Losing My Infinity … Losing My Best Friend

Amit Ramnarine – my best friend

He was my light in a dark world.

He taught me to be myself despite being in a place that tries to change you.

He loved me when we were together and when we were apart – even if that apart spanned weeks, months, or years.

His time on earth was too short, but I hold him in my heart every day.

I can’t sum up what he meant to me or capture his essence and spirit in a few words because it is impossible.

Three years ago today, my best friend Amit Ramnarine passed away. It was tragic and horrible. There was a house fire and Amit didn’t make it out. His body was burned beyond recognition. It took the coroner nearly 3 days to positively identify him.

He was mere inches from the door – from life.

He was 23.

His life –  that was just beginning – suddenly ended.

In those few inches, in those few moments, the world lost a beautiful person, and I lost a piece of me forever.

Two of my close friends called to tell me that Amit was gone. They delivered the news as carefully and gently as they could. They wanted to tell me in person, but every West Palm Beach news station was covering the massive fire down Lion Country Safari Road on Stallion Drive. My friends were afraid I would see it on the TV.

When they told me, I screamed bloody murder. It was horrifying. It was piercing. It was an instant gut-wrenching pain. I gasped for air. I slid down the bathroom wall, laid on the ungodly cold tiles and wailed like a baby for hours.  No one, nothing could console me. I fell asleep. I woke up. I remembered. I screamed again and the cycle continued in a vicious fashion.

The next day, I somehow managed to drive myself to classes in Boca Raton. I sat there hearing a professor rambling about variables and inverse relationships. I watched the news reports of the fire trying to convince myself it was not real. Instead I tortured myself with the images of a home engulfed with flames. My blood shot eyes revealed to classmates and friends the pain I was trying to disguise. They asked questions, I broke down in tears. I did not want their pity, that only made it worse, because that meant it was true.

The next few hours and days are a blur. I did what I do best. I put on my best face and became numb to everything around me. I met my two friends at Amit’s parents’ house and sat in silence as Amit’s family recited Hindu prayers. I attended his funeral trying to understand the Hindu after life.

After the funeral, I listened as my friends recalled their favorite memories with Amit while we were standing in a parking lot, which was befitting since the four of us spent hours goofing off in Palm Beach State College’s parking lot playing frisbee, tag and just talking.

The three of us promised to not lose touch with each other, to not get too busy to talk, to spend time together. We were no longer 18 year old kids starting college, we had grown to 22 year old adults. During that growing, we grew apart. We felt that Amit’s tragedy had a way of reuniting us and we wanted to honor him. We then went our separate ways.

I still had my mask on, but when darkness fell I was in hell. The pain rushed back over me, the tears came like a flood. I was lost in the bottomless pit of grief.

I can’t say how or when I got out of that pit. I don’t even know if three years later I am out of that pit. It still is absolutely heartbreaking. Like it or not, with or without you, life goes on. I know Amit would not want me to cry for him anymore, but I think my tears are not for Amit, but for myself.

I cry because he is not here.

I cry because I lost one of my best friends.

I cry because love like his is rare.

I cry because I feel like I failed him.

I often wonder if Amit knew how much he meant to me, how much I treasured our friendship and how much I loved him. I feel like I didn’t take the time to let him know. Even now, I get too busy to talk to my friends and family and to spend time with them.

And that is my tragedy. To those special people in my life, even if I don’t see you or talk to you often, I love you.

Please don’t forget to say that to those special people in your life. Nothing in life is guaranteed.

Amit, you showed me how to live, how to give, how to love and I will be forever grateful for that. You are my infinity.

I carry your heart. I carry it in my heart.

Amit and I

Posted in accident, believe, Belle Glade, best friend, cope, coping, dream, facebook muck girl, Florida Atlantic University, friends, friendship, Glades, glades muck girl, haunting, inspiration, loss, Muck, muck girl, Muck Love, nina g. wills, nina wills, Pahokee, Palm Beach County, sadness, safety, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Muck Girl’s Sunflowers 2012

I’m happy to report that I can live up to my name of MUCK GIRL and the sunflowers I planted a couple of months ago, sprouted, grew, and BLOOMED.

