It was in the early 1980’s/ late 1970’s when I had the gift of befriending Patricia. We were about nine years old at the time and I recall being so excited to have found a neighborhood friend to ‘hang out’ with. Patricia lived just one street away on Pasadena Ln in Scottsdale, AZ. We would take the short walk across 86th Street back and forth to each others’ homes almost every day. We indeed spent much time together during those school aged and middle school years, and many memories fill my heart today as I reflect on her life. ..
Patricia always had a tender and sweet spirit. She was respectful to her mother and grandmother, whom she called ‘Oma.’ Her bedroom was kept and in order, while mine was typically a mess. She was a far better influence on me than I was on her! And so it was in my room where we would usually crank up some tunes on the ‘boom box!’ (who remembers those?!…and cassette tapes?!)…and dance all around to the likes of Michael Jackson, Boston, Styx, The Rolling Stones…’Start Me Up’ was one song we really rocked to. My older brothers had all kinds of musical selections to choose from. We would sit and look over those vinyl album covers for hours! But one day I remember dancing at Patricia’s house in her TV room, which we never did. Her house was always very meticulous and clean. But for some reason on that particular day no one was home, so we went all out rebel-crazy and jumped all over the couches and furniture. We even whipped up some Kraft macaroni and cheese and sat at the dining room table and ate like queens for a day. She had an infectious, and sometimes mishievous laugh back then too.
We used to make these silly friendship pins for each other, in which we would string a bunch of beads on to safety pins and then hook strands of pins together. We would wear them all over our clothes. We would make so many that our pins would be hanging down past or waist lines. My father took a picture of us with our arms wrapped around each other as we showed off our dozens of pins that proved our loyalty to one another. We were grinning from ear to ear with our Farrah Fawcet hair-dos in full force! We might not have been in the ‘in’ crowd, but we had each other and one true friend is all a girl really needs.
And we loved to swap clothes, but we both longed for coveted items that could not be found in either of our closets, such as Levi’s 501 jeans and Polo or Izod shirts. We dreamed of shopping sprees to the coolest store ever…Miller’s Outpost. We used to rip off the rectangular Wrangler tags that were tightly sewn onto the back pockets of our jeans, and tell people that they were really Levi’s. That never worked. We did get some knock-off topsider style shoes that we wore every day. They looked exactly the same, which we loved. But one fateful day Patricia got a real pair of Levi’s jeans and we both screamed for joy. I was jealous of course. She wore them well.
We faithfully trick-or-treated together every October…for years. We would unload our stash at the end of the night and trade and regroup our candy for hours. One year we dressed up like older women with our moms’ dresses and shoes, and we wore TONS of make up, and one homeowner asked if we were ‘ladies of the evening’…to which we exuberantly replied YES!!…We had no clue. We would laugh over that one many years later.
But our best and lasting memories were made in the hundreds of walks we took together both to and from our elementary and high school. In those 1-2 mile walks we would speak of crucial things such as clothes, boys, teachers, boys, friends, boys, rock bands, boys!…and we would speak of our dreams for the future, which included marrying the men of our dreams in gorgeous wedding gowns, and having the most perfect and beautiful children. Yes, those were the dreams a young Patricia Navarino would speak of having and holding. Those are perfect dreams to reach for. We did not speak of growing old, but of living life to the full. I knew Patricia would be a wonderful wife and mother one day, as she had such a tender and nurturing heart. I recall her beloved cat JR, whom she would nuzzle and cradle like a child. I was a dog lover, and that would be our only disagreement! Patricia’s longing to care for and comfort others was so clearly seen even as a young girl, as she poured love into the lives around her. Yes, that was Patricia’s heart….
