Up Front and Personal

Thankful Memories of a Lost Loved One

by Huguette Volmar

This Thanksgiving, be thankful in all ways. With the loss of our daughter, the Syliah Volmar Foundation has given our family comfort as we watch the lives of children change because of the education provided for them. 

My Angel Syliah, 

It has been 20 years since you left us on Thanksgiving Day 2003. It still feels like yesterday. Your presence is deeply missed by every one of us you touched. We can still feel you, hear your voice, and see you in our dreams. 

In your last few months, your failing heart had weakened your once-vibrant 6-year-old body. Your diagnosis with dilated cardiomyopathy kept you from doing what you do best: dancing. Yet that is what you are doing on the many occasions we see you. 

Your dad saw you performing on stage in front of a crowd so large that people were standing outside waiting to get in. Your brother said he saw you on stage too, and he was performing beside you. 

I remember the first time you visited me in my dreams. We were sitting together in the train you used to love to ride, and you told me that you were fine. You insisted, “I am fine, Mommy. I am fine!” 

Last time I saw you, which was not that long ago, we were on the train again. You were on your way to school. We did a lot of catching up and lost track of time and you missed your stop. We got off and went back together so you wouldn’t get lost. 

School was always your passion. I still have your trophy for reading the most books in kindergarten. As you know, you inspired the creation of the Syliah Volmar Foundation because we know you would have wanted to help the children from our hometown in Haiti get an education. You would be happy to know that we sponsored 30 children in three different schools this year. (One of our graduates had a mom and dad who both died when she was still an infant.) 

I also wanted you to know that our new church is American Martyrs in Oakland Gardens, Queens. It is a parish family you would have loved to be part of, with their religious education program, family vibe, and style of worship. 

Every time I get to share your book with someone living far away, I see you living at that location. I gave the book to someone living in Colorado recently and said to myself: “Syliah is now in Colorado.” 

I remember the day I was reading a book to you, and you continued reading it on your own. I said “Syliah, you can read!” And you replied, “Yes Mommy, I can read, Daddy taught me.” 

Shortly after that you would follow behind your big brother and do everything he did. Now your brother Daniel is about to leave the nest. He loves to travel and so is now working as a flight attendant for a major U.S. airline. His work takes him around the world and to every corner of the U.S. I know he thinks of you so much. I count on you to continue to guide him. I also know that he is concerned that we will be alone, especially now that Mommy and Daddy are getting older. 

God comforted us after your departure. We have no doubt that you are an angel watching over us because of the assignment you left for us to carry on with the foundation. Just as you referred to your classmates as “my children,” these students declare themselves as your children in their thank you notes. 

We all miss and love you profoundly, especially during this season of Thanksgiving. Even though we know that you are doing amazing work where you are right now, we can’t help but wish you were still with us. 

Loving you always,

Mommy Huguette

Huguette Volmar is a parishioner at American Martyrs Church in Oakland Gardens, Queens, and a retired nurse from St. John’s Episcopal Hospital in Far Rockaway.