Following the death of his 32-year-old wife, Maricely, after her nearly six-year battle with breast cancer, Santa Clarita resident Aubrey Miller hasn’t asked for much.
All he wants is to find some friends to play with their two young children, ages 7 and 10, who’ve been “stuck in the grieving atmosphere for too long.”
Between distance learning and all of Aubrey’s family living on the East Coast, it’s been tough for the children to make friends.
“If I can provide an environment where the kids feel as though they have a huge network of friends and people they can talk to and play with, I think that’d be something significant for them in order for them to move on and understand that they’re not alone,” Aubrey said, adding that he hopes to plan more park outings for them with kids their age.
Maricely’s six-year battle
Aubrey and Maricely met in 2009 when both were serving in the U.S. Army, and soon after Aubrey returned from deployment the next year, the two got married.
By 2013, the couple had left the military, settling in L.A. to raise their daughter and son before moving to Santa Clarita a couple years later.
While Maricely remained at home with the kids while they were young, she and Aubrey both decided to pursue college around the same time.
In 2016, Maricely was diagnosed with breast cancer, undergoing a mastectomy and chemotherapy, but issues with her health insurance coverage left Maricely waiting for further treatment for months.
“By the time we actually got all that fixed … we realized that the cancer has spread from her breast to her brain, bones and lungs,” Aubrey said.
While it was daunting, Maricely remained strong through the ordeal, and in the midst of everything, was still able to complete her degree and even worked at the U.S. Census Bureau for a few months before a tumor in her brain ruptured.
“She would go to work every day, and no one knew that she was going through this,” Aubrey said. “She didn’t want anybody to feel bad for her, and she just wanted to live a normal life and experience the things that normal people would experience.”
Coworker Suman Shrestha recalled learning about Maricely’s cancer during lunch when talking about her wig.
“We all were shocked and almost cried. She said, ‘Please don’t cry, and don’t say sorry’ … (without) one drop of tears in her own eyes,” Shrestha said. “I thought to myself how brave she was — I would have fallen into pieces, but she was still coming to work every day and worked just as hard as everybody else. Her positivity inspires me to think differently about my own life. She was a warrior.”
While coworker Lynette Jackson didn’t know Maricely very well, what she did recall is that she was completely selfless, not even telling anyone about her cancer, and was the most generous, thoughtful person in the office, she added.
“She never told anyone at work about her cancer, and yet did more work than most people there, all while wearing a wig to cover up the results of chemo and working in discomfort or even pain,” added supervisor Linda Ruggiero.
It was during Maricely’s third round of chemo that she had a seizure and things really began to spiral.
“I remember it like it was yesterday,” Aubrey said, adding that his wife didn’t recall what had happened after the convulsions stopped. “We went to the doctor, and they just said there’s nothing they can do after so many series of chemo and radiation that at a certain point they can’t be any more invasive.”
Maricely was put on hospice care, but she and Aubrey still did what they could to enjoy her remaining time with the kids, traveling as much as possible.
In recent months, Maricely’s health continued to decline, and soon, she was unable to breathe effectively without an oxygen tank. While Aubrey thought they’d have longer, he soon realized the extent of that decline.
“It happened so fast to the point where I walked into the room, went downstairs, and then when I went back upstairs, it was like a switch had flipped and (she) was no longer (there),” Aubrey said.
Maricely spent her remaining time going in and out of consciousness, confused as to why everyone was there, until her death Feb. 24.
“I remember the last time I really felt her was when I gave her a kiss and she opened her eyes, and then pretty much afterwards, it was her sleeping until the time came,” Aubrey added. “Although it was unfortunate, I’m kind of happy that it happened the way it did because I don’t think she went in pain.”
Through it all, Maricely’s faith was astonishing, according to Aubrey and her coworkers.
“She trusted her life to God, and her faith is what kept her going — her faith and her children,” coworker Iveeth Hernandez said. “I guess God needed another angel in the sky to watch over us.”
Coworker Machelle Mavity agreed, adding, “Maricely was extremely brave about having cancer. Her attitude about life and death amazed me. She had huge faith in God and trusted what life following him would be.”
And while Aubrey’s not very religious himself, Maricely’s faith has helped him, too.
“I really do think that she’s in a better place, given the circumstances and knowing that she doesn’t have to worry about pain and suffering,” he added. “She can now be at rest and watch over her kids and myself as well.”
Friends of the family have started a GoFundMe for the Millers at gofund.me/eb7c6535.