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What we started a drunken night out

At Casa Kiwi Medellin with Diana. May 2007 
I met Justin in Medellin in May 2007, while he was traveling around Colombia before moving to D.C to attend school. He visited Bogotá and the coffee country before arriving in Medellin, where he stayed at a hostel where one of my best friends, and occasional I, used to work. While I waited for my friend to finish her shift before going out, I saw him first and everything about him grabbed my attention. I remember asking my friend who he was but she was in a bad mood and wanted only to go out and dance the day off. I was glad when I saw him again at the bar I was dancing with friends. Yes, he was good looking and a good dancer but there was something else that made my eyes glued onto him. It was kind of embarrassing— it’s not the Latina seductive style to stare— but I couldn’t stop. Anyway, I’m not really a shy person so, in the end, it didn’t matter that much. Eventually, we found ourselves dancing with each other, pretended to talk and kissed.

We run into each other again the next night and with a beer, in hand, we talked for hours about politics, the Colombian conflict, traveling, philosophy, you name it. That second night I discovered what was that thing that made me so curious about him. I guess that somehow I knew instinctively that I could talk about anything with him and he would never make me feel stupid, or that my opinion was not valid just for being different to his. When we talk he showed real interest in what I had to say, real curiosity for why I was saying it, and he was ok with me asking him scrutinizing questions about his ideas and words. We discovered too that the moments of silence were also comfortable.

His time in Medellin was short, so we made sure to see each other as much as we could before his trip to the Caribbean coast. It was a perfect summer fling story: short, intense, and with a promise of him coming back to Medellín after the coast. I did not believe him but he proved me wrong. He came back and stayed almost two months, where we shared stories and moments almost every day. We would never have imagined that what started as a drunken dancing night out would be only the first of so many more nights, dances, talks, and kisses. Even more unthinkable that years later we will take everyone by surprise, including ourselves, by getting married in front of family and friends at Peninsula Park the rainy morning of Saturday, September 5, 2009.  

Our wedding day, Portland September 5, 2009
Once married, sometimes we would make jokes about how ridiculous everything in our story was. We were like a stupid cheesy romantic movie with crying goodbyes at airports; with “I would I see you again” sounding more like questions than affirmations; with big romantic surprises;  with hours and hours on Skype and “let’s stay awake all night long”; with “I like someone else” and “I don’t want to talk to you again”; with “let’s do it, let's stay together in the same place, let’s get married even if we are not sure if we will last six months or a year.” We were happily married for 7 years. And yes, they were ups and downs like in any other marriage, but they were so many more ups that I’m sure those 7 years would have been easily 70 in the blink of an eye if depression, a disease he struggled with his whole life, would not have taken physically from my side this month.

I was so lucky to see him sleeping peacefully in the mornings before I left to work or seating across the table drinking the pot of coffee he just made —he always made the best coffee! Lucky to see him at night and have dinner together while we talked about our days listening some music —there was always good music with him. To seat and watch something on the sofa while he rested his head on my lap and let me play with his nice, soft hair for hours in that cozy happy place we called home. I’m so lucky to have grown a little bit older, happier and wiser next him.

Justin was the best person I could have ever dream off to love and be loved by. He was kind, sweet, smart, curious, brutally honest, sensitive, a great dancer and cook. He was the best kisser and so easy on the eyes. His laughter was genuine and contagious, his sarcasm and his jokes were always spot on — even if sometimes confusing to me. He challenged me every day to be a better person, to get out of my comfort zone and to live a life of purpose, to learn something new and believe in me. His compassion, passion for social justice and equality were inspiring. He could drive me crazy and so mad that I could walk up the walls, but he was always able to disarm my anger with that beautiful smile or an annoyingly well-crafted contra argument. He was a nerd and a goof ball how loved to be outside and showed me the joy of biking. He was my friend, confident, main adviser and lover. With him and thanks to him, I learned what it was love and what it was to be loved by someone. He was the love of this life. I feel so happy and blessed that somehow we found each other and that I got to be next to him all this time. He was a truly great- magical soul.
His life was not defined by his depression. His passing will not be determined by it either. I and his family don’t want to hide in the shadow and the stigma people have around those that commit suicide, or for those that like us survive someone that does it. Suicide is the number 10th cause of death in the nation*, with Oregon ranking at Number 10 too. More people die by suicide than by homicides in a year, an average of 117 people per day, almost 5 people every hour. More than ever before we understand that depression is a disease, one that can be fatal, from which Justin sought tirelessly, and had treatment for years.
I have to admit that I didn’t know a lot about depression, besides my own experiences with it before a couple of years ago. I knew even less about suicide before a couple of days ago. But now, now I know and today I want to ask all of you, that tomorrow, next month or maybe in the next year or decade to take care of your mental health and support those that seek help. Support the work of organizations that work for it and don’t bring shame or try to rush the well-being of those that are brave enough to share their struggle with anxiety, depression, sadness or melancholia with you. I guarantee you that is not easy to reach out and talk about our most intimate struggle.

At Pickathon, summer 2016
Justin, I will miss everything, everything about you. I will miss you every day for the rest of my life. As the Pablo Neruda sonnet, that one we chose to tell each other, you in Spanish and I in English, for our wedding. That one I needed to practice for days the pronunciation of one single word (straightforwardly) says, I still “love you without knowing how, or when, or from where. I love you straightforwardly, without complexities or pride; so I love you because I know no other way.” Justin, you will be always with me because of all of those like you, the ones I love with body and soul, live in my heart forever, and my heart is yours since I saw you for the first time in Casa Kiwi that May night of 2007.

*Please consider donating to the Community Alliance of Tenants: JUSTIN BURI TENANT LEADERSHIP DEVELOPMENT FOUND and keep his work, passion, and legacy in social justice and tenants rights going. Thank you!

*For more data and information on suicide visit


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