I received a greatly anticipate phone call on the evening of November 27, 1995. My brother-in-law Donald told me that my baby sister, Miriam, was in labor. They were on their way to the hospital for the delivery of their second child.
Once Zee got me to the hospital, I raced to the Labor and Delivery floor. But I was too late. As I entered the delivery room, I was greeted by the cries of the newest member of the Rodil family—Julia Carmen. I immediately fell in love with her.
Miriam and Donald gave me the distinct honor to be Julie’s “Ninang” (godmother). To her older sister Kristin, and later to her younger sister Lindsey, I was “Yaya.” To Julie I would be known as “Ninang Yaya.”
I have so many memories of Julie.
Memories of Baby Julie. Like her hair. It stayed at a short length for a while. And it was so even, as if it were cut. But when her hair finally grew out, Julie had the most beautiful curls.
Memories of preschooler Julie coming to our house with Kristin. Even though I was her Ninang Yaya, Julie was closer to Uncle Zee. She liked coming home with us after church. Uncle Zee would hide to make her think he left without her. When Julie found him, she would stick close to him so he wouldn’t forgot to take her home with us.
Memories of Julie and our dog Peppermint. Uncle Zee brought our new puppy to meet Kristin and Julie, who was about three years old. Recently, Kristin reminded me that Julie asked, “Did you buy her for me?” Interestingly, Julie was afraid of Peppermint. She would sit on her Uncle Zee’s shoulders, lifting up her legs so that Peppermint wouldn’t jump on her. As she grew older, she became very attached to Peppermint, who seemed to prefer Kristin. When Kristin would call herself the “Dog Whisperer,” Julie would angrily tell her, “Stop saying that!”
Memories of Julie taking care of Zechariah. During family weekend at William & Mary, Zechariah was sitting beside his Ate Julie while we ate dinner. I asked Julie to make sure her cousin ate all the grapes on his plate. Without looking at him, Julie would point her finger at his plate, and Zechariah would dutifully pick up and eat a grape. After a few moments, Julie would point again, and Zechariah would eat another grape. This went on until all the grapes were eaten.
In 2015, I attended my first writers’ conference in Asheville, North Carolina. Since Julie and Kristin were on summer break from college, they agreed to stay with Zechariah when Zee drove me to and from the conference. Lindsey stayed at our house, too. Zechariah had a great time with his cousins. The following two years, only Julie and Lindsey were available when I went to the conference. During one of the conferences, I received a video selfie on my cellphone from Julie doing a dance around our kitchen with the caption stating the kids (Zechariah and Lindsey) were at school, and she finally had some freedom. I also received a selfie of Julie lounging at our poolside with a book. Later on I found out that her mom was wondering why she hadn’t come home while the kids were at school.
Memories of long conversations with Julie. There were times that Julie would call and ask if she could come over to talk. We would sit in our family room and talk for hours. She usually had a burden on her heart for someone or some matter. She cared hard, but subsequently hurt hard.
So many wonderful memories.
On the morning of February 13, just one month ago, I received another phone call. This time it was Kristin. I raced to the Rodils’ home, with a pain in my heart that I had never felt before. Julie had reached the end of her life’s journey.
For 25 years, 2 months, and 17 days Julie was part of my life. But I soon found out that there was a part of Julie’s life that I hadn’t known. Her passion to help those who are unable to help themselves led her to action. She was involved with organizations to assist the homeless, especially the children. She worked against racism and social injustice. She was a doer. She fought to give hope to those living in darkness. She made a difference in the lives of so many people.
When Yahweh took Julie home, our hearts were broken. Our family tumbled into the deepest, darkest valley. But during Julie’s memorial service, we were given a message of hope. That message, that light in our darkness came from Julie’s parents and sisters. They spoke of Julie’s life and her faith in Yahweh. Their own faith in Yahweh gave them the strength and courage to share a message of hope for a bright, everlasting future that waits for all of us who put our hope in Yeshua. Their words comforted us. Their words encouraged and challenged us to continue Julie’s work to bring hope to those who are walking through their own valleys.
Paul wrote: “I think that what we suffer in this life can never be compared to the glory as yet unrevealed, which is waiting for us” (Romans 8:18, The Jerusalem Bible). With the immense pain we are suffering from the loss of Julie, I imagine—I know—that the Glory that waits for us is going to be spectacular.
In his homily during Julie’s memorial service, my brother Luis said that Julie had to take her final walk through the “valley of the shadow of death” on her own. But she was not alone. Yeshua was beside her as she crossed from this earth to eternity. Her work here was done. She has entered that Glory.
As I continue my journey through this life, I will cling to my Father Yahweh and my Savior Yeshua. I will hold on to the ones I love. And I will take comfort in the blessed hope that one day I will be reunited forever with those loved ones who have gone before me.
My dear Julie—I will always treasure my memories of you. I love you forever and look forward to hearing you say, “Welcome to Glory, Ninang Yaya!”