O P I N I O N
Stand up. Speak up. It’s your turn.
I am grieving hard, struggling to find the words to honor Natalie Lexus Henriquez who I loved so dearly, and who we lost to an out-of-the-blue cardiac arrest event this past week. EMTs were able to get Natalie’s heart beating again, but she had been without oxygen for too long by the time it was restarted.
While we may never know the underlying cause, we are comforted to know that Natalie’s final gift was the gift of life to 5 individuals through organ donation. But that’s just who Natalie was – an incredibly loving and generous person.
I told her, “I’ll be working, so just make sure he eats and doesn’t do something crazy. Chill and watch TV and snuggle your baby.”
Natalie loved to always say, “Caleb was Ava’s first friend,” and that always made me smile.
Over the past 5+ years I had a front-row seat to be able to watch Natalie grow from an unsure 19 year old figuring out what she wanted to do to provide for Ava into an amazing woman with a career as a professional hairstylist.
My grief is deep and has been washing over me these last few days, because Natalie was family, and our relationship was layered. She was first and foremost my incredible friend, but she was also at times my little sister and even sometimes like a daughter to me. I believe she saw her relationship with me as layered as well.
We came to all of each others’ kids’ birthday parties, and Ava and Caleb were fast friends.
Natalie was part of our neighborhood crew and she and Ava came trick or treating, to birthdays, and often to our home for neighborhood dinner. The kids would play and everyone always had a great time together. She fit in effortlessly because of the kindness she exuded.
As our relationship grew, she’d call me or I’d call her and we’d hang out and just chill. There was never any pressure with Natalie. I could read a book and watch TV and check my phone and we’d have some wine and talk and just be in the same space with one another. We’d each grab a blanket and lay on the couches in my living room, talking about life and everything else that came to our minds.
When she needed a place for her and Ava, my husband Sat and I invited her and Ava to stay with us for as long as she needed to. She was family, so of course we did.
When the pandemic hit, she would come over to sit outside around the fire, sharing stories of how crazy these times were. And she gave us all driveway haircuts. One day it started pouring as she was cutting our hair and it was so wild and we just laughed and laughed. Her sense of humor was goofy and silly and we loved it.
And when I was diagnosed with cancer, she was immediately there for me. She came over and sat with me and talked with me and cried with me. She made me feel safe when I was falling apart inside. She led the charge and supervised my head shaving party when I found out I needed chemotherapy. She taught some of those closest to me how to shave my head and everyone had a turn.
Even when we didn’t see each other all the time, we texted. I was teasing her recently because I thought she looked like Mirabelle from “Encanto.” We would send each other memes and tell each other, “I love you.”
These words I’m sharing are just a small look into the type of person Natalie was, and I am so grateful for the time I had with her, although it was much too short.
Natalie – wherever you are, I hope you can feel the love I have for you and Ava. I will do anything I can to help care and provide for Ava as she grows up.
I love you so much and my heart is absolutely broken and I miss you more than I can put into words.
All of the monarch butterflies I raise this summer will be named “Natalie.”
Pease feel free to share this tribute and fundraiser for her daughter, Ava. I would love to have it shared widely. Thank you.