They beat the odds really between the thunderstorms we’ve had in the Glades lately that produced whipping wind gusts of 40 mph and pelting rain. Not to mention, my hungry dog Dudley Dew, who thought sunflowers were just the tastiest treat ever.

Let’s review their progress:

Planted on 4-2-12:

Here We GROW, sprouted just three days later:

4-5-12

Getting even bigger – again three days later:

4-8-12

Six inches tall on 4-13-12

11 days after being planted!

Only 20 days after being planted, a heavy thunderstorm took its toll on the plants:

Poor fellas took a beating!

On 5-2-12, a month after being planted and surviving bad thunderstorms:

Bouncing back from the bad weather

A bud started to form on 5-16-12

Getting there.

And then it just seemed they grew overnight!

50 days later on 5-22-12

Getting so close to opening up:

6-2-12 – Two months after being planted.

And finally here they are in all of their glory –

64 days after being planted. They bloomed!

 

And here I am looking quite proud –

One proud MUCK GIRL!

I planted Mammoth Russian Sunflowers and boy, did these fellows live up to their name. The tallest one is nearly 8 feet.

The tallest Sunflower.

I also planted Mexican Sunflowers. They didn’t bloom until after the Russian Mammoths. Here’s the bud:

Mexican Sunflower Bud

The Mexican Sunflower is smaller and a fiery orange.

 

Mexican Sunflower

I have to give credit to the MUCK, which is so rich and fertile. I know it’s the reason for my successful Sunflower Season.

~ MUCK LOVE

Posted in Belle Glade, big lake, Canal Point, Clewiston, dog, Dudley Dew, facebook muck girl, flowers, gardener, Glades, Glades Agriculture, glades muck girl, Lake O, Lake Okeechobee, Muck, muck girl, nina, nina g. wills, nina wills, Pahokee, South Bay, sunflowers, the glades, the glades show, twitter glades muck girl, western communties | Leave a comment

Dudley Doodle #3

Anybody who thinks writing is easy – is wrong.

Writing is RUFF, I mean rough. (Sorry, things got lost in translation there!) You have to really use your brain, and sometimes I’d just rather be sleeping or chasing cats.

Writing takes a lot of hard work and energy. I don’t know how my Mom does it – I’m impressed.

And she has to listen to me collect my thoughts, which can be scattered, especially if I see a cat or a bird.

So, sometimes I have to help her while she is transcribing. So, I jump in her lap and grab her pen and just go with it. I don’t think she likes that very much, though. Mom can be really partial to her pens. (I did accidentally destroy her brand new blue Papermate Ink Joy pen in the writing of this post. I am sorry Mom!)

Helping Mom out

So, have you ever wondered how exactly I talk to my Momma so she can help me write my Dudley Doodle?

Well, watch the video and now you will know! ~ MUCK RUV

Posted in Belle Glade, Canal Point, Clewiston, dog, Dudley Dew, Dudley Doodle, facebook muck girl, Glades, glades muck girl, Lake O, Lake Okeechobee, Muck, muck girl, Muck Love, nina, nina g. wills, nina wills, Pahokee, Palm Beach County, pet, Sandcut, Uncategorized | 1 Comment

A Muck City Lesson

James Lee of the Washington Redskins helping a kid with blocking at Lee’s 3rd Annual Team Lee Football Camp at Glades Central on June 9.

Every year, James Lee returns to his home of Belle Glade and hosts a football camp for the youth of our community. Lee is an offensive tackle with the Washington Redskins and he has a heart to give back.

On Saturday, June 9, over 150 boys and girls made their way to Glades Central High School to participate in the camp where they learned techniques to improve their footballs skills. The kids were taught by Lee, dozens of his NFL friends, and local coaches.

I’ll admit I was a little awestruck with meeting all of those NFL players – especially the ones who were former FSU players.  I’ve been a FSU fan since before I could walk.

