Anthony_Flute

Sunday, Oct. 28, I learned that my friend, Anthony Natividad, had died on Maui.

It took me a while to even hear the news. I thought: there must be some mistake. Not Anthony. So young. Such a beautiful man and bright spirit. A gifted healer. A musician. A man who signed all his messages “blessings.”

It’s taken me even longer to remember him in writing.  I am a private person, though I have shared many personal experiences on this blog. I needed time and space–private and profound–to carry Anthony in my heart for a while. As a mutual friend said of his death: It’s a loss for the planet.

Anthony Natividad blowing nose rings underwater in the ocean off his beloved Maui.

Anthony Natividad blowing nose rings underwater in the ocean off his beloved Maui.

When I was in Afghanistan, embedded with the 1-5 Infantry Battalion 1/25th Stryker Brigade Combat Team, Anthony would send me messages from Maui. He’d send me photos of the ocean, of dolphins, of him blowing nose rings under water in a deep, vast blue. He’d send pictures of rainbows over the green hills. And he always sent blessings.

On my second embed, when I returned to Afghanistan without my colleague and friend, JR Ancheta, I felt awfully alone. Some of my reporting was well received and appreciated. Some of the soldiers were never going to accept me. It was tough and lonely. Anthony’s bright light and love found me in the dark places. I always felt loved and happy when I’d receive a message from Anthony.

When he learned that I’d returned to Afghanistan to do a special in-depth assignment on the women soldiers of the Female Engagement Team for “The Christian Science Monitor,” Anthony sent me a message: “We must honor our women warriors.” And he asked me to share with them a photo of a rainbow that he was sending me. It took us hours to get the image to reach me in the MWR at Bravo Company in Sperwan Ghar.

Anthony later wrote: Did the women warriors like the photo I sent? Yes, they did.

After that second embed, when I was hospitalized in Kuwait, where I battled for my breath and life, Anthony texted me and sent me messages. I had a view of the ocean from my hospital window. That made Anthony happy when I told him. He sent me a photograph of humpback whales.

A photo of humpback whales that Anthony Natividad sent me, sharing his encounter with the mother and baby in the waters off Maui.

A photo of humpback whales that Anthony Natividad sent me, sharing his encounter with the mother and baby in the waters off Maui.

Once again, Anthony’s light and love had found me in a dark place and uplifted me. He joined all the angels and prayers that helped me heal.

I first met Anthony several years ago through a mutual friend. I was visiting friends on Maui and I called him. He invited me to see, Ulalena, a show in which he’d performed for years. He said he’d have a seat reserved for me. I loved the show so much, I went and saw the next performance. After the performance, Anthony introduced me to his wife, Jamie, and members of the cast. I watched as he played a double noseflute blessing for visitors.

And then he played one for me.

When my brother and his family visited Maui for Christmas one year, I insisted they see the show, and once again, Anthony reserved seats for us. My nephew was learning the flute. After the performance, Anthony played the blessing for my nephew then he let him hold one of the flutes and explained the power of the sacred breath. And my nephew played Anthony’s flute as we all watched. It’s a memory I’ll cherish.

The last time I saw Anthony was the day I was catching a flight to leave Maui. I called him in the morning and asked to meet before I left. He drove down from Lahaina and we went into the ocean we both love. He was teaching me to surf with a paddle board.

Neither one of us wore a watch. And we kept staying a bit longer. A bit longer. We didn’t want to leave the water. Heck, I didn’t want to leave the island.

When we got the boards to his car, I looked at the time on my phone. I barely had time to make my flight. We laughed and hugged then I jumped in my rental car and went straight to the airport, with wet hair and salt-crusted skin. And I couldn’t have been happier.

Anthony_Beach

The photo above is not mine; however, it’s exactly how I remember Anthony the last time I saw him.

When I learned that he’d died, I immediately went back through my emails to find a message from Anthony. None. I checked my Facebook messages. None. I checked my phone. None, though I still saw his name.

I had erased all our communications. Nothing left, I thought.

Then I thought, no. That’s exactly perfect. It is the shining example of Anthony’s life: there is nothing to hold on to. This planet with her deep waters and the life and energy that link us…they are gifts, fleeting and precious…to be valued and appreciated in the moment.

There is but the sacred breath we all share. We live, one breath at a time.

Blessings, Anthony.

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