A love story

A love story

Molly Coeling > Blog > Reiki and Therapeutic Massage > A love story

I first met Ketty in February of 2004 in the Dominican Republic.  I was visiting my “host aunt” in the small town where I had recently arrived to live and work as a Peace Corps volunteer over the course of the next two years.  Being the lone American in a small town of about 400 people, I was feeling a bit dazed and confused with all of the attention from my new neighbors — but Ketty’s 4-year-old daughter, Ana Sofia, caught my attention as she ran in erratic circles around the yard, laughing and yelling and amusing everyone around.  Little did I know that Ana Sofia’s mom, Ketty, would become my best friend over the coming months and that Ketty’s family would become my family.  Little did I know that Ana Sofia would leave us so suddenly, just five years later.

But this is not a sad story; this is a love story.

Ana Sofia, age 9

I have always told Ketty that I think the stork got lost when he delivered her as an infant to her parents’ house.  Ketty’s innate ability to see beyond her immediate world has often left her struggling to find a deep connection to those surrounding her.  Yet it was this ability, the ability to comprehend someone so seemingly different from her, and to be able to do so in such a deep and genuine way, that brought us together and continues to touch me and my life today.  During my Peace Corps experience, she became my rock and my best friend, the one I could count on to understand and to see me as a human being rather than the American, “la gringa,” “the other.”  She was insatiably curious about my life back in the United States, about my hopes and dreams, about where I came from and where I wanted to go.  We stayed up until all hours of the night laughing and talking about our childhoods, about her 10-year-old daughter Sankeiris and the ever entertaining and loveable Ana Sofia.  I learned of the emotional and physical abuse that Ketty had suffered in her marriage, and I grew to understand her commitment to stay with her husband anyway because she saw no other alternatives for herself and her daughters .

But this is not a sad story; this is a love story.

Ketty effortlessly saw beyond the stereotypes of the American that so many others bought into without a second thought.  She saw a

Sankeiris, age 17

young woman who was there to learn, to give, and, ultimately, to receive.  She saw a girl who was sometimes scared, sometimes homesick, and sometimes unsure about how to go back to life in the United States.  She became the rock that I could lean on through all of the challenges that are not only a part of Peace Corps service but simply a part of life.  And, as I came to know her, I saw beyond the mother with only a 7th grade education living in a rundown home in one of the poorest regions of the Dominican Republic.  I saw a woman who would do anything for her children, including go back to 8th grade at the age of 30 despite the scoffing and teasing of her husband and the gossip of her neighbors.  We were successful in getting her a scholarship, and we sat for hours together to help her master her most challenging subjects, math and English.  Ketty wouldn’t rest until she understood the work she was doing; she was there to learn, she said, and she was going to make sure to be able to help her daughters with their homework someday.  Her determination as a mother, student, and human being won my admiration, but it is her love that nourishes our unbreakable bond of friendship.  Ketty understood and continues to understand me as a person, as a fellow human being, in a way more deeply than I ever thought possible.  She never pushed me to be her friend, and she has never asked me for anything; she has always understood that loving me is enough, even if that is all she has to give.  In November of 2005, I completed my Peace Corps service.  As I waved goodbye and walked away from Ketty and my life in the Dominican Republic, I was literally unable to stand on my own two feet. I fell to my knees, broke down, and felt my heart breaking.  I was leaving my rock behind.

But this is not a sad story; this is a love story.

Ketty & daughter Sankeiris

Ketty always said that even if we never saw each other again after I moved back to the United States, our friendship would never die, for we would always be connected and carry our love for each other within us.  She understood better than I did that things would change for me when I got back home, and she prepared me for that and refused to burden me with unrealistic expectations of our friendship.  Despite the distance, we kept in touch and talked regularly.  But of course the photos, letters, phone calls, and memories were not enough, and I have been back to visit her three times since I left.  The first visit helped us both to realize that our friendship was just as strong as when I’d left, and once again, it was difficult to say goodbye and return to the U.S.  My second and third visits were bittersweet, as I went to support her in her grief after the sudden loss of her mother in 2008 and then the heartbreaking loss of her 9-year-old daughter, Ana Sofia, on September 9, 2009.

But this is not a sad story; this is a love story.

In 2011, exactly two years after Ana Sofia’s death, Ketty became a mother for the third time.  She no longer sees September 8th as the day of Ana Sofia’s tragic accident, as a day of mourning; instead it is a day of celebration, for it is no coincidence that Rosairis was born on that day.  And, before Rosairis was six months old, Ketty finally left her husband and his abuse for good, and she is still on her own with 17-year-old Sankeiris and the one-year-old that she and Sankeiris are raising together.  Ketty’s decision to leave  her husband despite the financial implications is a tribute to Ana Sofia, who just days before her death begged her mom to leave her dad saying, “Mommy, you are a flower, and you can’t treat flowers the way Daddy treats you.”

But this is not a sad story; this is a love story.

Ketty & Rosairis

Ketty refuses to raise another child in an environment of abuse and negativity.  She instead chooses to provide a home filled with the boundless love that she possesses.  With this choice comes the reality of searching for work in a place where jobs are extremely scarce, and in the meantime she has filed a legal claim against her ex-husband who, out of anger and resentment, has failed to provide consistent child support.  After hiding her dire situation from me for a couple of weeks, Ketty confided in me that she and her children had not been eating regular meals.  She cried as she told me that they often find themselves hanging around the homes of extended family members in the hopes of being offered leftovers.

But this is not a sad story; this is a love story.

Ketty has enough to get by for now, and she continues to look for a job while awaiting her court date with her ex-husband.  In the

Rosairis, 12 months

meantime, I invite you to help by simply making a massage/Reiki appointment with me and making a donation in return.  I can assure you that the money will be used wisely and spent on food, diapers, medical care, and transportation for Sankeiris to get to school.  If you feel compelled to participate or to make a donation but cannot make an appointment, I offer you that option.

Thank you for reading, and thank you for your help.

EDITOR’S NOTE JANUARY 2013:

Thank you to each and every one of you for your support in raising money for Ketty and her girls; together we were able to raise over $1600!
Ketty was deeply moved by the love that was poured out to her via your donations.  I was able to spend the holidays in the Dominican Republic and got to tell Ketty about each and every one of you; she feels honored to be loved by so many people who have never even met her, and I will be sending along a personal thank-you to each of you on Ketty’s behalf.  It was indeed a merry Christmas and happy new year for Ketty, her family, and me!
In other news, I gave Ketty first Reiki treatment while I was down there, and she found it very interesting and relaxing.  Also, in other news, Ketty recently obtained a part-time job on the weekends and is able to afford the basics at this point.
EDITOR’S NOTE AUGUST 2013:
As of yesterday, Ketty now has TWO jobs! She is so excited to have gone from “desempleada” less than a year ago to being able to cover her own expenses. She’ll be working 7 days a week, cooking, cleaning, and generally taking care of business at her local school and at a politician’s home in the capital. The next step is for her daughter Sankeiris to start college this winter 🙂

3 thoughts on “A love story

  1. Jennifer Glomb

    Molly-what a beautiful love story…I will not be able to make an appointment, but will be honored to donate to your friend during this difficult time.
    Much Love-Jenny Glomb

  2. Laura

    Molly, this is really moving! I am living again in the DR working for a British NGO. I sometimes collaborate with the PC here and I’m sure they would love to hear this story. Do you mind if I share it with them?

    • mcoeling

      Hi, Laura – Great to hear from you! Certainly you can share this story as far and wide as you would like. Are you living in the capital? Which NGO are you working for?

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