BY CHRISTIANNA CASALETTO // APRIL 25, 2017 //
The song “Smile” reminds us that no matter how dark a day gets, we should keep smiling in the hope of a better tomorrow.
Dyanna Maria Caribe smiled often. It was both a mask and a shield, hiding her pain and guarding against her fears.
“Smile, though your heart is aching
Smile, even though it’s breaking
When there are clouds in the sky, you’ll get by”
At age 11, while in the 6th grade, Caribe was diagnosed with arrhythmia, an abnormal heart rhythm. A few years later,
in 2011, doctors discovered that Caribe’s heart was failing altogether. She had dialated cardiomyopathy, a condition that causes one’s heart to swell and limits oxygen to other major organs. Caribe needed an emergency transplant, and fast.
It happened on the weekend of Mother’s Day 2011. Just 13 years old, Caribe received a new heart.
“If you smile through your fear and sorrow
Smile and maybe tomorrow
You’ll see the sun come shining throughFor you.”
“All of Dyanna’s doctors knew her as the smiling beautiful girl who never complained,” says her mother, Myrna Echevarria. “Never said she was in pain, although most often she was, and never complained that she needed to get her blood drawn weekly.”
Leading up to the heart transplant, Echevarria says her daughter’s biggest concern was the many other children who needed transplants. “Dyanna’s question was simple,” says Echevarria. “‘What about all the other babies waiting for their hearts? Can’t they get it first?’”
Caribe never forgot about those other kids. She would often volunteer at Boston Children’s Hospital during her vacation week, reading to the children on the cardiology floor or doing arts and crafts with them. She also decided to spread her message of leading a happy life.
Caribe took public speaking classes while at Revere High School, and most of her speech topics consisted of living life to the fullest and following your dreams.
“Wishing that you were happy doesn’t really make you happy,” said Caribe in one such speech. “You have to do something to make yourself happy.”
For her, that something was often music. She performed in high school talent shows and church choirs. Soon after entering Curry College in the fall of 2016, Caribe joined the school’s a cappella group Pure Vocals as well as the leadership program. Shy by nature, Caribe was slowly but surely breaking out of her shell.
“On her first night at Curry, Dyanna called me and told me that she sang karaoke,” says Echevarria. “For someone so quiet, it was an amazing feat for her. Dyanna told me that night no one seemed to hear her, but she kept going because she would always follow her dreams.”
“Light up your face with gladness
Hide every trace of sadness
Although a tear may be ever so near
That’s the time you must keep on trying
Smile, what’s the use of crying”
Dyanna Caribe passed away on Dec. 14, 2016, due to complications from a heart condition. She was 18 years old, and just days away from completing her first semester at Curry.
This Thursday, April 27, a memorial service will be held in her honor outside the Student Center starting at 7:30 p.m. The event is a celebration of Caribe’s life, and it will include a candlelight vigil, spoken prayers, and a performance by Pure Vocals. Curry Spiritual Life Director Terry Hoffman, Caribe’s residence assistant, Karissa Ferraro, and Caribe’s friends organized the event.
After attending the funeral service last December, Michele McGraw, coordinator of substance abuse and wellness education at Curry, learned that Caribe’s life motto was “my future is filled with happiness.” Inspired, McGraw took the message back to the college and led a series of educational sessions on ways to lead happy and healthy lives. Tied to the International Day of Happiness on March 20, McGraw’s group also handed out flowers — “Daisies for Dyanna” — to students around campus.
“Dyanna centered her days around making sure she was getting the most of out of her life and truly doing things that made her happy and inspiring others to find their happiness,” says McGraw.
It’s a lesson that has deeply touched those on campus who knew Caribe well.
“Never take anything for granted, and never treat anyone with less than kindness,” says Ferraro. “Enjoy life as much as you can.”
“You’ll find that life is still worthwhile
If you’ll just smile”