On Friday, June 8, I met Markus White, a former FSU linebacker and current linebacker with the Washington Redskins, at the Team Lee Sponsorship Appreciation Dinner and told him that I was a FSU fan. When Markus saw me on the field Saturday morning, he said, “There’s that FSU girl. You know we’re surrounded by a couple of FSU players over here.”

My eyes got big. I couldn’t wait to be meet players that I cheered for every Saturday.

Markus White of the Washington Redskins giving instruction to the kids.

Markus introduced me to Dekoda Watson and Geno Hayes – both former linebackers with the Noles and both current NFL players. Watson is with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Hayes is with the Chicago Bears.

I stood on the field and just watched. The kids ran drills, learned about routes, and practiced their blocking. It was an intense day of hands-on learning. Several of the NFL players said they saw great talent and potential in our Glades youth.

But the day wasn’t just about football.

While I was standing at Dr. Effie Grear Stadium, I had a moment of realization when I saw the interaction between a little boy and one of the NFL players.

There was a little boy about 7 years old watching the older kids throw footballs the width of the field. The little boy looked at Dekoda Watson, and asked, “Do you believe I can throw that ball all the way over there?”

Without missing a beat, Watson said, “It doesn’t matter if I believe that you can throw the ball, do YOU believe that you can throw that ball all the way over there?”

The little boy smiled big and Watson said, “Now, you have to try.”

Dekoda Watson of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers

So, the boy drew his arm back and with all of his might threw the football. It wasn’t the prettiest spiral I’d ever seen, but I’ll tell you this, it was one of the most magical throws I’d ever seen.

This boy not only believed in himself and his abilities, but also had the courage to try.

And that’s what events and days like this are all about: encouraging kids, teaching them to dream big and to believe in those dreams.

So, my question for you is this – are you getting caught up in life and forgetting what’s really important?

It doesn’t matter if you don’t have kids of your own, there is a kid in your church, your neighborhood, your school, your community that needs you and needs to be encouraged and taught to dream.

If kids can grasp that and hold on to it, their future is truly limitless.

Posted in believe, Belle Glade, big lake, Canal Point, Chicago Bears, Clewiston, community day, Dekoda Watson, dream, education, facebook muck girl, family fun day, Football, Geno Hayes, Glades, Glades Central, Glades Central High, glades muck girl, Glades Youth, Glades Youth Football, inspiration, james lee, kids, Lake Okeechobee, Markus White, Muck, muck city fest, muck girl, Muck Love, nina, nina g. wills, nina wills, Pahokee, Palm Beach County, Sandcut, Seminole Indians, South Bay, tampa bay buccaneers, Team Lee Foundation, the big lake, the glades, Washington Redskins, western communties, Youth Football Camp | Leave a comment

My Daddy – The Farmer

Walter Gale Wills is the epitome of a simple man. He’s a no-fuss, no-nonsense, practical person. Sometimes he comes across as mean. His appearance can be rather intimidating. He always wears Lee Jeans with a leather belt that has “Slick” on it, dark brown cowboy boots and a white cowboy hat. He reminds me of John Wayne in a Western movie.

I’ve always been a Daddy’s girl.

Despite that description, I see Gale Wills in a different light, because he’s also my Daddy. Yes, he may be stern and tough, but he’s also a caring and loving.

I’ve always thought of my Dad as a teacher – not a teacher of academics, but a teacher of life. He’s just one of those people that dispense tidbits of wisdom in every day conversation. It’s done so subtly too that you don’t even realize you’ve just been given a lesson.

When I think about those lessons that my Daddy has taught me, I see that most of them relate to his work as a farmer. This seems appropriate because, honestly, my Dad is more of a teacher by example than by explaining.

My Daddy has been a vegetable farmer for over 50 years here in the Glades. He’s an expert in radishes, celery, corn, lettuce, Chinese cabbage, escarole, and endive. Being a farmer is just something that he was born to do.

When I was a little girl, I would listen for the sound of my Daddy’s boots pounding the patio signaling to me he was home. I’d run to the back door and greet him with the biggest hug. His face would be covered in the rich, black muck darkening his already tan skin. He always smelled like celery and muck. His arms were usually full with fresh produce – so fresh that the celery stalks would still have muck on them.

