“When I came to know her exemplary kindness, I thought she should have been the nun and I should have been in the working world. Well. you must already know that Manang Rose was an unassuming and prayerful person but also had strong values, especially kindness that exemplified a sincere Christ-like attitude.” – Sister Jolisa Lazaro, S.N.D, June 2, 2016
“It’s during the worst storms of your life that you will get to see the true colors of the people who say they care for you.” – Anonymous
Have you done a rigorous inventory of your life’s grace? Grace in the sense that God showered you with unintended blessings or that God mercifully did not punish you for something you should have been. I wanted to reflect on that, as this word came upon me, “mirrflect,” a combination of holding a mirror and reflection on one’s life, while attending the wake of a dear friend’s mom.
Two years ago, 2016, I lost two valuable members of my family, Asuncion, my mother, to complications of COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disorder) at age 88 on March 18 (day after St. Patrick’s Day) and my sister, Rosalinda, at age 67 on May 17, 2016, 60 days apart. Why did I lose my mother and my eldest sister in a span of 60 days? Simply, no answer suffices, but just to recognize that God harvested His angels in His own time.
During that week, I observed strange things. Aside from cabinets opening and closing on their own, I usually stayed in our library, with sunlight peering from the windows on the south side in the early afternoon. I watched the sun’s rays and a strange silhouette of a young woman appeared wearing a lace dress. I took a photo of that image, as I could not make sense of it. Whose image was that, I asked? It turns out an old photo of my younger mother resembled that silhouette.
Since these double traumas, friends have surfaced for me. Would you believe my granddaughter, barely three years old now?
It is the beautiful soul in her
I still remember when, as an infant, barely months old, when I was holding her to feed her milk. I kept sobbing as I held the bottle to her mouth (Princess for this essay). I could not stop sobbing, but I still had to nurture this baby, as both of her parents were at work. This beautiful soulful infant held on to my pinky with her inch-long fingers barely able to grab my pinky. Her reaching out to me, though barely awake, and feeding from her bottle, touched me so much.
During my mother’s funeral mass, Princess was held by her dad, Sergio, and her mom, Corina, taking their turns, as the mass progressed. The church was full and musicians from the community came to pay their respects and even sing for my mother, primarily the David family (Mon, Nicole and Carlo). Even her grandfather, Enrique, held out his arms to hold Princess.
But, she refused them all, all of these primary caretakers, to hold her. When I offered my outstretched hands to hold her, she moved her body towards me and I got to hold her during mass. I keep that memory in my heart and in my mind as a special bond between Princess and myself.
Asuncion’s enduring friendship and those who kept me company
Sion, my younger sister, kept me company. We went to all the Filipino movies we could see together, even if I had to drive 50 miles round trip each time. At times, it was a test of my endurance as the heat and traffic became unbearable during the summer. Yet, once reunited, it became something we look forward to, where we can simply let our souls bare, but also how easy conversations were. We went to our favorite “hole in the wall” for lunch and it got us through our difficult years. Just a few days ago, I complimented her for making everyone laugh that we met, giving much of her in storytelling and jokes.
Our texts were long at times, wherein we wrote down what we see about life, and as we wrote them all out, we gained clarity that the two back-to-back deaths were God’s blessings and to see how much we are blessed, beyond our expectations. I hung out with her family, and I got to know more of my niece, Jennifer, and my favorite nephew, Brian, a tender soul who has been nursing her mother, back to her healthier self. They all were encouraging about my first book project.
Editor/friends who contributed positively
I requested my editor, Christina, to write the foreword on my book, “Even the Rainbow Has a Body.” She too was going through tough times, as she had just lost a dear uncle in late November, when the foreword was due. Yet, she braced herself, I am not even sure how she did it and wrote the most touching foreword to my first book. I knew then, with that foreword written, I would get the book published.
I also asked my former editor, Nickee, to edit my essays and to help me with the book. It was a “rosy” relationship, forged with thorns and rose petals. With her candid feedback and my fragile feelings then, I could not take sometimes her objective criticisms. But, when we persisted, instead of resisting the differences in our perspectives, while modifying each other’s contributions, the project was finished; I shed a tear that finally a book is worthy of memorializing the legacies of my mother and my sister.
But it took generous souls, the likes of Hydee Ursolino-Abrahan who orchestrated how I should break up the book chapters with solo photos of my subjects, even a group photo of the choral groups that I featured. I cannot thank her enough for reaching out to me that this would be possible, in the middle of the holiday preparations during Thanksgiving.
I am also indebted to Fritz Friedman, Michael Gonzalez, Ph.D., Prof. Carol Ojeda–Kimbrough, and Cynthia Bonta who wrote reviews on the book cover. They too, after writing their reviews helped me get out of my trauma.
But it was Grace Ysabel Simon, a senior in high school, who captured the essence of my book, even before reading the book chapters. How she did it is a mystery of the blessings of the Holy Spirit who is hand-picking all the folks who helped in giving birth to this book.
It took a very caring and professional printer, Monty Rili of Squid Ink Printing, to bring out the aesthetics and quality that I needed for the book.
And with the book launch, supported by tender loving souls, like Cora Oriel, Ted Benito, Asuncion Abarquez Ferrer, and Lem Balagot in Los Angeles, the book became symbolic of a ‘phoenix rising out of the ashes.’
My husband, Enrique and children, Corina and Carlo and my granddaughter, Princess became my early supporters for this book and with their support, I rise out of these traumas and reclaim my life of writing.
Two years after, more book launches have been organized by many earth angels, all stepping up to do it: Cynthia Bonta, East Wind Bookstore, Angge Lahoz, Korkie Paz, Emmellee Coronel, Ester Tagud, Philippine Expressions Bookshop, and even its latest poster ad, designed by Tina Salonga-Bulchand.
Thank you to all of you, dear community folks, named and some unnamed, who are my true friends, with Christ-like attitudes and kindness, as I weathered the worst storms of my life!
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Prosy Abarquez-Delacruz, J.D. writes a weekly column for Asian Journal, called “Rhizomes.” She has been writing for AJ Press for 10 years. She also contributes to Balikbayan Magazine. Her training and experiences are in science, food technology, law and community volunteerism for 4 decades. She holds a B.S. degree from the University of the Philippines, a law degree from Whittier College School of Law in California and a certificate on 21st Century Leadership from Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government. She has been a participant in NVM Writing Workshops taught by Prof. Peter Bacho for 4 years and Prof. Russell Leong. She has travelled to France, Holland, Belgium, Japan, Costa Rica, Mexico and over 22 national parks in the US, in her pursuit of love for nature and the arts.