marg worked her special magic to make sure we connected. I continue to send so much love to you and the rest of her family.

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  35. Oh Melissa, this is so sad but thank you for sharing. My thoughts are with you, I can't imagine how you must be feeling. A beautiful tribute to someone who clearly meant a lot to you!

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  36. I am so sorry for your loss. Your post is beautiful, heart warming and heart breaking at the same time.

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  37. thanks for sharing your memories of Margarita, she got her legs back + some new dancing shoes & is with my mom once again :)

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  38. Oh my. I was just able to catch up on blog posts this morning.
    My heart just aches for you and those impacted by your sweet friend!
    I think a gallon of tears fell off my face while reading this post.
    I pray that the days will get better for you!!
    Life really is a precious thing!!
    And it is all the more beautiful when we have someone who encouraged us and shined through our lives.
    I'm so happy that you had a friend like Margarita. That is such a blessing!!!
    much love to you.
    xoxo
    -Colie

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  39. Thank you so much for sharing this story. I am SO incredibly sorry for your loss and hope each day gets a little easier for you. She was a wonderful, beautiful and inspiring woman and I am so grateful I was able to hear a small part of her story.

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  40. Thank you so much for honoring Margarita. My family, also from Colombia have been friends with her family for as long as I can remember. I loved reading her post on facebook and I will miss her positivity and strength. Can't wait to hear about the tributes, if you need any help please let me know. Much love, Lisa

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    1. I am sending so much love to your family and Margaritas. Thank you for the kind words!

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  41. I'm so sorry for your loss! She truly sounds like an amazing person to have touched so many people. Her positivity through tragedy is inspiring. Thank you for sharing her story

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  42. I have known Margarita for over 20 years. We went to high school together and have been friends ever since. I moved to Ohio for 8 years for college and work. After moving back to florida 6 years ago, we had become very close and, like always, has been a source of inspiration and a genuine spring of happiness wherever she goes, including after her accident. I was one of the first people to hear about her accident on monday, and I felt compelled to deliver the news to those who knew her as I did. Being the harbinger of this type of news is not a role i can imagine anyone relishing, but it had be done. All who knew her life and everything she has surmounted, were in absolute shock. I would like to thank everyone for the multitude of kind words and the many condolences that you have offered. I only wish everyone could have known her as a person because she would have left an indelible mark on your heart that you could never forget. I will let her friends and family know the impact she had on so many lives in life and in death. Thank you for so many of your kind words... we love you margarita... this world is truly a lesser place without you in it.

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    1. Thank you for leaving this comment JP. It's amazing how many people Margarita touched on such a profound level. I'm glad you were able to see this post and read all of the comments. I hope you are doing okay during this tough time. Love, Melissa

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  43. My thoughts are with you, it is never easy to lose a loved one, especially one who is taken too soon. She sound like she lived life to the full though and will always be an inspiring role model.Rx

    http://sandersonsmithstory.blogspot.co.uk/

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  44. Thank you from the bottom of my heart for truly expressing Margarita's life so eloquently and marvelous. She was, and forever will be, an inspiration to so many individuals. I also knew her in high school and even though our lives went different ways, I am so thankful that God placed us back together for the last two years of her life. Indeed, the world has lost an irreplaceable shinning star... and now heaven has an angel who will forever dance. Thanks again for the amazing tribute to her life. How blessed are we to have been touched by one of the most amazing souls this world has to offer. We will never forget her light, and we will always remember her smile. God bless.

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    1. Thank you for commenting Angela. I agree that we are all incredibly blessed to have known such an amazing person. <3

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  45. Beautiful. Just like Margarita & you. Thanks kiddo. Sigh.

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  46. So sorry for your loss. And yes....life is too short. Thinking of you and Margaita;s family.

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  47. As Ms. Wheelchair MO 2011, I greatly regret not having met Margarita last year, when her injury forced her not to attend the pageant. Having MS and living life in a wheelchair is difficult, but I strive to always keep a positive attitude and inspire others to do the same. Having said that, I can only wish that I was half the person she was and half the spirit she is. She will always continue to inspire me to help others and bring peace and light to the world.

    Karen Swartz

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    1. Thank you so much for commenting Karen, and for your sweet words about Margarita. It sounds like you are a truly incredible person as well! It's comforting to hear that Margie has inspired you to continue to help others. I wish you the very best. xo, melissa

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  48. I know we tweeted briefly last week, but again, sorry about this. Such a sad story. Your friend sounded amazing.

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  49. I am so sorry for your loss. Sometimes it's hard to imagine why people who are so amazing have to leave the world in the most tragical ways. But I'm sure God knows why. I'm sure your friend is in a good place now.

    Tight hug.

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  50. OMG! :-(
    I was wondering why I hadn't heard from Margarita in so long.
    Wow...LIFE IS PRECIOUS!!! I love this woman so much!
    We met at Burning Man in 2011 and had a fantastic time spending the week together. I visited her down in Denver later that year to spend some time with her and to help her out with a few things. She was so strong spirited. I guess I assumed we'd always have time together.
    I travelled through Europe & Asia last year and hadn't heard from her from her since I got back. When I failed to find her FB acct. I Googled her name & wound up here. :-( I was so hoping that someone was mistaken about this, but when I try her number...No answer.
    I'll have to take some time to process all of this.

    I love you Marg!
    I wish I had been in a position to help you more.
    Your love lives on inside us all!
    ((((( <3 )))))

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  51. Thank you for this beautifully written piece Melissa!
    I very, very much appreciate it!

    ~Owen

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  52. I met Margarita at Burning Man in 2011 as well. She spent a lot of time at our camp and I was in complete awe of this amazing woman. She told me once that I was an inspiration to her - one of the most humbling things anyone has said to me. I have never met anyone like Margarita - her poise, beauty, and optimism were unflagging. Margarita became an inspiration to me - a living example of the power of resilience and optimism. Her untimely death is a tragedy and reminds me that life is far too short to go a day without expressing gratitude to those who bring us joy.

    Everyone who had the pleasure of Margarita's friendship will be forever changed - she truly made a difference in the world.

    Thank you, Melissa -
    Bobbie

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