Saying goodbye is never easy, but it always helps to make things definite by clearing all the unnecessary ambiguity and doubt that something has happened. Last Thursday we said goodbye to our program director, Dr. Eufemia Sanchez de la Calle, who died tragically after a car accident caused by a heart attack Thursday, Sept. 27. 

The chapel located in the bottom of our schools building started off nearly empty, only three others students, a few other members of the Madrid community and myself sat in the rows close to the front. The students and I didn't know if we were allowed to sit in the first few rows, but we determined it was OK since we grew so close to her. The minutes passed and the chapel began to fill. Students who studied abroad in previous semesters who now worked in Spain  arrived, her three brothers sat across the aisle, opposite us, their emotions and tears clearly showing how much Femy meant to them. Faculty, that we have grown to know, attended and even some of our señoras came to pay their respects. 

The ceremony began and the priest spoke about the kind, loving person Femy was and how, just like all of Gods children, we live, die and return to our place next to him. The language was no longer a barrier, we all shared the same loss, the same grief and the same question: Why Femy? The priest answered this question by saying it is never the right time for any of us to loose someone we love and care for, but that God has a plan regardless of what is seemingly convenient for us. I am not an extremely religious person but this hit home for me as well as many of us who attended the ceremony. It was not a convenient time to loose Femy, it never would have been, but the idea that she could be looking out for us somewhere in this world, even above us in Heaven, makes loosing her easier because no matter where she is I can guarantee you she is smiling and laughing that hearty laugh she had. 

After a beautiful ceremony there was a homage in one of the classrooms. Photos of Femy when she was a baby, a tomboy and then a college student. There were photos of Femy alone but not many, she was always with someone in a photo and I think that shows just how much of a people person and caregiver she was. There were plenty of photos of her with students, a sign of how she depended on us and we depended on her, and of her with friends laughing.  Kind words were said by her coworkers and her youngest brother at the end that truly embodied the spirit Femy had. No one was ever able to stop her from achieving greatness and she wouldn't stop anyone from going after their dreams. Everyone was touched by Femy and Thursday's ceremony embodied her spirit and the tears that were shed were of sadness but also happiness that we were able to be part of her life in some way. We wish you everlasting peace, Femy. See you on the other side. 

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Jackie Curbishley
11/21/2012 19:29:24

Dear Andrea, you don't know me but I am an old friend of Femy Sanchez. I first met her through one of my Spanish teachers when I was studying the language as a mature student in London. I was married with two children and a working mum. My teacher, Teresa Rubio told me she had met a young Spanish girl in Bourne & Hollingsworth (a famous old London store, now long gone,) one lunchtime. She said this girl had come to London via an agency in Spain as an au pair, for the purpose of learning English. The family she had been placed with were Indian, they spoke no English at home and wouldn't allow the girl to attend any classes. They had taken away her passport and she was allowed only one day a week off.
This to me seemed like modern slavery, and ever the campaigner for liberty, I decided to free her.
I was in the music business in those days, managing bands like The Who, so I had access to some pretty heavy security men. That night I sent one of them to the address Teresa had given me with the express orders not to leave without the girl and her passport and if necessary, to call the police.
To cut a long story short, he had to call the police, but Femy arrived at my house that night, aged 23, nervous and bemused as she had no idea how this miracle had come about.
So began a lifelong friendship. She stayed with us for nearly three years and became one of the family. In those years austerity measures in Spain meant that University grants had been cancelled so Femy had to leave Salamanca and go back home to Caceres. She hit upon the idea of becoming an Air Stewardess with Iberia, but for that she needed English. Thus her foray into the crazy world of the au pair.
She started at college that same week and we set up a routine whereby we spoke English one day and Spanish the next. We taught Femy, but she taught us much more. By the end of two years my children and I were all fluent in Spanish and Femy was fluent in English.
I discouraged her idea of becoming a flying waitress because I could see that she had far more brain than was needed in that area. We read Spanish literature and discussed it in English. She accompanied us on our Spanish holidays and we had some hilarious times that would fill a book.
After nearly three years, her father called to say that she had been given her grant back and was free to return to her studies in Salamanca. She almost didn't go! My children, who were teenagers tried their hardest to keep her with us, but I was insistent that she had to go back to University.
Our holidays were still spent in Spain and Femy would come by train to stay with us during her University breaks. One year, my daughter went by coach to Caceres to stay with Femy and she still talks about that holiday, which ended in Madrid. They had a high old time.
Femy never talked much about how she was doing at Uni, then she surprised us all by getting a PhD! Our lovely Femy had hidden her light under a bushel and was soon off to the States to Michigan to take up a Professorship. At one stage, she suggested that I join her there as a mature student. She had made enquiries and been told it was a possibility. For a few days I was actually thinking it could be a possibility, but my job and my family meant it was not really something I could do.
We always stayed in touch even though sometimes a year would go by without contact, but you know Femy. Every time we spoke it was as though we had seen each other yesterday.
In April or May this year we talked about meeting up in Madrid in the summer, but life took over and time leeched away so we never got to do that. I will never lose the regret that we didn't see each other.
I last heard from Femy in what must have been the last few days of her life. Then I went to look at her Facebook page yesterday as I hadn't heard from her for a couple of months and was shocked to see what looked like sympathy messages. A Google search turned up the news and we are all still in shock.
It was a great comfort to read your post and see how dearly she was loved by everyone. I will never forget her and we have all been touched by her to greater and lesser degrees. That was Femy. Always loving, always giving of herself, and always a shining example of the best of humanity. She will be sorely missed.
Jackie Curbishley.

