(For Michele Tambunan – December 18, 1964 – August 10, 2021)
Actually, I’d wanted to stop writing any obituaries right after this #Covid19 pandemic hit. I never even wanted to do this at first, because then it would feel more real and painful than it already is. You’d probably be laughing at me right now.
You’d probably have agreed that it was fate that had crossed our paths with each other. I accepted our mutual friend Lilies’ invitation to watch a Red Nose concert in March 2014. It was two months after my father’s funeral and I’d needed a distraction.
I’m glad – no, thankful – that I have met you. That night at the concert, we’d just hit it off and chatted almost non-stop. You told me about a writers’ club you were part of and invited me to join. Interested, we exchanged phone numbers and BlackBerry PINs that night. With absolute certainty, you’d convinced me about the writers’ club that night:
“The people are nice. You love writing. I have a strong feeling you’ll love them too.”
I didn’t come to the writers’ club gathering immediately. A couple of months after that, I finally went to one. That was the beginning of my whole journey with them and our friendship too.
If anyone asks me about you now, I will definitely say: “She radiated nothing but light.” Your joy, your positivity had always been infectious. I wish I had made use of those chances to tell you all of this myself. I wish I’d had a chance to thank you for inviting me over to your precious group, to be a friend I never thought I’d miss so soon.
Although you ended up not frequenting the club’s regular meetings as I still do, we still managed to catch up with each other once in a while. Sometimes we ran into each other while teaching corporate classes and ended up having coffee together. Since living close by while your husband was still out of town, you’d also offered me a quick ride home after we hung out with the writers’ club.
I knew how much you loved writing, so eventually, I introduced you to the poetry communities in Jakarta. I remember the joy you’d expressed when you got the chance to recite your poem at both Unmasked Poetry and Malam Puisi Jakarta.
There are a lot of good memories I’ve shared with you. I remember you giggling when you told me about your first date with Kim, how you’d dressed up formally like you were about to dine in a restaurant – only to be taken to a dinner outdoor, next to a simple food stall many local Indonesians have. I remember your reason to choose him as a husband, which was so rare – yet so simple and sweet:
“I chose him because he’s kind.”
I could tell that Kim was the love of your life. There was not a day you sounded less than proud whenever you talked about your husband. He was so lucky to have you.
You also said to me not to worry about boyfriends. What made me laugh was how you’d described your own experiences with guys:
“I don’t know why, I kept getting asked out not when I looked my best. I wasn’t wearing my best outfit, my hair was a mess, I had no makeup on … and some guy still asked me out.”
You’d laugh at me, every time I called myself ‘romantically challenged. You said that all I needed was a little bit more faith in love. I don’t know, Michele, but I’ll try.
A week before you passed away, I had a dream about you. I dreamed that we were hanging out together again like we used to. We had coffee and then we went to see a show. I forgot what it was, but I remember that – even in that dream – we had a good time as usual.
Before the dream ended, you gave me a long hug. Never had you done something like that before. I was at a loss for words. When you stepped back, you just looked at me and smiled:
“I think you’re going to be just fine.”
I never thought that I’d be saying goodbye to you too this year. I thought I’d still be seeing you again, some other time after this pandemic.
However, God had other plans for you.
Rest in peace, power, and love, Michele. On behalf of us – your friends, family, and fellow writers from Jakarta Couchsurfing Writers’ Club, I am going to miss you.