Bunny Wishes…


Earlier this year I joined an on-line community of widows, widowedvillage.org, with the hopes that I could offer some support and encouragement to those on the grief journey.  There were many posts about signs from loved ones and I was reminded of an email I wrote for Valentine’s Day 2002. After getting the bunny sign with Delia yesterday while hanging Sergio’s poster on the tree in front of the store, I thought I’d share it here. Unfortunately the original email had more pics but with time and various computer changes they got lost:

—– Original Message —–
From: Tanya and Sergio <mailto:innerpeace@nyc.rr.com>
To: Undisclosed-Recipient:;
Sent: Thursday, February 14, 2002 3:22 PM
Subject: Valentine’s Day~ Five months, two days…

My heart is heavy, because this is not the way I envisioned Valentine’s Day to be for the rest of my life- without Sergio…
But I’m up. trying to get through this day, and I had been wondering how I would honor him today, and decided that I would share with you all of the little messages (miracles, really) that Sergio has sent me since the 11th. Some of you know about them already, and I just felt I wanted to share them again, so bare with me…

First, a little history…

Those closest to us knew that Sergio and I called eachother “Bunny”, and the teasing was relentless. But it was our pet name and we didn’t care what anyone thought- he bought me a magnet, which I still have the wrapping paper for, which says “Somebunny loves you”, and I have a picture of us near our bed which is in a  frame that says “honey bunny”. As we were planning our wedding, I did a lot of research on-line for our honeymoon ( an Eastern Mediterranean cruise, which I am still planning on going on) and put all of the links in a Favorites folder I labeled “Bunnymoon”- he loved that and we cracked up about it. In our last e-mail to eachother, I had sent him our “wedding page” which I had set up at the knot.com, a wedding resources website, which includes a picture of us, our history, etc., and I asked him what he thought…

—– Original Message —–
From: Sergio Villanueva <mailto:sergedaddy@nyc.rr.com>
To: Inner Peace <mailto:innerpeacegifts@nyc.rr.com>
Sent: Saturday, September 08, 2001 11:37 AM
Subject: Re: Hi Daddy!!! What do you think?

hey babe, great job. ilove it,
you are so talented. love the story(very funny) now we really have to go to the fountain head and reserve the hall. i love you sooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo much bunny.   big daddy

And the last phone message that was saved that he left for me on September 6th at 7:25 p.m, was at the store, and thankfully, my friend Will was able to put it onto CD before it got lost.  His voice was hoarse, since Argentina beat Brazil the night before, and he was on his way to play pool…

“Hi honey its me…uh…I just went home, got my pool stick and I was on my way out and I said, you know, you know what, I didn’t call the bunny while I was there so I tried to catch you at the store but you’re not there…um…maybe I’ll see you walking down the block…ok, bye honey, I love you, bye…”

Now, the miracles…

My girlfriend, Christina, works as a set decorator for Sex and the City, and on Monday, the 10th, she fed-exed a box to our store, which is three blocks away from where we live. We never opened the store on the 11th (and for three weeks after that), but somehow or other the box was delivered to our house on that Wednesday, even though the box was clearly labeled Inner Peace. Since everything was so uncertain, Christina intercepted that box, and hid it under the couch, knowing that inside were wedding books for me. By that Sunday, my friends cleaned up for me (they are truly the best), and somehow or other that box wound up on my bed. I opened it, saw that they were wedding books, opened the one titled Vows and Traditions, and turned to a page that had this vow on it:

Today, I join my life to yours.
From this day on, I will be your partner and companion,
for you are my dearest love and my best friend.
I look forward to the joy we will find
in each other’s separate successes,
as well as our shared ones,
and welcome the challenge of whatever obstacles we encounter,
for I know that whatever we face,
we face it together.
Because your happiness is vital to me,
I will help you to grow as an individual.
I will also strive to be more fully myself
because you deserve no less than the best of me.
I pledge that I will listen to you when you speak
encourage you in times of doubt,
comfort you in times of sorrow,
and be a refuge of strength for you in times of uncertainty.
I will be faithful to you all of my days,
will always be honest with you,
and will cherish and adore you every moment of my life.
This is my solemn vow…

I remember wanting to throw the books against the wall, but instead, I marked the page, and threw the books in a corner.