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paz
7/4/2013 08:44:55


Yo compartí piso con Femi y con tres chicas más en Cáceres cuando todas estudiábamos en la universidad.
Hacía muchísimos años que no sabía nada de ella y hoy no sé como me encuentro esta noticia en Internet.
Podría decir muchas cosas pero creo que no sabría decirlas exactamente como las siento.
Femi era una persona que siempre miraba hacia adelante y que parecía siempre ir varios pasos por delante de los demás, con un afán tremendo por aprender y por empaparse de todo lo que las personas pudieran transmitirle y ofrecerle en cualquier sentido. Recuerdo que alguna vez, cansada de estudiar, aparcaba los libros de estudio y me pedía que le prestase algún libro de poesía porque "quería buscar una cosa". Era una persona muy inquieta que nunca podía estar parada.
Por las tardes, para sacar algún dinerillo, daba clases particulares en el piso a varios chicos. Otras veces, quedaba con grupos de turistas y les enseñaba el barrio antiguo de Cáceres. Era capaz de sacar tiempo para todo y para todos tenía siempre tiempo. Hasta para la hora de merendar que era sagrada y todas las tardes nos tomábamos un vinito para acompañar la merienda. Eso sí, cuando llegaban los exámenes, se encerraba en su cuarto y Femi desaparecía. Prohibido ruidos.
También nos habló en muchas ocasiones de Jackie y de su familia y de lo a gusto que se sentía entre ellos que la hacían sentir como de su propia familia. Y tantas anécdotas vividas con ellos que además, nos lo contaba abriendo mucho los ojos, "...que son famosos y conocen mucha gente y un dia cogí el teléfono y dios miooo ¿ sabéis quién eraaa?????? Paul MacCartney!!!!!!"

Femi, espero que no te moleste que cuente estas cosas pero bueno, son detalles que me gustaría compartir con estas personas que también te apreciaron tanto. Siento mucho no haber podido mandarte mis saludos antes y decirte cuanto me alegro de que todo te haya ido tan bien y hayas llegado tan lejos en todos los aspectos. Guardaré como un tesoro aquellas fotografías que nos hacíamos en casa y todos los momentos vividos. Un beso muy fuerte, allí donde estés. Espero que nos volvamos a encontrar donde quiera que sea.
Abrazos.

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Margaret de Groot
9/2/2015 01:16:09

Hello, even after three years, I regularly have a thought for Femy. It was great reading Jackie. When I met Femy in London she was staying at your house. I was visiting a french au pair friend of mine where I couldn't stay and of course Femy was there and everything was under control in no time. I never had the opportunity to thank you Jackie for your hospitality but I guess Femy took charge. So I stayed one night in your house (I met you briefly because Femy introduced me, but you were having guests and we had our plans, I remember your dog "sausage" according to Femy. A few years later I went with the same french friend to Caceres where she was supposed to be at the railwaystation waiting for us, instead there were two guys with a note from Femy saying that we could stay at their place and that we could trust them (that last I will never forget because it was so Femy, and of course it made us laugh), they appeared to be very nice friends of her... In that time we didn't have cell-phones. Femy arrived the next day to "rescue" us and we spent a week I'll never forget. Femy was always full of surprises, unconventional (forgive me Femy, but I can't resist telling that I saw you dancing the flamenco on a table in a spanish pub in London; we were young and it was our way of having fun). With Femy you never got bored . She always made a great impression on people she met (my parents remembered her althought they met her only once when she came to visit us in Holland). Femy was discreet about herself... and never complained.
Sometimes I ask myself what's the purpose in meeting such a wonderfull person and loosing her... but then I see her as an example. I loved her very much and I would like to know where exactly she is buried. (Sorry for the poor english, I'm more used to french or dutch) Margaret de Groot

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Marian Quintana
5/15/2014 10:21:34

No se si escribir en ingles o espanol, pero me he quedado de piedra al leer esto. Yo conoci a Femi en 1993 en la universidad Complutense donde cursaba Filologia Inglesa. Alli la conoci un dia cuando salia de la biblioteca con libros en las manos que me llegaban a la altura de la nariz y empezamos a hablar de la posibilidad de beca. Yo queria ir a Inglaterra, pero acepte. Tenia una persona delante mia, una mexicana que no acepto la beca y al hablar ella con mi padre, me dejo ir. Fue muy buena conmigo, me llevo a su piso que tenia al lado del lago durante unos dias hasta que me dieron en Marquette mi estudio. Compartimos bastante, fuimos a comidas con el profesorado de espanol, no me acuerdo del profesor panameno que ella conocia, solo me acuerdo que empezaba con S y como nos reiamos. Hace unos anyos volvi a contactarla pero estaba ocupada cuando la llame y quedamos en llamarnos de nuevo...No se que pasaria, solo que hoy me acorde de ella y la busque para llamarla. Queria dejarle un mensaje telefonico en su oficina, y ni se que decir.....

Solo recuerdo como hablabamos de con quienes podriamos casarnos y cosas asi cuando estabamos solas, pero lo que me acuerdo de ella era lo metodica que era para todo, para la comida, el ejercicio y por su gran corazon y esa GRAN SONRISA

Te echo de menos Femi

Abrazos a todos

Marian

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