Noelle the Christmas Champion

Christmas is a time to get together with loved ones, and there are countless memories attached to the season and the people you spend time with. Those people are the warmth in the midst of life's cold, blustery moments. Which is why when a loved one passes away, holidays aren't the same anymore. I know how much it was a struggle to have Father's Day, Thanksgiving and Christmas without my dad.

I mentioned in my November Beauty Favorites about my sister's best friend, Noelle, who passed away last month. We grew up in the church where my uncle was the lead pastor and Noelle's dad was the associate pastor, in the Bay Area. They completely remember me, but I didn't remember them at all since I was a toddler at the time. But we all reconnected on Facebook 7 years ago. It turns out that Noelle and her family moved to the Sacramento area for a while before permanently living in Canada. Then 4 years ago, she moved back with her [now] 11-year old daughter Drina, and grew closer to my sister...they eventually came best friends, and Drina became best friends with my 13-year old niece. And she married her middle school crush, Josh and had 2 kids together, a 3-year old and a 1-year old.

Last month (around the time of the Election), Noelle's parents were visiting, so they all went, along with Josh and the boys, to go on a little hike. Then she started having a severe headache during the hike and had to be rushed to the ER. It turned out that she had an aneurysm. She became conscious a little bit afterwards, and when my sister visited, they communicated using paper and pen. Noelle would write "pump" or "breast donor" because she wanted to feed her boys. One thing I remembered about her was that she was all about exclusively breastfeeding, cloth diapering, baby wrap-wearing, and co-sleeping with her boys. She also would write "sinigang" (a Filipino soup with tamarind) because she was craving for it and wanted it as her first comfort dish as soon as she would get released from the hospital. My sister promised that she would cook her a big batch of sinigang. Things started to look up, and she was in better shape.

Until she had to get surgery to close the part of her brain where the aneurysm was. She had 3 strokes after that. That's the thing with brain surgery: there's always that risk. Which is why my dad never opted for it when he was diagnosed with cancer and he had tumors all over his brain.

Days have gone by, and she was declared brain dead. She had to be pulled off of her life support machine because she was a donor, and there were already recipients for her organs: heart, eyes, lungs, etc. It was just too sudden because she was only 35 years old and had her whole life ahead of her with her kids. My sister said that when they grow up, they will see how much she loved them with all of the photos and videos she took of them on Facebook and Instagram.

Noelle's memorial service was exactly 3 weeks ago. My sister made a beautiful speech, and I didn't know that she already met Noelle in the Philippines (before I was even born!) They went to school together. My sister was in 5th grade and Noelle was in 1st grade at the time, and my sister would pass out candy to everyone. Noelle would always suck up to her to get more candy and gum. Who knew that they would reconnect in the Bay Area in the 90s, or when she moved back to Sac 4 years ago?

During the memorial, the pastor (it was held in a church) said that her name, means "Christmas", and Neill (her maiden name), means "champion" in Gaelic (her dad is Filipino with some Irish descent). So that was why he called her the "Christmas Champion". Because her life, her passing, was a reminder of Jesus' story. And that's what Christmas is all about. I know that a lot of people who read this blog aren't religious and I respect that, and I definitely try not to be preachy. Just remember who your loved ones are and don't take them for granted, because you will miss them like crazy. And know that despite whatever you are going through...there is still beauty in the ashes and light amidst the pit.

I know that Noelle would've been thrilled to come to my wedding, and my last conversation with her was asking if her boys needed a high chair for their seats. 

"I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world." (John 16:33)

Noelle, thank you for being my sister's best friend. Being the light in her life when so many other "friends" used her and backstabbed her. She prayed for years for a true, genuine, loving friend and I know she always would say that she'd rather be a loner than have hoards of people surrounding her yet didn't care. You were the answer to her prayers, and for that we are all thankful. 

1 comment :

  1. Rest in peace noelle. What a very sad story. I'm so sorry for your loss. I hope your having a wonderful Christmas xxx