Daddy and I in our backyard.

I don’t think I fully appreciated what my Daddy did as a farmer until I got older. He works in one of the richest agricultural regions in the world. Palm Beach County ranks first in agriculture sales among counties west of the Mississippi River. My Daddy harvests vegetables that are not just served on my table, but on the tables of countless of families. My Daddy’s work feeds America.

My Daddy taught me that farmers are the true environmentalists. No one cares more about the land than a farmer does because it’s his livelihood. They are invested in the land. They are the real stewards of the earth.

My Daddy and I in our favorite place – the front porch swing of the Wills’ homeplace in Tennessee

My Daddy taught me to appreciate nature. He would load me up in his F-150 pick-up to go watch the sunsets over Lake Okeechobee. In the summers, we’ve spent countless hours sitting on the front porch swing of my Daddy’s family home place in the mountains of Tennessee. We were never doing anything. We were just listening to the birds and watching the deer meander through the fields. Sometimes in life you have to just be quiet and still in nature.

My Daddy taught me the value of hard work. Being a farmer isn’t easy. There are more early days and long nights than in most jobs. There’s a lot of patience and persistence involved. But watching my Daddy battle the temperamental weather, insects and diseases, work 16 hours days 7 days a week, all for a job that he truly loved and enjoyed also taught me to find something in life that I was passionate about.

That passion for me has always been writing.

My Daddy might not understand Facebook or blogging, but he does understand that I love writing and I love the Glades. He’s encouraged me to follow that passion wherever it would lead.

And it has lead me here – to this time in my life – where  I have my own website dedicated to all news of the Glades and where I write a weekly column about the Glades for The Palm Beach Post.

If I didn’t have a Daddy that encouraged me or led by example, I know I wouldn’t be here.

My Daddy – more than anyone – has taught me to love the MUCK. I may not be following in his footsteps as a farmer, but I am following in his footsteps in his love for the MUCK.

Happy Father’s Day to the best Daddy a girl could ever ask for.

I love you a bushel and a peck and a hug around the neck.

Daddy and I

Posted in agriculture, Belle Glade, Canal Point, facebook muck girl, farming, Glades, Glades Agriculture, Glades celery, Glades corn, Glades farming, glades muck girl, Lake Okeechobee, Muck, muck girl, nina, nina g. wills, nina wills, Pahokee, Palm Beach County, palm beach post, South Bay, sugarcane, vegetable farming, vegetables, western communties | 2 Comments

Dudley Doodle #2

Ruff! Hello again.

My Mom wrote a very sweet story about her Mom for Mother’s Day. (Check it out here and have some tissues nearby. I’m sure you’ll need them).

That got me to thinking about my Mom and how much she means to me. So, even though, I’m a month late (I’m on doggy time, remember?) on wishing my Mom a Happy Mother’s Day, here’s just a few  reasons why I love her.

I love my Mom because she adopted me when I was wandering the streets and she gave me a home, a really good home.

My Mom and I when we first found each other – Oct. 2009

I love my Mom because she isn’t afraid to get dirty, which is good because I stay dirty.

Mom gives me a bath and gets all my dirt on her!

I love my Mom because she plays with me outside like tug of war, fetch and my favorite hide-n-go-seek.

Tug-of-war with Mom

I love my Mom because she still lets me get in her lap and cuddle even though I weigh 77.7 pounds (It’s where I get the best naps).

Nap times are the best, especially with my Mom!

I love my Mom because I know she will always love me even when I bark at cats, eat my bed, and escape from the house (Oh! Those are some stories I’ll have to share later).

~ MUCK RUV

Kisses for the Best Mom in the WHOLE WORLD!

 

Posted in dog, Dudley Dew, Dudley Doodle, Muck, muck girl, Muck Love, nina g. wills, nina wills, Pahokee, the glades | Leave a comment

Team Lee Foundation Football Camp and Muck City Fest on Saturday

James Lee giving instruction to Glades Youth at the 2011 Muck City Fest

Washington Redskins offensive tackle James Lee may be living 1,000 miles from home, but his heart remains in the Glades.

