We met both Maria and Michael through our mutual friends Cindy and Larry. Maria is Costa Rican and Michael is from the United States. They lived in California for many years and raised their four daughters there. Then a few years ago, they decided to retire in Costa Rica and to settle in Santa Maria, not far from Cindy and Larry's. One of their daughters, Erinne, moved here a couple of years ago, as well.
Maria often travels back to the States to visit their other three daugthers, their grandchildren and her sister. With Maria away, Michael was left to his own devices. Since Michael didn't like to cook, he would buy tins of tuna and eat that every day. He never complained, but was always so grateful when Maria was back home. The town folk affectionately called him Atun (Spanish for Tuna, and pronounced Ah-Toon).
Our expat friends have get-togethers every couple of months and we often catch up with Michael, Maria and Erinne there. I saw Michael at the grocery store just last Monday. We hugged and exchanged news: he thanked me for the trout we had sold them a few weeks earlier, he told me Erinne was coming home from her month-long trip in Spain on Saturday (yesterday) and couldn't wait to see her, then we hugged goodbye and said "let's get together soon." I am reminded - with a sting, I might add - tomorrow is never promised... and "soon" as a measurement of time is meaningless if not acted upon "now."
The custom in Costa Rica is to bury their loved ones within 24 hours. However, because Erinne was arriving from Spain within two days, they postponed the funeral until today. Kevin and I, our expat friends, and many neighbours and town folks attended the church service. It was all in Spanish so we didn't understand the actual words, but we certainly understood the heartfelt intent. The language of grief is universal... but so is the language of comfort and hope.
We might live in paradise, but even in paradise we cannot escape the sadness that comes with losing a friend so suddenly... so unexpectedly. We hold Maria, Erinne and the rest of their family in our hearts.
Rest in peace, Michael.