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Eighteen years ago tonight my whirlwind romance with my beloved Sergio began. Eleven years ago tonight we were engaged to be married. On September 11th, 2001, he never came home from his assigned firehouse in Brooklyn...
I have been happily re-”married” since 2006, and this day is still deeply embedded in my heart and memories- it always will be. Today I choose to honor Sergio by sharing a little piece of him with all of you-- here is the eulogy I delivered at his memorial service on June 7, 2001, in front of a church filled with well over a thousand family members, friends, firefighters, and police officers...
Today, I join my life to yours.
From this day on, I will be your partner and companion,
for you are my dearest love and my best friend.
I look forward to the joy we will find in each other’s separate successes,
as well as our shared ones, and welcome the challenge of whatever obstacles we
encounter, for I know that whatever we face, we face it together.
Because your happiness is vital to me, I will help you to grow as an individual.
I will also strive to be more fully myself because you deserve no less than the best of me.
I pledge that I will listen to you when you speak encourage you in times of doubt,
comfort you in times of sorrow, and be a refuge of strength for you in times of uncertainty.
I will be faithful to you all of my days, will always be honest with you,
and will cherish and adore you every moment of my life.
This is my solemn vow…
Sergio and I chose to say these vows on our wedding day, not just because they were vows for the life we would have led as husband and wife, but because they re-affirmed the way we chose to love one another during our seven years together…
When he and I first kissed in Miami on June 30, 1994, I knew that we were connected on a very deep level, and I also knew that with time and patience, I could show him this. I couldn’t resist his magical kiss- he was after all, Big Daddy- and his unbelievably charming, outgoing, and fun-loving ways. Almost a year later, I rented a seventeen-foot U-Haul truck with four other friends and moved back to New York to be with him. As crazy as that was, especially because he didn’t ask me to, I knew that if I didn’t make the move I would have regretted not following what was in my heart. And thank goodness my heart didn’t steer me wrong-I couldn’t have asked for a more tender, compassionate, romantic, and faithful partner, who was also my very best friend.
On the seven-year anniversary of our first kiss, June 30th, 2001, he wrote in my card:
Happy Anniversary Baby,
The past seven years have flown by.
Time flies when you’re with your soulmate.
If the rest of my life is anything like the past few years, I’m in for a beautiful trip.
You are so my best friend,
my whole heart is filled with love for you.
I truly love you,
Later that night, he proposed, and one of the best things about him was how grateful he always was for everything in his life- for our families, our friends, our business and home, and for our relationship, which just got better and better with time.
After giving me my beautiful ring, he said, “Thank you… Thank you for being so patient… And thank you for driving that U-Haul truck to be with me…”
How grateful I am too for all that he gave me in the seven years we had together…
And now, after reflecting on what he wrote in my card, I think about how the rest of his life was indeed, a beautiful trip. We spent a glorious summer reveling in our wedding plans, going to the beach with his sister, seeing his Dad and close friends in Miami, eating his favorite meals at his Mom’s, and cruising the Caribbean with his brother from August 26th-September 2nd. He couldn’t have been in a more beautiful place, or be more content with who he was, with what he was doing, or who he was with. And in his last week he further experienced his joy at its peak, filled with so many of his favorite things:
On Monday, September 3rd, he delighted in recounting our wacky cruise adventures over sandwiches at our store with his Mom.
On Tuesday, he played his best golf game ever, scoring an eighty-seven, when he normally scored in the low hundreds.
On Wednesday, he watched his team, Argentina, beat Brazil in a soccer match that left him hoarse for the next three days.
On Thursday, he played pool at Sheehan’s with all of his old buddies that he had played with over the years.
On Friday, he went to a bachelor party and got to reconnect with all of his cop friends that he missed so much.
On Saturday, our friend Javier spontaneously managed to get us all together at a bar downtown to celebrate his wife Tanya’s birthday and we wound up dancing the night away to Latin Hip Hop music.
And early Sunday morning, and I don’t know how after such an exhausting week, he managed to get up and get to the FDNY soccer team’s season opener, and he scored the winning goal. He was so excited telling me about it on our way to Chloe’s first birthday party later that afternoon, where again, he was surrounded by all of his closest friends and a lot of his favorite people. We even stayed a bit later than every one else, so that we could enjoy a Weissen beer with Fitz, Lorna, & her family. And when we got home that night, I had one picture left in the camera, and shot the photograph you see of him here- probably the best photograph ever taken of him- you can just see the contentment in his face.
On Monday morning the 10th, he left me with a kiss to start his 24-hour shift at the firehouse, where he always had a good time hanging with the boys. We spoke that night, at around midnight, and our last words to each other, as they always were before we went to bed, were “I love you.”
We all know that one of the surest things in this lifetime is that we all will have to go at some point, and for some, that time comes sooner than we expect. On the morning of September 11th, Sergio, along with the others that gave their lives to save others, left us as heroes, and have reminded us what that word truly, truly means.
For those of us who are blessed enough to have had Sergio in our lives, we were given such a gift- to know him. Every day he gave us the extraordinary gift of his bright, joyful, and open spirit. And he left us knowing that he left with nothing but love in his heart, peace with all of us that were left behind, and pride that he lived such an honorable life–
with no regrets…