Then the following Tuesday, the one week mark, our friend Tony, who also has a store in the neighborhood, came to my house to bring me a box that Paddy, our UPS guy passed off to him. I was so angry because it was a shipment for the store, and at that point I had told Paddy to hold back anything until further notice. I remember making Tony feel so bad (sorry Tony) and screaming “I DON’T WANT ANYTHING FOR THE STORE COMING TO MY HOUSE!” I threw the box down, sat  down, and saw that the box was from Chronicle Books, one of the vendors that I regularly deal with. Something at that moment told me to open the box, and when I did, there was an invoice for a books that were backordered from an order that I placed in June- and the title that jumped out at me was Bunny Wishes. Now, when I placed this order, I must have ordered at least 100 different books, and I did so from a catalog- I had never read Bunny Wishes, I just thought that it looked like it might be cute, especially because of mine and Sergio’s bunny connection. After digging around the packing popcorn, I pulled a box out, the top of which read “Bunny Wants to Read with You!” I knew that this was something from Sergio, that it was too much of a coincidence, so I nervously opened the box, and out popped a bunny, holding a little book of shapes. I took the box to my room so that I could read it in privacy…

Bunny peeks out from under the covers. The stars twinkle above.
“It’s a good night for wishing,” Bunny whispers. “I’ll wish upon a star!”
Twinkle, twinkle, Little Star!
What shape twinkles in the sky?

“Star bright, star light, I wish my wish comes true tonight,” Bunny whispers.
“I wish the wind would fill my sail so I could race across the sea.”
Full speed ahead, Bunny!
What shape is the sail?

“I wish I could build a tower of blocks as tall as the trees,” Bunny whispers.
Build, Bunny, build!
What shape are the blocks?

“I wish I could fly a kite way up in the sky,” Bunny whispers.
Up, up, and away, Bunny!
What shape is the kite?

“I wish a balloon would carry me to the moon so I could tell it good night, ” Bunny whispers.
Good night, Mr. Moon.
Good night, Bunny.
What shape is the balloon?

“I wish I were tucked back into my bed with a hug and a kiss,” Bunny whispers.
Hugs and kisses, Bunny.

           What shape shows Bunny is loved?

Now tuck Bunny into bed. Good night. Sleep tight.
“What do you wish for tonight?” Bunny whispers.

Of course I broke down. But then I start thinking that this was an obvious sign from Sergio, and that there had to be some others. So  I immediately thought of the wedding vows. I had put together our own wedding planner, right after we got engaged, using a white loose leaf binder with pocketed folders and named it “Big Daddy and Nana’s Wedding Planner” (original, right? 🙂  I placed clippings of dresses, hair and makeup ideas, wedding favors, music lists, menus, etc., in the folders, and in the one folder labeled Program/Music/Photography, I put the vows that I  printed from the internet in August- I had shown them to Sergio and we agreed that they were right for our ceremony.
They were the exact same vows that I marked in the book that Christina sent.

So now, I am floored, but I start thinking of other things.

On Thursday, the 13th, Genny had just come from a client’s house, and after telling her about Sergio, and how sad it was that there was an altar here with a bunny on it because that’s what we called eachother, the client gave her a crystal bunny to give to me, which was completely out of the blue that she would have one to give in the first place.

Another good friend of ours, also named Tanya, brought over lots of candy to snack on, and Maricel (Sergio’s sister) was eating a bite-sized Laffy Taffy when she passes me the wrapper, which had a joke on it:

Where do rabbits go when they get married?
On their bunnymoon

Since when did Laffy Taffy put jokes on their wrappers? I thought that was a Bazooka Joe thing! : )

Then a few weeks after the fact, another good friend of ours, Lorena brings Sergio’s goddaughter, Daniella over. Daniella had a box of beads and wanted to make a bracelet for me. There were beads shaped like butterflies, stars, and regular round ones, and the biggest bead in the box was shaped like- you guessed it- a bunny.

