Even for a blabbermouth like myself, it’s hard to put into words what you feel about someone who’s been such a big part of your life for nearly 48 years. I won’t even try to be clever or witty Precious Reader (if I’ve ever been), as the person I talk about below is one who doesn’t need hyperbole or burnishing.
WE HEARD updates, text messages and expressions of concern from a brother and a cousin during a period of 48 hours. Even for a born fighter like my Aunt, it seemed like she was overmatched by her latest adversary. She had overcome a similar enemy years before, ovarian cancer, and the triumph was resounding. She would not be so lucky this time.
Depending on how you looked at it, the end came too soon or not soon enough. From afar, and knowing how much of a born fighter my Aunt was, the fact that between the discovery of her illness and her passing barely a week transpired was nearly unbelievable. On the other hand, seeing her up close and bearing witness to her pain, suffering and discomfort, it was a blessing that God took her when He did.
The reason such an interest was taken in her health, comfort and welfare, especially in her last few days was that my Aunt had been wish-granter, dream-answerer and miracle worker for so, so many people for the overwhelming majority of her 91 years. Whether among her family, or friends, or co-workers, or business partners, or associates, or anyone else who knew her little or knew her well, she was an unforgettable individual who touched the life of anyone she encountered.
It seems like a duh moment to say this, as someone who’s known her for so long, but it was second nature for her to make everyone feel happy about themselves. She had only two requirements to helping you get your symbolic Happy Meal : you must have a dream (I can almost hear her voice saying so), and you must be willing to work hard, do your share and go the distance to achieve your dream.
If you ticked these two boxes, then believe you me, you got her attention, and as long as you kept alive Requirement No. 1 and sustained Requirement No. 2, she would make sure you got all the help you needed. She would use this simple formula to help hundreds and hundreds, nay thousands of individuals, couples, broods, sometimes whole families and even religious communities.
It sometimes helped, but ultimately didn’t matter to her if these were relatives, friends, friends of friends or mere acquaintances. The only thing that mattered to her was that you had a dream that was worth pursuing.
She never, never forgot a birthday. She always sent gifts on wedding anniversaries of her inaanak. She often issued cheques to charities without asking for receipts or prospectuses. She never hesitated to help someone in the hospital, anonymously taking care of the bill with little fanfare.
Go to school. Build a career. Raise a family. Erect a home. Work overseas. Start a business Find a spouse. Heal the sick. Bury the dead. Pray for the dead. My Aunt had her faves and peeves, but when it came to fulfilling dreams, she did not choose. Everything was fair game to her. Each dream looked the same. And every person deserved a shot at chasing that dream.
I was lucky enough to have worked a brief time with her in the law firm of which she was a fixture for, believe it or not, nearly seven decades. She rose from the ranks as a legal secretary, to office manager, to administrative director, to director of finance and administration by the time she retired, a lofty post indicative of the trust that her employer reposed in her.
Nine times out of ten, she was the designated problem solver, trouble shooter, peacemaker and decision maker in all things that didn’t involve legal matters, which was after all how the firm earned its income. Because she handled personnel, logistics, billing and finance matters, there nearly wasn’t anything she didn’t know about in the big, big office she managed.
She certainly looked the part, being sharp of mind and swift in action. But she was a big marshmallow inside. I can honestly say that whenever anyone asked for assistance, financial or otherwise, and I happened to be in her office, she would probably ask a few questions to verify how much help the person really needed, lecture them on how to avoid a similar jam in the future, extend the help badly needed, and then some.
There’s so much more I could say here but the space and time isn’t nearly enough, and I’m not sorry to say that you will yet hear from me again. The reason is by simply being herself, my Aunt wielded tremendous influence over the lives of so many, for so long.
Her being a person of means certainly helped, but the assistance she gave wasn’t always monetary. Sometimes just a kind word, a reassuring pat on the shoulder, a firm admonishment, a gentle prod, or even a strategic introduction to the right person was all that was needed to remedy or improve a situation, and usually my Aunt was right there to administer the proper dose and help deliver the needed outcome. Sometimes money was the last thing needed, and she seemed to discern when those times were.
For the families in which she was a member by blood or affinity, the great establishment she worked for between 1945 and 2013, and the countless souls whose lives she touched, her death last Saturday marked the passing of an era. For now, we say good night, beloved Tita , but not goodbye!
Forever proud to be your nephew!
- the day bunso came full circle (ylbnoel.wordpress.com)