Wednesday, September 4, 2019

Antoinette and Me

Memories: Antoinette and Me

By Cynthia Fernandes

It is with a sense of profound sadness and grief that we share this recollection of a beloved, dearest friend ... Antoinette De Souza.

Our 50-year friendship with Antoinette and her beloved husband Lewis certainly withstood the test of time. In Nairobi, from the early 70s to 1992, when we emigrated to Canada, we met almost every evening, spending hours together just chilling, joking and laughing. Our guests got their ‘cue’ that they had to go home when Mike
stood up, and started drawing the curtains, which, invariably, was never before 11 pm. But the truth is, we never ran out of conversation.

We travelled to all the Game Parks and Lodges together, enjoyed several fishing trips and picnics, and our incredible journey and remarkable and unique friendship only blossomed and flourished. We were inseparable – shared a common, irreparable bond;  we understood each other, supported each other, broke bread together, and most of all, we loved each other unconditionally.  Our kids and Heather were school mates and best friends.

We also had a host of other friends visiting almost daily, and our home was more of a Club. We played darts, we played cards, we listened to music, we had cookouts, and come Mondays, we were already planning our entertainment for the weekends!  Invariably we used to attend the Dances and fun activities at both the Goan Gym and the Goan Institute.  One year, Mike decided to organize the 31st Dance at the late Steve Fernandes' ‘Makini School Hall’, and with the help and support of all our dearest friends, this New Year’s occasion was, by far, the most enjoyable and fun event EVER!

The dinner was catered by the New Stanley Hotel, and Lewis and Antoinette offered to prepare breakfast for the entire crowd in the wee hours of the morning – a real team effort! It was also a ‘given’, that Antoinette and Lewis would host a huge gathering of friends at their lovely home in Elgeyo Marakwet Road every New Year’s Day.  No matter how exhausted they were following the New Year’s Eve function, mere hours before, Antoinette and Lewis entertained in style, and they were both perfectionists.

Antoinette was a phenomenal cook, and Lewis took pride in making sure his guests' every need was taken care of.  I’m sure many of you who have had the privilege of indulging in Antoinette’s bebinca will testify to their taste, consistency and texture. She loved trying out new recipes and had no qualms in sharing them. If Antoinette liked and trusted you, she made it pretty obvious that she accepted you as her lifelong friend, and her caring and compassion knew no bounds.

When Antoinette’s Mum, Lily Abreo, passed away in 2004, Antoinette’s heart was broken.  Mrs Abreo lived with Antoinette, Lewis and Heather, and they left no stone unturned to ensure her well being at all times and that she was blessed with the simple pleasures of life.   

When Lewis was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, Antoinette was crushed and devastated, and her world literally fell apart.  Initially, she found comfort and solace in denial, not entertaining any negative energy or comments from any of her friends, and getting extremely irate if someone misspoke and said things she did not want to entertain.  She genuinely held out hope that the Good Lord would touch her Lewis with His Healing Hands, and firmly believed that a miracle would occur.    When the love of her life passed away, Antoinette told to me that her ‘grieving process’ had actually kicked in when Lewis was handed his dire prognosis. She could not comprehend her life without Lewis by her side, and she missed him insanely and desperately.

Even though Antoinette attended a few functions following Lewis’ passing, attempting to live an active and fulfilling life, she felt incredibly deflated and lonely, and many of her posts on Facebook will testify to how very much she missed her dear husband.  Heather told me that 'when my Dad passed away, I never saw my Mum smile ever again'.  Antoinette travelled the world with her Lewis and Heather, and after she retired from Kenya Airways, she continued to support Lewis with 'Visit Africa'.   She was Lewis's love, rock and strength. 

Antoinette and I also had one common interest, and that was our fierce love of animals!   We brought two of our four dogs to Canada, and when Lewis and Antoinette offered to take one of them, we knew that our ‘Ricky’ was going to a very loving home and would be well looked after.   She and Lewis were heartbroken when their gorgeous German Shepherd, Simba, passed away in 2015.  We both loved dogs, and it was merely a few weeks ago, that Antoinette showed me, on skype, her new Daschund puppies playing on her bed.   

On a personal note, I will always remember her kindness to me when she handed me a free air ticket to England during May 1984, when my sister in law, Sushila, passed away.  Her exact words to me were 'what are friends for'!  And all through the months that my beloved and cherished brothers, Alfred and Cecil battled their illnesses, Antoinette constantly reached out to me, despite her own struggles with Lewis' health crisis. Suffice to say, she was a source of tremendous comfort and consolation in recent months.  Heaven decreed that it would be our lot to become partners in grief, and now our shared bonds had shifted:  they were now rooted in shock, sadness and sorrow.   

Our hearts go out to Heather Gail, who was the brightest light, love and life of her parents.  Their lives revolved around Heather, and I know that Antoinette and Lewis will be watching over their darling girl from their heavenly abode.     

Dearest friend, your time on earth was blessed but fleeting ..... now, with your beloved 'Lui' at your side again, your togetherness is eternal.

Cynthia & Mike

1 comment:

  1. This friendship story is incredibly amazing because you have passed incredibly many tests together and were able to maintain respect and understanding between you.



  This invaluable collection of photos was sent to me by David Mungai. He says it is “for the acknowledgement of Kenyan History, the celebra...