A week before Christmas, I went with my mom, Delia, my nephews, Daniella, and her dad, to the Battalion 1 Christmas party. A magician comes up to our table and starts doing magic tricks for the kids, pulling out handkerchiefs from his mouth, etc. He starts to do the old red-foam-ball-which-multiplies trick, except he didn’t have red foam balls- he had red foam bunnies! Hundreds of them!!! I had to ask for one as a souvenier, telling him that it was extremely symbolic, and he reluctantly forked it over- little did he know that Big Daddy was running the show!

One day, as I am walking down 37th Avenue in my neigborhood and feeling so completely alone, I look up and see a van pass by with the words 1-800-luv-my-bunny on it- I think it was for a landscaper or something but I can’t find a listing.

And we can’t forget the Energizer commercials, which had a campaign running “Do you have the bunny inside?” Everytime I was watching tv and ready to have a break down that commercial would come on.

I am sure many of you have heard of John Edward, a psychic/medium who has been gaining a lot of attention lately with his show Crossing Over, which airs on CBS and the SciFi channel. I have always believed that there are people who are gifted, and had actually gone to one back in 1997, who was able to connect me with someone that was very close to me- I had  absolutely no doubts after the reading that this person came through.
Back in October, I was talking to my friend Glen who lives in Toronto, and he was telling me that the woman that he usually calls for tarot readings, Elaine in Miami, was pretty accurate, as he was going over his notes from the readings she had given him over the year and everything she said came to pass. And since I was at my wits end, I asked for her number, and the night before the four week mark, I called her and got a reading…

She started off doing my numerology, and said that “I was being stripped of my support system so that I can find my own power.” I stayed pretty even-keeled emotionally because I didn’t want to let on that I was missing Sergio.
She then started to lay out my cards and then she said,”Oh dear, you just lost someone…”
That’s when I lost it, because up until that point I didn’t want to accept that Sergio wasn’t coming home, but I also knew that time wasn’t on our side anymore. She then said, “I’m going to channel him for you…”

I had no idea, and neither did Glen, that she could do this. She said that she wished I could see how beautifully Sergio crossed over- “that he went from the glow of a fire, it almost looked like a sunset, straight into the light, and that he did not suffer, was not scared, and that the biggest feeling that she felt from him was that he was proud.” He also came through with messages for his mom, Maricel, and Steven, and said that Jimmy, Matthew, and Raymond would be helping us. Well, Jimmy, is a very good friend of ours and firefighter, and Matthew, and Raymond, are the liasons assigned to us from his firehouse, and there is a list posted in the locker room of the firehouse with their names on it. He talked about the cruise we went on with his brother, and how he wanted everyone to celebrate his life. She said that God gave him the gift of dying a hero. But the one message that really nailed it was “he’s saying something with a B, something like Buddy…”
I said, “Bunny?” and she said, “yeah, Bunny…”

Absolutely no doubt in my mind that he came through…

I had called her a number of times after that, and on my father’s death anniversary, October 14th, when I was completely distraught I reached out to her to help me understand. I asked her if she could channel Sergio again for me, and he came through. This time she said that Sergio had always considered me to be his wife, and that for some reason, he was showing her our wedding- that he wanted to marry me on that day, October 14th. I couldn’t imagine why that day, but then it dawned on me- it was the six year anniversary of the first time he told me he loved me, and for those of you who didn’t know, we were engaged on the seven year anniversary of our first kiss…

This is just another reason why I am so proud to carry his name now- my heart will always belong to him.

And now I will leave you with this last miracle…

I went to Hallmark to buy pocket angels for healing for Delia, Maricel, and one of the wives of the Battalion Chiefs that was lost, and my eyes  automatically went to this little bunny figurine on the shelf with this message of Hope:
Hope is the eternal well from which life springs.
Hope is the promise of all good things.
On the back it says I Believe in You.

