There is something very instinctual about humans. As children we are able to follow our hearts, without the weight of the world influencing our decisions. While many people are forced to grow up and forget, Mylena Kate Chavez was someone who never lost that innocent instinct.
She was a free spirit – the kind of friend you snuck out in high school with, and made horrible life decisions with, because you were young and reckless, and mainly because she taught you how to test people. Oh did she want to test you. And she was good at it; she was passionate enough to bring out the worst and best in you all at once, leaving you confused as to whether to slap her or hug her.
But you knew she was good-hearted when she brought you chocolate-covered pretzels on Christmas, despite it being your least favorite holiday. Or the way she would drive miles out of the way to your birthday party because she knew you hated celebrating parties because of the fear of no one showing up.
I would like to say I possess these qualities, but the truth is she brought them to life in me.
I’ll never forget the night she picked me up from the train station in Florence. I had been on the road for endless weeks and grown used to entering and leaving a place on my own. Yet this trip was more exhausting. I was arriving an hour late, at midnight, without a phone, trying to avoid two men starting at me on the train, and solely replying on the faith and promised time over a broken message. She had to be there.
And sure enough, there she was, this bright smile sitting next to an Italian stranger. He was captivated by her. I know Italians are aggressive lovers, but this was different. She was the light and he was the firefly.
We rushed toward each other, embracing as I cried out of happiness. How could I have gone over two years without seeing her?
That warm Italian summer is how I want to remember her. And for some of her new friends, the only way they will remember her. Laughing over stories on bridges, sampling great Mexican food even though you know you can get better back home, running through oceans, exploring cobble-stone streets, and gelato-filled sun.
It was so surreal, as if I was removed from time, invisible for a minute, this old toy watching her grow and play with new ones. Enjoying new company, and simply enjoying life, without me.
Like our beloved daughter, friend and soul sister, I was able to follow my gut:
Upon leaving I bought her this Italian leather, mustard color, paisley-styled purse that she appeared to be eyeing since before I arrived (She always had good taste). I filled the purse with inspirational words about her beauty, artistic ability, and gentle, yet perfectly aggressive spirit. I hugged her and said “I love you” somehow sadly knowing we wouldn’t cross paths again.
This I could not explain. At the moment it was incredible selfish of me to assume so, but now it seems to unravel as something more purposeful to that summer and friendship.
You know what she told me one of our last days together? We were on this perfectly white beach, with water the palest, thick blue you could find. She kept telling me “This is unreal. It is just so beautiful” as if once wasn’t enough… I can only imagine those were her first thoughts upon departing this world.
What happened here is not by chance. We cannot overwhelm or frustrate ourselves with demands for fates answers. We need to realize Mylena brought all these people together as a wake up call;
You can’t plan this deadline, nor expect the days to grow longer. So be like my dear friend Lini, follow your gut and soak up every minute. And touch someone’s soul along the way to make sure you aren’t living alone in this big world.