Edwarda OBara, who spent more than four decades in a coma in her Miami Gardens home, always cared for by her mother, then by her sister, and who inspired a book and garnered a devoted following across the globe, has died. She was 59.
She died Wednesday morning, her family said, five years after the death of her mother, who had remained at Edwardas side since she slipped into a coma.
I think my mother said, Come on, lets go, sister Colleen OBara said.
Edwarda OBara was a teenage high school student who wanted to be a pediatrician when in 1970 she fell ill, throwing up her diabetic medicine.
Her family rushed her to the hospital, where she slipped into a diabetic coma. Before losing consciousness, Edwarda asked her mother, Kaye OBara, to never leave her side.
Kaye OBara promised, and kept her word.
Edwarda returned to the familys Miami Gardens home, and her family never left her side. She was turned every two hours to keep away bedsores, given insulin and fed through a tube.
She was read to, had music played for her, and constantly had company.
Her father, Joe OBara, died in 1976. After his death, Kaye OBara continued to care for Edwarda, always saying she was a blessing, not a burden, no matter the piling debts and difficulties.
A devout Catholic, OBara said she had felt the presence of the Virgin Mary in Edwardas bedroom.
It inspired author Dr. Wayne Dyer to write the book A Promise Is A Promise: An Almost Unbelievable Story of a Mothers Unconditional Love and What It Can Teach Us.
And visitors from across the world traveled to the Miami Gardens home, every year, sometimes appearing at the doorstep on random days, other times for Edwardas yearly birthday party, a boisterous affair with decorations, balloons and cake.
I had to learn you let strangers in, Colleen OBara said, because they arent strangers.
Through it all, Edwarda remained in a coma. But to her family and followers she remained vibrantly alive. Colleen OBara described her as the best sister in the whole wide world.
She taught me so much, and Im talking about now, after she was in the coma, Colleen OBara said. She taught me so much about unconditional love that I couldnt say I had it before. She taught me about patience, that I didnt have before. I learned so much from taking care of my sister. Its like I grew up overnight.
Her mother kept her promise, right up to her death in 2008. Kaye OBara, 80, died in her sleep, in the same room she had shared with Edwarda since 1970.
Afterward, Colleen took over, quitting her job as a horse trainer.
I didnt give it a second thought. Shes my sister, Colleen OBara said, and I love her.
Tuesday night, Colleen OBara said she noticed her sister was spitting up food and figured it was because of the change in the weather, which usually gives Edwarda a cold. Colleen gave her antibiotics, and had her son care for Edwarda while she got some rest.
Edwarda seemed a bit better in the morning. It started with 6 a.m. breakfast and Edwardas bath a half hour later.
I said, OK, this is gonna be a good day. Things are looking up, Colleen OBara said. Her color is coming back. Im talking to her. I give her a bath, turn her, brush her teeth, put Vaseline on her lips so they dont dry out.
She told her sister she was going to get a cup of coffee and be right back.
Edwarda responded with the biggest smile, Colleen OBara said. She had a twinkle in her eyes, then closed them. Her breathing relaxed.
Colleen got her coffee, came back to the room and gave her sister a shake, but Edwarda didnt wake up.
Edwarda OBara is survived by her sister, nephew Richard OBara and great-nephew Joseph Michael OBara, who all stayed with her in the home.
A memorial is scheduled for 6 to 9 p.m. Tuesday at the Memorial Plan Southern Memorial Park, 15000 West Dixie Hwy. A church service will be held at 10 a.m. Wednesday at St. Rose of Lima Catholic Church, 415 NE 105th St., Miami Shores.
In lieu of flowers, the family is asking for donations to help pay for the funeral. Donations can be sent to the Edwarda OBara Fund, P.O. Box 693482 Miami, Fla. 33269.