I am staying hopeful that there will be good things for me in the future.
I wish Sergio could be physically here to share them with, but I know that no matter what, he still is with me, my eternal Valentine, giving me bunny love forever.

Happy Valentine’s Day…


—– Original Message —–
From: Tanya and Sergio <mailto:innerpeace@nyc.rr.com>
To: Undisclosed-Recipient:;
Sent: Tuesday, February 19, 2002 6:05 PM
Subject: Twenty three weeks and another miracle…

Good afternoon…
Today was beautiful here in New York and I spent the morning in the city shopping for ribbon for the store and gardening books for ideas for Sergio’s memorial garden that we are planning to have in the back of where we live. After telling you all about the little miracles that Sergio’s sent to me in my last e-mail on Valentine’s Day, I couldn’t resist telling you the latest that happened over the weekend. Back in January, I wrote an e-mail to the singer/songwriter of one of my favorite songs- I got her address from her website. I won’t divulge who she is or what the song is because I am hoping she will perform it at his memorial. Here is a copy of the letter…

—– Original Message —–
From: Tanya and Sergio <mailto:innerpeace@nyc.rr.com>
To: sib@*******.ca
Sent: Saturday, January 26, 2002 10:30 AM
Subject: WriteJane

>Dear Jane,

>My name is Tanya Villanueva, and I am the fiancee and domestic partner of Firefighter Sergio Villanueva, who was lost with his company, Ladder >132, at the World Trade Center. He was the love of my life, my soulmate, and my very best friend, and I am missing him so much…
>I am writing now to thank you for your beautiful song, *********. I have had the version you did with ****** since 1995, and every time I was going >through hard times, I always played it, as it always soothed my soul. And now, as I am going through so much sorrow, it is one of the things that I >turn to to comfort me. The music, your voice, and of course, the lyrics- remind me that there is still beauty in such dark times. I have also heard >the version you did on the ********** soundtrack and it is even more beautiful.
>We still have yet to recover Sergio, and the waiting seems endless. Part of me is hoping that he won’t be found, because I already know that he is in >a good place, with the angels. We are also one of 20 or so families who have yet to do a memorial, but we are waiting just in case they do recover >him- we don’t want to have to do it twice, and it could still be months before they are finished searching.
>In any case, I was wondering, if your schedule permitted it at the time, if you could sing ********* at his service- it would be such an honor to him, >me, and his family if we could have you there. We are expecting to have a turnout of close to a thousand people, and it would be so beautiful to hear >it live in the church. We will take care of your accomodations.
>If not, maybe we could do a video or something like that…
>I am attaching Sergio’s bio and a picture that we took on a cruise just a week and a half before the tragedy, so you can get a sense of who he was.
>I can be reached at home 718-***-****, cell 917-***-****, or e-mail:
>I look foward to hearing from you soon.
>Thank you again for your gift of healing music.
>Love and Light,

Well, Saturday she called me at home, and I was completely floored. I could tell that she had difficulty finding words, and she was genuinely concerned about how I was doing. She also said that if her schedule was free when we did have his service that she would come and sing for us, and we left off by saying that I would e-mail or call her office when the time came. I was thrilled. After the call I went out with the girls dancing and I brought her CD in the car so that we could listen to it, and on the CD was another song about someone who loses someone, and I swear it could have been written for me. When I got home that night, I wanted to write her an e-mail to thank her for calling me and to tell her about the song, so after a good cry from missing Sergio so much, I went to my computer and instead found this e-mail from her:
—– Original Message —–
From: “J A N E”
To: <innerpeace@nyc.rr.com>
Sent: Saturday, February 16, 2002 8:01 PM

> Home phone: ***-***-**** anytime.
> xo
> and the greatest of these is …

I took a shower, had another good cry and thought about the meaning of her last sentence in the e-mail. After,  I went to send her my e-mail, and this is what happened…
—– Original Message —–
From: Tanya and Sergio <mailto:innerpeace@nyc.rr.com>
To: J A N E
Sent: Sunday, February 17, 2002 4:01 AM
Subject: Re: Please read this one first…

