My Cousin Natalie - Part I

It’s been a tough time for the Lagade side. My beautiful cousin, Natalie Nobida, passed two weeks on May 26, 2010 at 6:50 AM at the age of only 42. The last time I saw her was at Elyssa Claire’s baby shower in Vacaville last summer. Her spirits were high and she must have just recently moved in with her parents, my Auntie and Uncle, in Vallejo. She had a German Shepherd named Mickey, was a Benefits Representative at Morrison & Foerster, a San Francisco State University Gator like myself and a very hard worker, like myself.

My mom, my sis and I lived in Vallejo until I was around 8-years-old. I remember going to their house that sits at the top of a hill overlooking Vallejo, sitting at the large dining room table, listening to the adults talk (occasionally feeling bored at a young age), playing with the board games found in the end table in the large living room with the high ceiling with the sliding door to the non-enclosed backyard. There was an age difference between the Nobida sisters and myself but they were always kind to me. And I looked up to them as beauties and already grown women.

My Auntie Mercy is one of the sweetest women I know. She always has a sweet smile on her face, will genuinely ask how you’re doing and I couldn’t imagine her getting angry – just like Donna and Natalie. I remember I had to stay at their house when my mom accompanied my sister to a school camping trip. My mom. Going camping? I don’t know. I think she returned saying she hated the experience. She didn’t sign up to be a chaperone after that, from what I recall. I do not remember who’s room I stayed in but I remember it wasn’t a room facing the driveway. It was then that Auntie Mercy taught me how to make and measure rice. To this day, I still use the line on my finger to measure how much water should be in the bowl for the rice cooker. I also remember being afraid to shower in their house because it wasn’t my house. I also had a tooth knocked out when I was horsing around at school. Auntie said that I needed to put the tooth under my pillow and the Tooth Fairy will come and give me money while I slept. I believe she folded a blue index card in half and taped all three open sides closed. And alas, when I woke up, I had money in the envelope instead of my tooth. I think it was only $.50 but I have never had a visit from the Tooth Fairy before! Wow. I think Auntie is a wonderful woman and she and uncle did a fantastic job raising two great women. They went to school, were good girls, and we never heard any family drama. I could only imagine how she’s feeling. She lost her first born. And it’s so difficult to lose a child when it’s usually the parents that usually move on first.

Donna’s a strong gal. I think it’s in our blood. She did a lot to prepare for the funeral, etc. Of course I volunteered to do as much as they needed. Melyssa and I discussed how we could help, even before Natalie passed away. But I said the most we can do is communicate that we are here for them, thinking of them, loving them and to please not hesitate to ask if they need anything. Donna lost a sister. Like she posted on Facebook, Natalie will probably be the only one that truly knows who she is inside and out and just thinking about that makes me sad. I’ve had a very vivid dream of this happening to me almost three years ago and I woke up shaking and my pillow drenched. I had to see my sister that very same day but never told her why I wanted to see her out of the blue. I guess she knows now, doesn’t she? I can tell my sister anything (almost =P ). We can get into arguments and I’m sure she still thinks I’m a brat, but she is still my sister. I’d do anything for her. Ironically, today is her birthday. We’re headed out to eat some Indian food!

Of course I feel for Uncle too. I don’t know what he’s thinking or how he’s feeling but he’s probably just like DB – strong but doesn’t let his emotions show. And that is perfectly fine. Nothing is wrong with that. I hope people aren’t quick to judge. People grieve in different ways. Who are we to say how other people should?

Natalie was diagnosed with breast cancer, had 48 tumors in her brain and the illness got to her liver. (Please correct me if my information is incorrect.) 48! That is unbelievable. She did everything the doctors recommend that she do. Uncle was saying that she was looking forward to going back to work in November. It was just that the last two weeks went downhill, real fast. I got a call from my sister before I was going to head to the airport for my trip to New Mexico saying that thru the grapevine, Natalie was taken to the hospital and it doesn’t look good. The news made me sick to my stomach. I wish I had at LEAST placed a call to the house.

October of last year, I didn’t walk the Making Strides Against Breast Cancer walk. It was great, the Lagade cousins bonded together. Even Cousin Carole and Lena came up from down south. Our Auntie Gi, their mother, is in remission and looks fantastic. It was me, my sis, Jenny, Jocelyn, Tiff, Ron, RJ, Cousin Laurie and Lyn. Afterwards we met up at Chevy’s in Emeryville and Cousin Donna joined us. Cousin Carole bought a card for all of us to sign to give to Cousin Natalie. Cousin Carole was sweet and said I should sign it first since I organized the group. We’re doing it again this year – Team Lagade with the same goal of $1,000. We reached our goal last year and currently Melyssa is kicking my butt in sponsors. My $20 versus her $302. Eek!

Thinking about receiving the news on the 28th gives me chills. I heard via text from Jenny and my sister, then I got a call from Cousin Pernell and he was the first family member I spoke to. I was at work at the time and I moved into a vacant office. After a minute or so, he asked if I was OK and I couldn’t respond. I was crying – out of disbelief, out of sorrow and imagining how Auntie Mercy, Uncle and Cousin Donna were feeling. I couldn’t imagine it! I’d be a total wreck. “Hello?” When I finally found my voice, it cracked, and my cousin realized why there was a pause. He offered up his ear anytime if I needed to talk.

DB was sweet. He said he’d cancel his game whenever the funeral was so he can attend.

That night I met up with my sister in Pleasant Hill. We both thought we should be around family. We invited other cousins out but they couldn’t make it. We met up at the Sweet Tomatoes and talked about how we were feeling, what we heard thru whoever, how could this happen…. All those sorts of questions that you want answered and find a meaning to in the time of death. We said good-bye and on 680 South, at the bend in Walnut Creek where it met 24, I looked up to the dark, cloudy sky and a bright, full moon poked through. I asked out loud, “Cousin Natalie, is that you? Yeah, that’s you.” And I smiled. We have angels watching over us and I think the beautiful things in life are a product of the love we have for them. My very, very good friend Kristian is all about energy and he said not to be sad and consider ourselves lucky that she shared her energy with us.

The funeral home was one I passed by all the time when I lived in Vallejo as a kid. At that time, I didn’t know what it was. It just looked like a nice white house. For the first day of the viewing, I drove out there by myself, with butterflies in my stomach, and I waited in the parking lot for my sister to arrive. I couldn’t go in alone and as I sat there in my car, in the heat and windows down, a ladybug flew right into my car. I gently picked it up. Then it flew away. What a wonderful greeting.

I’ll continue in a bit…


  1. Out of the blue my eyes will start to water. Part of me is still in disbelief. And even though I didn't know her well, I've always admired her.


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