Sister Besties: Chantel + Toni Re’
Chantel was born in New York but lived in Trinidad for most of her life. She was a true “Trini to d bone!” A bit crazy and eccentric, she loved hanging out with friends, good food and the “greatest show on earth” Carnival! We met at The University of the West Indies, St. Augustine in 2010 and honestly, we did not have the best first impressions of each other. However, after being forced to work together at our Campus Locker jobs, we eventually became friendly and were soon joined to the hip. She graduated before me but continued to support me through my challenging road to graduation. This was Chantel’s essence. To those she loved, she was their confidant and biggest cheerleader. If I told Chantel I wanted to be an astronaut, she would buy me the spacesuit and send me several articles that would help me achieve my goal. Over the years, we became family, spending holidays together and making unforgettable memories. Like all families do, Chantel and I had many tiffs, but still always had each other’s back.
Eventually as life unfolded, Chantel and her boyfriend Hayden were thrilled to learn that they would soon be first time parents. Chantel was even more excited to have a little girl, a “mini-me”. She would send us pictures on Instagram of babies saying, this is what Xana will look like, and we would always tease and say “you wish! Lol.” Chantel carried her pregnancy beautifully and had no medical complications throughout the 9 months. She visited friends, family and enjoyed her time leading to Xana’s birth.
On February 27th, 2020, Chantel called me in the morning and said it was time, Xana was coming. In true Chantel fashion she did not have all the items for her hospital bag, so I did some quick shopping before I went to the hospital. Chantel was alone when I arrived, and we spent the time together monitoring Xana’s heartbeat, helping her in and out of the shower, brushing her hair and taking selfies, which remain etched in my memory and heart. I remember a nurse coming in to check Chantel and she proudly introduced me as her sister Toni-Ré. Later, Chantel suffered several complications which eventually claimed first the life of baby Xana, then Chantel’s own life. That was the worst night of my life! Doctors were talking to us and I could not understand or accept what they were saying. This could not be real! A few hours before we were laughing because she used the baby wash to bathe as she forgot her soap at home and now, she was gone? We later found out that she suffered an amniotic fluid embolism which initially added no comfort as this was a rare complication that few had ever heard about. Thankfully, a few days later, I found the AFE Foundation! This was and continues to be a great source of information to help me understand and accept what happened to Chantel and Xana.
In August 2020, I decided to help an unknown mother in need and recruited the help of my other best friend Sherene and her family. We posted a flyer asking for persons in need to contact us and unexpectedly received six (6) responses. While we were not prepared for the response, we refused to turn anyone away and gifted all six (6) women with baby or food hampers, based on their needs. Meeting these women and directly seeing the plight of others in our small island really touched us and we asked ourselves, why stop? There may have been several reasons, but we ignored them all, and “The Sister Bestie Network” was born!
The Sister Bestie Network is a registered non-profit organisation whose aim is to empower and engender behaviour change with mothers and caretakers in Trinidad and Tobago, through support, education and awareness. We have hosted a blood drive, a maternal health webinar (currently planning webinar #2) and have continued to provide hampers to those in need. Our hope is to be a light in the lives of others as Chantel was and we continue to explore ways to accomplish this goal.
Though not here physically, Chantel continues to be a blessing in my life. I think of her every day and often wonder what her life would look like with my beautiful goddaughter, Xana. I imagine lots of sleep overs, road trips, family gatherings and dress up. However, in my pain I have found purpose and my life has changed immensely. My faith has deepened, and I try to live my life in the hope that I will see them again. Dealing with loss is never easy, but I live a good life, full of gratitude because Chantel Beverly Demas was, and will always be, “My Sister Bestie”.