Miriam and her husband take an unexpected trip to Madrid to visit their friend Pepe.
It was a Wednesday morning when my husband and I received a message that our dear friend Pepe, who had returned to Spain because of his cancer, was now hospitalized due to peritonitis. Right away I searched for flights to Spain to go see him. As we were approaching Thanksgiving, and I had time off, I thought that maybe my husband and I could go even if only for a week. It was so last minute. It was crazy. There were so many papers to fill out due to the pandemic. There were so many things to figure out. We bought the flight tickets and left two days later.
Was it crazy? Yes. Was it overwhelming? Yes. Why did I feel the need to go? Was it for Pepe or was it for me? I think it was for both. I’d like to say that I was being a good friend and going to visit him to make him happy, but the truth is that I was also going to visit him because I had a need to see him, to be with him. He told everyone there that we were his brother and sister in Miami. I kept thinking that to me, even though he is just a few years older than I, he is like a father. During his time in Miami he taught me, he guided me, he protected me, he loved me, and yes, he drove me crazy!
I wasn’t sure what condition we would find him in and I was afraid of my reaction to his condition, but when we arrived at the hospital and saw him, I was so happy that what I saw was not a sick man, but my friend Pepe. Don’t get me wrong, he is sick and has lost quite a bit of weight due to his cancer and now the peritonitis, but that’s not what I saw. What I saw was the man who turned my life upside down about 10 years ago. What I saw was my friend with whom I have laughed and cried with. What I saw was the man who introduced my husband and I to Giussani and Communion and Liberation. We were able to spend a lot of time with him and even celebrate Thanksgiving at his house with him, his brother, and his housemates.
What a gift that Thanksgiving week was. But looking back, the gift was not only in being able to see and be with Pepe, but also in being able to see and be with some of our friends whom we have met through the Movement. We stayed with a family whom we met through the International Program in my school and whose four children we have hosted throughout the years. We have spent time with them in Madrid and in the US on several vacations together. We had not seen each other in about 3 years, yet on that first night there was no awkwardness, no distance of any kind. Our friendship is so natural even though we live in a different country and we don’t see each other often. On our first night in Madrid, as we sat around the table for dinner, I looked around and thought to myself, “What are we doing here? How did this happen?” If you would have asked me 10 years ago about my life in the future, never would I have dreamed of what I am living now. How is this friendship possible? We also spent some time with another family whose children we also hosted and again I was struck by the joy we experienced when we shared with each other about our lives--the joy at seeing the first girl we hosted and meeting her husband and 2-month-old baby for the first time; the joy at seeing how one of her sisters was supposed to take the train back to Bilbao that evening to go back to school, but postponed it until the next day to be able to spend a few hours with us. Again, I asked myself, “How is this friendship possible?” The week was truly a gift from God. I had so much to be thankful for. My heart was so full. But at the same time, we had friends back home who were going through something difficult and I was desiring to be with them as well. What is it about this friendship that I want to share life with them?
When I returned to work the following Monday, I was teaching a lesson on friendship to introduce the friendship God wants to have with us. I had my students list some qualities of true friendships and we spent the entire class talking about them. I found myself often referring to my experience in Madrid because there were so many examples of friendship there. It was then that I realized the beauty of the friendship we have met. As I am writing this I am struck by the fact that I wrote “friendship” and not “friendships.” It is as if I am aware, even if I had not realized it, that this is one friendship, a friendship with Him through all these people. It is not many friendships, but one, or rather One. This friendship transcends time, space, and even illness. It is clear that this friendship is a friendship like no other. Thank you to my dear friend Pepe who rocked our world and introduced us to this new friendship and to a “new reality.”
Miriam, Miami, FL