Friday, April 23, 2021

Grieving For A Friend Taken by COVID


L-R: Charly, Dana, me, Margarita, and
Manolo in front, on our way to the
Blue Coconut for bacchanalia and BBQ,
I made my first friend in Panama before I even got here.

I was on a Panamanian Facebook group looking for a rental and she responded to me about a rental she was showing.

I didn't take the rental, but we started talking on FB and when my first immigration attorney bailed on me, she recommended another attorney who did a fantastic job for me!

We became fast friends and when I got here she showed me around Bocas Del Toro and I bought breakfasts and lunches in return. We had a great time!

Originally from Argentina, she wound up in Bocas by way of Los Angeles, CA, where many of her family members live. It seemed everyone in Bocas knew Margarita and she knew everyone. Every time I said I needed something, she'd invariably say, "Oh, I have a friend who can help you."

In addition to being a good friend, Margarita was my interpreter when I needed one, and she also cleaned my apartment every two weeks. She was helping me learn Spanish, I was helping her improve her English.

On Thursday, April 8, I received a FB message from her telling me she had tested positive for COVID, and that the doctor has sent her home for 15 days of quarantine and that she wouldn't be able to clean my apartment and that she was fine, just a little under the weather. I checked back with her daily and ran some errands. I knew she was diabetic and was very worried for her.

Two days later, she again texted me to let me know she was in the hospital and that she had water in her lungs. This was obviously serious and I knew she was following a well-known trajectory for COVID patients who had pre-existing conditions like diabetes.

I tried to get some immunity supplements that I had bought for her, but she had to check with the doctor first, and on the 11th she texted me to tell me the doctor had said "no for the moment."

That was the last time I heard back from her.

MY friend Manolo (pictured above in front), who is an attorney here would get me occasional pieces of information: She'd been moved to the larger Bocas hospital on the mainland... she'd been intubated... They wanted to move her to the largest hospital in Western Panama but the road to David had been washed out again because of the heavy rains... we tried to call the American Embassy to see if we could get her airlifted to David, but they weren't answering their phones... that she had somehow got to David... 

And this morning I received a text from Manolo, saying that Margarita was in Heaven...

Margarita was generous to a fault. Always a joke, always a huge smile on her face, always offering to help. You couldn't find a kinder more gentle soul. 

Adios, mi Amiga... you will be missed and forever loved.

UPDATE: Sunday, April 25

I attended the Catholic funeral service in Spanish this morning for Margarita, the first friend I made in Bocas. 

No one spoke for her. No one got to step up the Priest's podium to speak to what she meant to them, how she had impacted their life, what they loved about her. 

The only thing I understood in the service was her name when it came up 4-5 times. I attended Catholic services once or twice as a teenager in California that were in Latin. This wasn't that different for me, as the ritual felt more important than the message. It felt impersonal. Because this was personal, I conducted my own private service in silence.

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