By Miriam Drake
Several years ago I was invited to write an article for an anthology of stories written by expats living in various locales throughout the world. Here is what I chose to write about my experiences with my friend Benito Ramon.
“Here I am in Cuenca Ecuador, alone, and my dying husband hasn’t spoken now for a year, since the first stroke. He’s in a coma, in a private room, comfortable and clean. On the bed across from him is my good friend, Nancy, who has just twisted and probably broken her foot. Standing beside her is Benito, her trusted taxi driver, handy man and friend. She’s not much better off than I. Her husband has Parkinson’s and is making the best of it in an assisted living place about a mile from here. We both commiserate and bolster each other during these dark times.
“I am introduced to Benito, a short stocky Ecuadorian with an open face and big laughing black/brown eyes and strong white teeth. I like him immediately. He’s friendly, caring and looking after Nancy. I am impressed by that. Days later, after my husband is cremated, I call Benito for help. I need to get to the crematorium to pick up my husband’s remains, and Benito knows where it is. He picks me up and we go over in the rain. As soon as I walk into the area, I know I am going to lose it. And I do. I can’t bear to face it. My man is dead. There is nothing I can do about it. Benito seems to understand. He is gentle, and aware.
“The technician hands me a clear, thick, heavy duty bag full of grey ashes. There is no identifying name or label on the thing and the top has been stapled shut with large, industrial size staples. That’s it. That was my husband. That’s all. It weighs a lot. Benito takes the bag from my hands and gently takes my elbow and moves us toward the door. I find the opaque plastic grocery bag in my backpack and hand it to him. Benito places the bag containing the ashes into it. We walk toward his taxi, me still crying, and he’s carrying the bag and my arm with a concerned look on his face. He says, ‘Don’t worry’. After he opens the door for me, I slide in. I feel heavy and tired and sad. Next, he places the bag on the floor behind my seat while I observe the rain drops making pretty little patterns on the windshield. Without a word, Benito takes me home. This gentle man walks me up the stairs to my apartment and asks me where I want the ashes to be set down. I have no idea. My mind is swirling. I am still realizing that I’ve just lost my love. And from behind the tears I vaguely see that a new friend has emerged and is standing in front of me asking me a question.
“Fast forward to now, two years later. Benito and I cheerfully go about my weekly errands. His Ecuadorian family is now my family. He hates it when I cry or get frustrated. He corrects me and looks sad when I am angry. He lets me know when there is a better way to do things. And he is happy when I am happy. It is very plain to see that a simple thing like the laughing, smiling face of a kind friend can make everything better.”
The complete expat anthology, Friends in Foreign Places Omnibus: An Expat Anthology, is available through Amazon.
Benito Ramon is an exceptional human being whom I trust with my life. In his work life, he is a taxi driver who has been driving expats and locals all over Cuenca, Azuay and other Provinces for decades. He is beloved by all who know him. If you would like to add Benito as your taxi driver, email me at email@example.com and I will send you his contact information.
Other useful healthcare suggestions and tried and true local resources are included in the book, “Expat Medical Emergency Preparation Manual, Revised 2020 Edition”. The book is downloadable, and costs $15, payable via PayPal. Contact me today at firstname.lastname@example.org to order your copy.