A painting that my friend Davida created as a gift for my 40th birthday.

Happy Birth Day Davida. Baruch Hashem

The following letter, another among the many that I am writing for my new book,
If You Only Knew…A Book of Letters is dedicated to Davida Hoyos. She was my friend for over two decades.
Today, August 11th would have been her birthday and it is fitting that I honour her today although I wrote this some time ago. It remained in a drawer with much of my other writings. Today I am removing it from that drawer and onto this public forum to share my love for her out loud.

Davida, if you only knew…

If you were still alive, today would be your birthday. And more than likely, we would be celebrating it in the one of the many ways that you love to celebrate. You were the ‘quintessential Leo. ”You loved bravado, good taste and a good party!

One of my favourite parties was when you asked everyone to bring you something that represented something we loved.

I made you the Cat Jam Jazz/Blues Band set on a two-tiered cardboard box that I painted purple. It was equipped with a mirrored dance floor with dancers and musicians – all cats, of course – and made with pipe cleaners and it was the most fun project I had ever worked on! I mean, it did represent things I loved and continue to love – music, dance, and cats!

And how I loved you for as long as our friendship was alive…and still.

So many things I wanted to tell you. I hope you can hear me now.

What was buried so deeply in a protective bolder so that I wouldn’t shatter into rock, then crumble into sand, erupted last night in a shocking blast of dynamite. There is no protective cover now –I come to you raw – my soul fully exposed…and in memory I see you there when you opened your door as you had for two decades of our lives always dressed to the nines –larger than life – all 5 foot ten of you and your flaming red hair wild and our hugs which sometimes felt more like a visits, just as often got cut short by the excitement of what we were about to share…. the latest news coupled with gossip and giggles, disappointments and tears as we cared and we shared and paired as no other in our lives at that time. And even with daily visits when we lived in the same building or the most – weekly visits when we didn’t’, we came to each other brand new every time. And then the day came that I dreaded, the day I had to tell you my news that I was moving to the west coast – to the place my soul longed to be for 30 years – and I watched as your face went pale as you attempted a smile and told me how happy you were for me. And although you may have been, it was just too damn hard for you…not again…not again…too many endings to bear.

You couldn’t stand the pain of another person you loved leaving you. You chose your few friends carefully and with any perceived threat you would leave them before they could leave you. So you withdrew from me…and then withdrew even more and you built walls to protect your heart which left my heart broken so deep in despair that eventually I copied you and built my own walls to cover a loss that no words could comfort.

And then Carla’s call one week ago. 5:30 in the morning. Sorry to wake you. June, but I knew you would want to know. Davida died yesterday morning. And I shrieked NO! And I hung up the phone with tears streaming down my face and grabbed my journal and madly scribbled 22 pages of heartbreak. But it wasn’t enough – there was more. I was driven now, the damn had burst. The rock was now sand and before it was swallowed by the sea, I had to embody it all. You, me, us… So I found the file that carried the remnants of our life – almost too heavy to carry filled with all the cards and letters and poetry and paintings that I could never throw out and even though it split my heart open to be with all these memories that spoke our story of love – a love that was supposed to last forever no matter where our geography took us, I needed to remember every one. I needed to get drunk on your essence. So what I always wanted to tell you Davida, is deep inside I always missed you and I do still.

So here we are meeting again.. a meeting beyond the veil. But it’s a transparent veil and I can see your eyes. I can almost touch you.

You know, I looked at your painting the other night before I went to bed. It has been hanging on my wall since I moved here 3 years ago and has hung in every home I’ve ever lived since you gave it to me for my 40th birthday – 21 years after we met. And I looked at it that night as though I was looking at it for the very first time…and it was curious. I wondered if I should still keep it there. Maybe I should take it down. After all, you weren’t in my life any more. The friendship was long over. But as I stood there taking in the brilliant colours of every flower on the canvas, so vivid you could almost smell their fragrance and the monarch butterfly finding its’ nectar in the calla lily, a sadness washed over me…but also a love so pure that I knew I couldn’t and I wouldn’t take it down.

We haven’t spoken in about 4 years – no it’s probably been 7 or 8 but I want to lie … I want to believe that it never happened at all. That we spoke every day. That you did wish me well, that you withstood the geographical distance between us and you changed your adamant refusal to use email and so we would, and we’d talk on the phone and you’d come to visit me and I’d show you what drew me to this wonderous land and I’d make you my first priority on every return to Toronto. And we’d still be holding hands across the miles…to this very day…or at least ‘til the day you died. And now you left me. You left me. As long as I knew you were alive, there was always a tinge of hope that we’d find our way back to one another. You were not just my friend, you were my mentor. I could never repay you for what you taught me.

I was only 28. You were 30 when we met in Montreal and I have to admit I was intimidated by you. Intimidated by your worldliness, your stately beauty, self-assurance, intellect, sophistication, passion for theatre and painting and Judaism and your poetry…oh yes, your poetry…which is what bound us together in the first place. We began to meet regularly and read each other our poetry. Mine always felt insignificant compared to yours. Yours were filled with stunning imagery, metaphor, never superfluous. You used words I had never heard of but I knew what they meant because my heart understood.

And somehow my poetry moved you…or perhaps it was my ability to be vulnerable and opening my heart on the page, not in a sophisticated way, but in a real way that made you love me. Your poetry became your medicine as you blasted through your world in a flurry of activity, at the hub of the Montreal’s largest cultural events.

You immersed yourself so completely so you wouldn’t feel the unspeakable loss of Leo’s death. It happened only a year before I met you but it took months before you told me the details. Until then you assumed the Jacqueline Kennedy stance of holding your head high, dignified. You put a padlock on the part of your heart that died the day that he did.

There you were, on vacation in Mexico with your best friends, celebrating your 6th anniversary when suddenly he keeled over on the dance floor and was dead by the time he hit the ground. A brain amorism. Six months later your other beloved best friend died, your father. The man you worshipped. The man who taught you the richness of life. The one with whom you shared Torah and philosophy and literature and politics. The one who instilled in you a love and thirst for knowledge where learning became as essential as breathing. And you brought this learning to your students for 30 years.

Davida’s place. The place for kids to come after school to work on the subjects they couldn’t pass. The students that the teachers and parents and psychologists believed would never know academic achievement having failed year after year. But not you. You threw away all the so called professional reports and found the soul of every child and loved them back to life. Little by little they began to stand taller and their grades improved until they aced them and went on to university. That wasn’t a one-time deal. That was the norm. And it wasn’t just the kids. It was me too. Without your encouragement, love, mentorship and tutelage, I would never have gone back to school. You saw my intelligence and ability when I could not. You told me I was an excellent writer when you read my papers and you were not one to compliment when it came to academics unless it was deserved. And you guided me to the halls of York University and your joy was unsurpassed with each of my successes.

Even after you told me that our friendship was over and to please stop calling you, I couldn’t. So I sent you a video of my play, Madness, Masks and Miracles and you wrote me a letter that praised the writing, the performance, the brilliance of it, and your words meant more to me than any other accolades I received.

So Davida, if you were here, and of course you are, with all my heart I thank you. I thank you for the hugs and the love and scrabble games and the picnics and camping trips and the sedar dinners and oh my gosh…I could go on forever, couldn’t I?

And here you are right now beside me. Just as you were the night I stood and looked at your painting. You came to tell me all is forgiven and that you always loved me too.
You came to tell me you are at peace…and there is nothing that I would ever want more for you. I love you, my forever friend.
Baruch ha’shem.

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