Lee makes frequent trips back to the area to participate in community events, such as the “Stop the Violence Walk” in January and youth mentoring sessions at Lakeshore Middle School and Glades Central High School in March.

Lee said it is always special to return home.

“I always wanted to give back to my community. So, I sat down and put out a plan,” said the 26-year-old Lee. “I was looking for something to do in the community to help the youth and to give them motivation.”

In 2010, that plan was to host a football camp for the Glades youth. This would give the youth an opportunity to receive instruction from Lee that could improve their football skills.

On Saturday, the James Lee Foundation will be hosting its 3rd annual Youth Football Camp at Glades Central High School. This is the first time a NFL player has held a football camp on the field that has produced the most NFL players in the league. Lee is a 2003 graduate of the school.

This year, the camp is sponsored by the NFL and USA football, the official youth football development partner of the NFL. USA Football is providing the NFL approved curriculum, 100 USA footballs, cones, flags and t-shirts. Over 200 boys and girls ages 10-17 have already registered for the camp.

Lee knows that the opportunity for local kids to participate in a NFL-sponsored football camp is exciting, but his goal is not just to teach the youth some new football skills, but to teach them the value of an education.

“Without graduating, you can’t play football at college. You can’t then go on to the NFL. That’s just point blank,” Lee said. “So many kids have that dream to play in the NFL. It’s not all football, education is important, too.”

Lee’s mother Elaine Bain emphasized that to her son while he was growing up.

“She didn’t play when it came to education,” said Lee.

When Lee was a senior at Glades Central High School, his grades were good and he had high marks on the ACT, a college entrance exam. Lee began his college career at the University of Georgia and then transferred to South Carolina State. He graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in Family and Consumer Science in December 2007.

Lee has also recruited some of his NFL friends to assist him during the football camp. They include Tim Jennings, a cornerback of the Chicago Bears; Fernando Velasco, a center of the Tennessee Titans; Josh Johnson, a quarterback of the San Francisco 49ers; and Davin Joseph, an offensive guard of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

“The players will be talking to the kids about being a student-athlete and focusing on the student aspect of it,” said Cathleen Laporte, executive director for the Team Lee Foundation.

Lee hopes that the youth will realize that the day is not just about football or getting autographs from NFL players.

“Kids are going to be able to pick the brains of these NFL players and learn about their experiences and how they got where they are today,” Lee said.

Belle Glade Native James Lee hosting a football camp

Lee’s initial plan has expanded to not only include the free football camp, but also to host a community day. That event will take place from Noon to 5 p.m. on Saturday at Lakeshore Park in Belle Glade.

The community day will give residents the opportunity to receive information from over 50 area service providers, including the American Cancer Society, the American Red Cross, C.L. Brumback Health Center and more. Residents can receive free diabetes and blood pressure screenings or learn about job opportunities through Workforce Alliance.

Kids can enjoy snow cones, popcorn, and cotton candy and fun in bounce houses. The James Lee Foundation is also partnering with Read First and will be giving away 1,000 brand new books.

After the football camp is over at 2 p.m., Lee, along with the other NFL players and camp participants, will make their way to the Muck City Fest activities, which include a talent showcase from Glades Central High School students and dance performances by Street Beat, Inc.

Lee wants to motivate the Glades youth to achieve success in whatever they choose to do, whether or not that includes playing sports.

“This is where I grew up. This is where I went to school. Kids need to see me,” Lee said.

“It’s not someone coming from West Palm telling them what to do, telling them that education is important. I can speak their language.”

The James Lee Foundation Youth Football Camp will take place from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Glades Central High School located at 1001 Southwest Avenue M in Belle Glade. The Muck City Fest activities will take place from 12 p.m. to 5 p.m. at Lakeshore Park located at 1224 Southwest Avenue E Place in Belle Glade. For more information, visit www.teamlee.org

 

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