Can a life that was like candlelight always radiating love, generosity, happiness ever be extinguished. When the phone rang at early morning hours I expected nothing but her voice saying “Come for coffee,” as she always did call and I would run to talk to her. And we talked our heart talk laughing and drinking coffee together. But it wasn’t her voice, it was the news that she had left us for her eternal journey.
My dearest friend Lirie Erbeli, the woman who never stopped loving life, who had a heart as big as an ocean, endlessly giving. Her doors were open to people, she always listened with her heart and compassion. She never ate alone, always giving, giving, giving. Her hands until the last day knited gifts for all of us. She was an icon of endurance, of preseverance, patience, and positivity. No one was like her, no one ever noticed if she had a hard time, or things were rough, she was always the one to encourage all of us. She was everyone’s best friend, best mother, best grandmother, best aunt, best neighbor…She was an extraordinary woman.
When I met her she was a young woman, an immigrant, a wife, a mother, and a teacher. Her days consisted with work, work, and some more work. You know how our Albanian families require the mother to be there at all times and to provide for everyone. She was more than that. She not only took care of her three little daughters, making sure their homework was done, worked full time as a teacher, and had a home full of guests. She helped Albanian women with children guiding them in school. She was among the first AAWO board members, and a committee member on education. She found time to come to AAWO meetings from the very first day. She would bring her daughters with her and often them being so little they would fall asleep on the chairs while women paved their vision to create a platform where every women could feel they belonged and found their voice.
Lirie was our sister who not only came to the meetings, often she would bring food she made at home like burek, or pogaqe to the sisters who worked late hours till midnight to make them feel happy and share a few moments of joy. For participating in first in Albanian Parade in NYC she sew national dress for herself and her daughter Albana, and proudly walked with women singing and dancing along, while carrying the Albanian flag. Despite her little salary she came with entire family to every single event AAWO has organized and as some of you may know there were 22 events a year at times.
Her financial contribution never ceased, she always divided what ever she could save and contributed to AAWO. She talked to women who were troubled, provided her support to women who suffered from domestic violence, she built relationships and with pride always promoted AAWO vision and cause. She stuffed envelopes with volunteers, she advertised AAWO retreats and brought all her relatives along. She was there in every demonstration for Kosova’s liberation. She was there during crisis in Albania, she was there during long hours of planning, she bought so many extra Shpresa magazine and gave it as a gift to all other teachers, and always available on the phone to listen to all who needed to be heard.
Today we are honored to say she was our great friend. How can we thank her for her commitment, her loyalty, her love and her support. She was the woman who never stopped believing in us, who never put herself first but made everyone a part of her life and her family. She cried, she laughed and she danced with all women. She was an inspirtation to us all, a trusted friend and today we are proud to follow in her footsteps.
LIRIE ERBELI, your life was as short as the morning breeze, you left us to early just when we thought we would enjoy life together. You taught us about love and trust in God and each other. You taught us to move through life dancing, laughing, loving and generously sharing. Thank you for being my friend for more than thirty years and making my life so rich with your presence. Thank you for always being there with us and for us. May you rest in peace my dear friend and sister and may your eternal journey be filled with light as the doors of paradise open for you.
I will always remember your smile now and forever, and you will live in my heart until we meet again . I love you.