Renee Salivaras has been sidetracked. Inconvenienced. Not the type of interruption where the phone ringing in the middle of a great movie or your child tugging on you while your talking to your best friend. Renee has been sidetracked by cancer. It hasn't stopped her, it's barely slowed her down.
Nearly three years ago, Renee was diagnosed with breast cancer. She's had surgeries and chemo and a variety of other treatments. She's lost her hair not once but twice. She still looks after her family, is active in the community and goes to work everyday in Mykonos, the restaurant she owns with her husband Andreas.
She never complains and always has a huge smile as she greets her guests in the restaurant. Nothing has changed only now she does it sans hair.
Renee says she's not sick, she's just been sidetracked. I say she's remarkable. Her daughter Sofia Zaronias is determined to see that a cure is found. She'll walk in the Susan Komen 3 day in honor of her mother's courage to fight and the grace and dignity with which she has done it.
Sofia has trained for the past year, with her team of 3 they call... The Miracle Milers. They will be cheered on by Renee herself, who will be there at the start of the race to see them off and meet them again at the finish. Sofia Zaronias says her mom is more than a mom, she's her best friend. Renee Salivaras says Sofia is more than a daughter, she is her strength and her courage. I say they are an inspiration.
I wrote that in October 2008. This morning, my incredibly brave friend Renee, "our angel" as Sofia calls her, left us.
Memories of our friendship flow today in a river of tears. I won't get to sit with her over coffee anymore but with every cup I ever drink, she will be here in my heart. While cancer took her life it never got the best of her. Chemo took her hair, but never her spirit.
Renee was beautiful, in every sense of beautiful. Her eyes were an intense, insightful blue. They were indeed mirrors to her soul.
It gives me enormous comfort to know what a faithful, spiritual person Renee was. We never passed a church without her respectfully doing the sign of the cross.
Her family was everything to her and she was devoted to them. We never had a conversation that didn't include her sharing their latest accomplishments.
I'll never forget our first meeting. I felt like I had always known her. Renee had that way about her. She made everyone feel as though they were part of her inner circle. I remember years later sitting around the table at dinner and everyone speaking Greek and I was of course clueless. They always forgot I wasn't Greek, to the Salivaras', to Renee, I was family.
Everyone who walked into her life whether through the restaurant door as a customer or a friend of twenty years was greeted with an enormous smile, a hug, a warm welcome. Renee was probably the most generous person I knew. She always gave to her church, to worthy causes, to her community, to friends and family. She had a heart of gold.
Renee didn't judge. She always forgave. I loved the way she always wanted my opinion. I can hear her now "So what do YOU think Sand". She really wanted to know. What I thought mattered to her.
There were no pretenses with Renee. She was as honest and genuine as they get.
We used to take "day trips" spending the day doing everything and nothing. We would talk for hours about anything. Nothing was off limits. We never had a cross word, well except when we would stop for lunch and fight over the bill.
I remember going the the Komen 3 Day with Renee to cheer on Sofia. She thanked every walker she saw. Cheered everyone on. She was filled with gratitude. She was amazing, a pillar of strength. I remember Sofia crossing the finish line and her and Renee embracing. I sobbed. It was a bond like no other.
Sofia is pregnant now and Renee will never get to meet her grandchild, but I know Renee will be there every moment of everyday of that babies life. Every time I hold Sofias baby I will think of Renee and the joy and love she brought to so many. And when the baby grows older, I will share my memories with him or her of my dear friend, their yaya.
Death leaves a heartache no one can heal, love leaves a memory no one can steal