I met Virgil in South Africa. He dated Lynne, a cousin of the Pillay family I stayed with in Johannesburg. He's not someone I saw each day. He was always at church and at the house on weekends. He and Lynne reached out to me since we were all close in age. We watched movies together. He toted me around in his car at times, carrying my big red bag from house-to-house. I often had to ask him to repeat everything he said because his accent was deliciously thicker than the others. Lynne would laugh and say that they didn't always understand what he was saying, either.
Virgil insisted that I fall in love with South Africa. He wanted to make sure I tried all of the good sweeties, so he stopped at a store and purchased South African and Indian goodies for me. I'm certain I broke his heart when one sour candy nearly made me want to cut my tongue out of my mouth. I assured him I loved the country, though. He asked me what I'd tell everyone about Johannesburg when I got home. Virgil said he was sick of hearing how Johannesburg is one of the most dangerous cities in the world. He wanted to make sure I went home sharing how safe I felt in most places. He imagined it was like any other city--you just know where not to go and avoid those places. His little boy--about 4 years old--stared at me and laughed at my accent when we met. Payback for me asking his dad to repeat all of the time, I guess.
When I was there, Virgil was sick most of the time I saw him, coughing a lot and having to rest at times. When I finally asked about his cold, he told me he had Leukemia and was awaiting a bone marrow transplant. I received an e-mail this morning saying that Virgil succumbed to the disease Dec. 19. Today I celebrate Virgil--the few weeks of his life I was able to experience! I pray for his family and friends who are learning a new way of living without him right now.