Yesterday, I got the sad news that my friend Maija Kajis had crossed over.
Streams of tears of regret flowed down my face in my office. I did not cry because she crossed over.
I cried because I wanted to see her so much and did not get to.
I cried because I did not get the chance to tell her how much she meant to me.
I cried because I did not get a chance to say goodbye to her.
Over the last few weeks, I knew that she was not doing well. I was told that she was hospitalized and had limited visitors. I was told when she got discharged and went home… and all through these days I kept on saying:
I did not get to do any of these things. It was partly the circumstances of the last few days but when I look back, the least I could have done, was to drop a card in the mail.
Why was Maija so important to me?
I met Maija through my friend Jean when I first arrived in Canada. I was immediately drawn to her. She had a warm and generous spirit and embraced ALL of me without knowing anything about me. When she met my children, she did the same thing – She embraced ALL of them, as though they were her own. As a new immigrant to Canada, Maija reached out to me. She invited me to plays and concerts – things which I would not have ordinarily known about. She even paid for the tickets. She invited me to her home and introduced me to her friends and her network. She bought me my first pair of wool socks and told me how important it was to keep my feet warm in winter. She brought me my first beeswax candles and made me the first fruitcake I received in Canada. When she had not seen me for a long time, she came to visit me at my office and brought me lunch all wrapped in a warm towel. She invited me to her 70th birthday party and that made me feel very special to be a part of her group of friends. When one of my friends needed a place to stay, Maija opened her doors to him and he stayed with her for about a year. She shared her travel experiences with me and always filled me in on her trips across the world. I found inspiration in her photos and in her home and especially her bookshelves. I was always thrilled to listen to her anecdotes from her visits to her daughter and twin granddaughters, whom she loved unconditionally. She told me about her son and her parents and her mom in particular and her efforts in capturing her family history.
In all our conversations, I would sit and admire her quietly and sometimes even think to myself, “I want to be like Maija when I grow older.” She was beautiful in body and spirit and always dressed very elegantly. One day, in her living room, she said to me: “We Canadians have so much space to live in. We don’t need all that space. People in many other parts of the world, live in tiny spaces and they are happier. We feel that we need so much individual space…” She reflected quite a lot on social justice issues and how new immigrants were integrating in Canada.
We always believe that we have more time. I wish I had told Maija all these things.
My last regret – I don’t have a picture with Maija. I can’t even explain how this could be.
Don’t put off the things you need to do for your soul. Don’t forget to take photos with those you love. Don’t forget to send that note or card to say, “I am thinking of you.” Don’t forget to let your loved ones, know that you love them. Don’t forget to thank those who have done something good in your life.
Maija, our memories will live in my mind, heart and soul. May your soul rest in perfect peace and may your words of love and wisdom always remain in our hearts. I know that you touched the lives of many, many people… and also know that there are many who are welcoming you to your new home.