On September 27, 1981, a lovely little girl came into this world in last hour of the day. We called her Riki Lee. She was extraordinary in so many ways. A natural leader, Riki was often called, “bossy”, because the world isn’t used to girls who lead naturally. She went through school as a popular girl who gathered her peers at the house, or where ever young people gathered.
Riki tried everything, once. She played bass guitar in a band and tried her hand at skating boarding. She competed on the swim team, and did well. She played basketball, and was the high score-maker that year. What ever she tried, she did well. Riki worked as a waitress during high school, and came to love food and cooking.
At the age of 22, Riki married her childhood sweetheart, Jonathan. They had been best friends since the age of 12! In their 14 years of marriage, they had three lovely children. Riki worked as the director of nutrition for a school where she and her family live. Riki made friends quickly, and she was known as “Mama Bear” to her large group of friends she lovingly called, “The Village”. The Village gathered every Wednesday for Riki’s famous “taco bar”. She was known as a bread-maker and a cook of extraordinary talent. She was known for her homemade noodles, too. Her sons said they’d never find someone who cooks better that “Mom”.
It would take pages and pages to talk about Riki’s extraordinary life, and it was cut too short. On December 18, 2015 at 10:05 p.m., our son-in-law called to tell us Riki had a heart attack (She was 34), we jumped in the car and drove 9 hours through the night to get to her. She was on life supports. When we arrived at the hospital the next morning, The Village was in the waiting room of the intensive/critical care unit of the hospital. There were about 8 couples waiting. The men were openly weeping, and the women had the most frightened looks on their faces. “What was happening to their beloved ‘Mamma Bear’? I could feel such great love for our daughter in that room.
Riki had been on heart medication for the past 11 years. Because of a switch in insurance, she had to change cardiologists. The new doctor said, “You’re on strong medicine. Let’s take you off of it and see how you do.” Needless to say, that was a reckless call on the doc’s part.
Riki took her last breath New Year’s morning. So many things run through one’s mind as one witnesses the last breath of a child in a similar setting as the first breath is taken…in a hospital. The next dreadful step was to tell the children, ages 7, 11, and 12, that their mother was gone. Watching their little hearts break was excruciating!
Riki loved life, and she loved people. She was a wonderful mother, and a loving daughter to her parents and to her brother, Stevie. When we think of her, we think of this smile:
And this ornery streak:
When my sister passed at the age of 60, I read the words of Lebanese-American poet, Khalil Gibran, “On Children” to give my mother some comfort. Now, I read the words and find some comfort in them, too. If you ever get the chance, listen to the poem as brought to music by a Capella group, Sweet Honey in the Rock. They bring an exquisite meaning to the words.
On Children by Khalil Gibran
Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you, yet they belong not to you.
You may give them your love but not your thoughts.
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow, which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.
You may strive to be like them, but seek not to make them like you.
For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.
You are the bows from which your children as living arrows are sent forth.
The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite, and He bends you with His might that His arrows may go swift and far.
Let your bending in the archer’s hand be for gladness;
For even as he loves the arrow that flies, so He loves also the bow that is stable.
We keep the memory of Riki in our hearts. We can hear her voice. We can hear her laughter. May she watch over her children, and may she rest in peace. Here is love to your, our beautiful daughter.