>Hi Jane-
>I am so overwhelmed right now- I just came in from a night out with the girls- I’ve been trying to get out the past few weeks-I had a period of >isolating myself for a while there and I feel a bit stronger now to get out into the world a bit…I was playing your CD in the car and *********
>really hit home- I’ve had dreams of Sergio where he is with me holding me and making me feel safe again only to wake up to the stark loneliness >of his not being there- its almost like that song was also written for me, and I wanted to write you an e-mail to thank you for calling me tonight, >and also to tell you this…
>So I came to my computer, and it was so comforting to find your e-mail, and after a shower and a whole lot of crying because I am missing Sergio so >much, I thought about the last sentence you wrote, “and the greatest of these is…” It seemed so familiar to me, and then I realized that >since September 11th, I have received so many little signs from Sergio, and one was a little frame of the quote   “There are these three things that >remain: Faith, Hope, and Love. And the greatest of these is Love.” So the fact that you referenced it to me I take as another sign from Sergio.
>But the most amazing thing is that when I hit “Reply” to answer your e-mail, I noticed your e-mail address is bunny@*******.ca
>”Bunny” is the pet name that Sergio and I called eachother and in my weekly e-mail update that I send out to all of my friends and family this >week, I wrote about all of the little “bunny” miracles that he’s sent me since this tragedy happened, and I am sending you a copy of this e-mail so >you too can understand why I am so incredibly awe-stricken right now. I believe there are no coincidences, and that Sergio somehow manages to >reassure me that he is always with me.
>Thank you, thank you, thank you- you really made my weekend.

So now my question is, how does he DO that???  :o)
I’m hoping you are all well-
Lots of love,

* The artist I was referring to in the last e-mail was Jane Siberry, and the songs were “Calling All Angels” and “It Won’t Rain All the Time”- the sky won’t fall forever are lyrics from this song. Unfortunately her schedule didn’t allow for her to come perform at his service.

After about the third year or so, the frequency of bunny signs began to lessen, as the heaviness of my grief lifted and I started to settle in to a new life in Miami. I started dating my husband Ray in 2003 after meeting him in a gas station while out riding our motorcycles one day. We struck up a conversation and after about 5 minutes or so I mentioned I lost Sergio and wanted to paint my motorcycle tank in his honor. Ray pointed to his license plate and there was an emblem of a firefighter angel (he used to be a paramedic and trained at the fire academy). In 2005 we were at a crossroads and I thought I was ready to end the relationship. The night I told him this, he left me and on his drive home he called to tell me- “You are not going to believe what just crossed the street in front of me…a bunny.” A few weeks later he proposed and in May 2006 we were married.

We were trying to get pregnant right away because I was already 38, and I was hoping that I was on the morning of the fifth anniversary, September 11th 2006. Much to my dismay my cycle started instead and I headed to Ground Zero to read Sergio’s name. The following month, I took a pregnancy test and the morning we found out it was positive we drove up to Disney for the Epcot Food and Wine Fest. I learned that day the start date of a pregnancy is the first day of a woman’s last cycle, hence September 11th. Later that night on our way back to the hotel, Ray stopped near the gate of the neighboring hotel’s pool because some movement caught his eye- it was a mother bunny with her two babies. Our first daughter was born on June 8th, 2007 the day after the anniversary of Sergio’s service. We wanted to have another right away and on December 6th, my next pregnancy began- our second daughter was due on September 11th 2008, but arrived on the 2nd via c-section.

Yesterday afternoon was the first time Delia was with me while I hung Sergio’s poster on the tree. She looked up, and hanging on the tree’s species sign was a baby slipper, with the sole facing out. She reached for it and asked, “What’s this hanging here?” and before she turned it over I said, “Don’t tell me it’s a bunny…”

Eleven years later, and Big Daddy is still making his presence known… ❤

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