I have been thinking a lot recently about how we should celebrate life — and the lives of those we’ve loved and lost.
A former student and dear friend passed away in December 2011. She was 77. Her death was not entirely unexpected, as she had been unwell for a few years. But the expectation that life will end does not lessen the loss when it does. Greenville feels a little emptier without Beatriz. But rather than dwell on her passing, I will celebrate her life, for she had uncommon joie de vivre and was an inspiration to everyone who knew her.
Beatriz moved to Greenville from Venezuela around 2004, a few years after retiring from a career in education and administration. She lived with her two daughters, then both medical students, and helped look after two young grandchildren. Although she could not drive, Beatriz found a way to come to class and attended faithfully until her health declined. We celebrated her 70th birthday in my class, then her 71st and 72nd with balloons, carrot cake, Latin music, dancing. Joyful occasions to celebrate a joyous, well-lived life.
Beatriz proved to us that you are never too old to learn. And never too old to wear fashionable clothes or a chic hairstyle or make up your face. Never too old to laugh until you cry, dance until midnight, indulge in a glass of wine, enjoy a fine meal, cook with passion — or go on field trips with classmates who are decades younger than yourself.
She loved life and exuded happiness. It showed in her smile, in her beautiful singing voice, in her words and actions, in her commitment to learning a foreign language. My own life has been enriched by knowing Beatriz, by being a small part of hers for a very short time.
I will remember Beatriz as I remember a lovely tune. I will remember her as a woman who celebrated life every day.
And I will remember her with the taste of coconut rice (one of my favorite desserts). Beatriz knew how much I loved her coconut rice. Several years ago she wrote out the recipe for me (from her head, not from a book). What better way to celebrate her life and passion for cooking than to share this recipe with readers of Her ...magazine.
Beatriz’s Coconut Rice
1 cup white rice
½ cup brown sugar
½ bag coconut
2 ½ cups water
1 can condensed milk
1 cup milk
½ can coconut milk
Cloves and cinnamon to taste
Boil the water and cook rice until it is soft. Add the milk to rice and cook at very low temp, stirring from time to time so it does not stick. In another bowl, blend the condensed milk, coconut milk, coconut flakes, sugar, cinnamon and cloves. Pour this into the cooked rice and stir. Continue to cook on low for a few more minutes until the mixture acquires a creamy texture. Cool and refrigerate. Then enjoy!
Rosie Erskine Lamrhari, 60, is a teacher, traveler, writer and reader. She earned a master’s degree in English Education from East Carolina University in 1997 and has been teaching English as a Second Language ever since. Though a Hoosier by birth, Rosie considers herself a Tar Heel by choice and will always call North Carolina home.