Bambi is still speechless since this morning.
“Tante Madame Nicole”, you left too soon/too fast, and perhaps there is comfort in the latter.
Madame Nicole Melki was Bambi’s French teacher in Lebanon. She is the mother of her childhood friend Joëlle (+ her loving brothers, Serge and George) and the mother-in-law of Viviane.
Her funny title/name “tante Madame Nicole” comes from Bambi’s silly mouth as a child. She loves her dearly like family, hence the “aunty” (or “tante” part). The “Madame” is for the utmost respect to the teacher in her. Bambi owes her her love of the beautiful French language with its brilliantly conceived grammar. As for “Nicole” part, it is simply because this is whom she has been to all of us. A wonderful, loving, smart, tender, ethical, incredibly funny, successfully sarcastic , and unique Nicole that EVERYONE loves!! She has been both a mother and a lifetime friend to her children (and even friends, or rather “cousins”, of her children).
She has even been an inspiring cooking teacher to Bambi’s spouse. We owe her many tips, including his successful trick of “riz wa dijej” that is presented as a cake of rice, chicken, minced beef, and roasted almonds. OK, Bambi is using the royal we here Nicole, but only to make you smile from heaven. As you have teased her lately: “Well, if Louis cooks ALL this, what does Bambi do in life 🙂 :)”?! Bambi had to explain that, at least, she cleans the house :). Well, Bambi is happy she recently impressed you (+ her mom and herself!) with her 2-week-cooking for her spouse when he was in quarantine last month. Yes, there is hope Nicole, even for clearly untalented cooking students.
What breaks Bambi’s heart is how you were dreaming of coming to visit Sackville and she has dreamed to go see you in Indianapolis, as you know. Sadly, we did not have the time. The pandemic surprised us and your stroke was even faster. Between her tears (and smiles), Bambi would like to offer you a song (of course in French!). She thinks you may like it. She hopes it may bring a second of comfort to your children in the Unites States and in Beirut. She can only share one drop of their ocean of grief journey.
Bambi’s family will never forget our moments of escape to Cyprus to the Canadian embassy, and earlier, so many times in boats of different shapes and speed. We spent unforgettable times together. Bambi also had the honour to see you in Beirut during her visits over the last 30 years before you immigrated yourself.
Sadly, your heart died saddened to what happened to your Beirut, including your neighbourhood [where Joujou (= George) lives] and the school you devoted your career to]. Please rest in peace and… when you will be in peace, send both Lebanon and the USA your hope for more peaceful, healthy, and prosperous days.
Love transcends death. As the song goes, “juste un au revoir… pas un adieu“. May your memory be eternal!
With all my loyal love to you and a big hug to you Joëlle “habibi”, along with her DEAR Serge and George who are the best children and brothers than anyone could dream of.