I spent last weekend in love filled bubble as I watched one of the greatest loves of my life walk down the aisle in the wedding of the century. It was the most incredible weekend, and I was honored to be a part of it. I was asked dozens of times how I knew Fernanda. I hesitated with my answer, unsure which version of my story to tell. I could go with the easy, breezy version, which was, “we met in 2006 when our boys were in the same preschool class,” or I could go with the harder version, which is one of the truest truths I’ve ever known. I met Fernanda in 2006, but I didn’t really know Fernanda until 2010 when my three-year-old son was diagnosed with cancer.
Which version of the story do you think I chose to tell?
I chose the second version, knowing very well that tears would follow and potentially bring down the mood of the festivities, but to answer any other way would be abandoning the truth that I’ve worked so hard to own. Almost every person I told already knew about Ronan, and when they realized I was Ronan’s mom, I watched as their eyes filled with tears, and they embraced me in the most genuine, heartfelt way. I was met with, “You’re Maya! I feel like I know you because of Fernanda!“ I smiled and said I don’t know how I would have survived my son’s cancer diagnosis, treatment, and death if not for her. Below is a small excerpt from my book. Fernanda’s magic is sprinkled throughout this story.
Fernanda appeared on my doorstep about a week after Ronan’s diagnosis. I opened my door to this tiny framed, Auburn-haired Mexican goddess holding a life-size Darth Vader pinata she hauled back from Mexico City for Ronan. Or maybe it was really for me to beat the shit out of. Fernanda was, at one point, a “hi—how are you—isn’t life so busy” type of friend until she wasn’t. I first met Fernanda a few years prior when her little boy, Luca, was in the same preschool class as Liam and Quinn. We were both busy moms, and a deep friendship wasn’t formed, but she was somebody I always looked forward to seeing in class with our kids. By the time of Ronan’s diagnosis, the twins and Luca were at completely different schools. Fernanda could have quickly just sent an email saying how sorry she was about Ronan and went on living her beautiful life, but that is not what she did.
Once Fernanda contacted me, her home-cooked meals appeared at our house weekly. As we got more comfortable with her, she started visiting Ronan in the hospital, bringing along little gifts to keep him entertained while he was being held captive. Within a few weeks, Fernanda became someone Ronan would stay with at the hospital just long enough for me to run home and shower or sit in his closet and scream and cry while nobody else was home. She became our constant rock—coming to clinic visits to listen to what doctors had to say, taking it upon herself to learn just as much about this nasty disease as we did. Fernanda had a husband at home as well as five kids, who, at the time, were all under the age of seven. She missed family meals, vacations, and activities at school that her kids were performing in, and she never told me any of this. I heard it from others. She would have never wanted us to feel like a burden. One day, one of her little boys was doing something at school, and all the parents came and watched. Fernanda was, once again, absent. A mother approached Fernanda’s son and said, “Honey, isn’t your mom here?” He looked up at his woman with his huge soulful eyes that matched Fernanda’s and said, “No, she can’t come today. She’s helping a little boy grow his hair back.” She gave up her life with her family and friends to walk through hell with us, and she never asked for a thing in return.
When Fernanda first appeared on my doorstep, her brown eyes sparkled with authenticity. She felt safe, and I instantly trusted her. Was it because I felt so helpless? Would I regret letting her into my life? I didn’t have the emotional bandwidth to nurture a new friendship, which concerned me as I take my friendships very seriously. These things crossed my mind, but she continued to show up daily with her softest presence. It was never about her; it was always about my son. About us. Fernanda’s unwavering love only grew stronger, and because of that, I was reminded of the importance of vulnerability in life. Fernanda came into my life at the worst possible time, but instead of putting up my usual walls, I let her in.
Fernanda. My sister for life. You are one of the brightest stars on this earth. The love I have for you only gets stronger, no matter the distance or time between us. You are one of the reasons I stayed amongst the living, and writing about you in my book has been some of my favorite web of words. I cannot wait to share everything with you. I am so happy for you and Dave. Your love story is beyond beautiful, and no one is more deserving of this happiness than you. Thank you for everything you did for us. Thank you for the way you loved and love my son. Watching the two of you fall in love will forever be one of my favorite memories. I love you to the moon and back. And back again. Wink wink forever.