The years passed and Patricia and I lost touch. I went away to nursing school, but came back to the valley after graduation. Then one day well into both of our nursing careers, Patricia and I would run into each other at the hospital cafeteria at Scottsdale Osborn. We both worked there as RN’s and did not even know it! Now, this was pre-facebook, cell phone, and the like. She was the one who recognized me, and we both embraced like no time had passed. It was such a thrill to see my old friend again, and we quickly began chatting it up like we always had. I would learn that Patricia had become Mrs. Joe Winters and that she had a son named Sam. Her girl age dream had indeed come true. She was a wife and mother, and was beaming as she spoke of them. They were her most cherished and prized jewels in life. We exchanged numbers and I later brought my daughter and son over to her home in Chandler. It was then that Patricia shared with me about some concerns with her heart. Pregnancy had been hard on her physical body, most specifically, her heart. And yet her joy over her son was what radiated through her. I wondered if she was downplaying the cardiomyopathy, but in speaking with her further, I soon realized that she indeed appreciated the enormity of it, but chose to celebrate her life and family all the more. She most certainly would have sacrificed in any way to bring her son into the world, and she would make that sacrifice again shortly thereafter. Patricia was pregnant again, and motherhood brought radiance to her. She was experiencing a dream that many women long for…the miracle of carrying a child. She would not have changed any of it. Yes, that was Patricia’s heart……
In time Patricia would develop much more difficult symptoms in regards to her heart. Many of us heard and sat on the sidelines feeling helpless. Many prayers were lifted on behalf this splendid woman. My family and I had up and moved to NC in 2007, but shortly thereafter facebook came into the spotlight. Patricia and I would again connect on there, and she was always sure to ask me about how my son was doing, and how I was doing. My middle son has special needs. I knew at that time Patricia was really struggling with her health, and yet she always put the focus back on me and how I was handling things. When I would ask about her, she would always stress that what she was going through paled in comparison to what a mother must go through who watches their child struggle. She was a selfless mother indeed. Through it all her focus remained unwavering…it was always on her husband and sons. If they were good, Patricia was good,…even though her heart was failing. That precious heart beat for them. Yes, that was Patricia’s heart.
Then Patricia’s miracle became a reality in March of 2010. We all cried in joyous relief to learn that Patricia would receive a heart transplant. It was a bittersweet celebration, as we would all come to learn of and fall in love with the Storch family. Who can ever forget the blue eyes of one stunning thirteen year old by the name of Taylor Storch? This was the angel of a girl who tragically lost her life much to soon, and yet it was her heart that now beat in Patricia’s chest. And through the grace and mercy of God, these two families would miraculously come together and allow the nation to embrace their journey as well. The image of Tara Storch hearing her beloved daughter’s heart beating inside Patricia’s chest via a stethoscope is a gift that countless people will cherish for all time. It was a moment that changed many lives and hearts forever. The enormity of it cannot be adequately expressed in words. But that day people from across the country received the best kind of gift…it was not the kind of gift one has to stand in line for hours for on black Friday, or it was not something tangible that can be placed under a tree. Patricia and Taylor extended the gifts of love, sacrifice, selflessness, humility, grace…and time. What Taylor Storch gave Patricia was more time, and what Patricia and the Storch family gave us all was a deep and abiding respect for life, and the brevity of it. We fell in love with our lives again, and the lives of our children, and others. We saw things differently as we watched this life story unfold, and we saw things in a fresher and better light. And to top all that, we saw Patricia become a vibrant and active mom again. She was given over three more years of precious time. Yes, Taylor’s heart had become Patricia’s heart….
The years to follow had some struggles for Patricia as we all know, but she truly lived each and every day as a gift. She did not take for granted the colossal blessing she was granted, and she loved her life and family well. We are all humbled by her example of grace and dignity in the midst of her circumstances. We will all miss her usual updates and momma braggings in regards to Sam and Jack, and I will personally miss the late night chats as she would chime in if she saw me online. Almost every chat would involve mention of the Lord God, as Patricia was firm in her faith and love for Him. He was indeed carrying her every step of the way.
And so our Patricia Winters, who suffered from a failing and weakened heart here on earth, would teach us all and countless others to truly live from the heart. She will always be loved, and her legacy will live on in the lives of her loving husband Joe, and fun-loving sons Sam and Jack. They are indeed the greatest parts of Patricia’s heart……
Patricia sent me this pic a few months ago and we were laughing hysterically over it. We are about in the seventh grade here. You can see our Farrah hair waves..and don’t miss those topsider style shoes! Patricia is in the middle. That’s me on the right in pink and another neighborhood friend named Julie.