(Note : Still the last day of the month of undas today, and I remember with fondness a most remarkable person who died May last year, an aunt for the ages, Tita Lily. )
MY earliest, earliest memories of Tita Lily were of her helping pay the monthly rent to our apartment landlord, which was way back ago, probably the late 1960s. She had been married for some time and no longer lived with us but I’m nearly certain she was still helping my dad (her bro) and mom with the rent, having lived together for some time before she got married. Long after that, and till the day she died, she kept my folks and bros as part of her immediate family, for more than four decades.
She would help send us to school, always made sure we had happy birthdays, happy holidays and happy school breaks, never forgot a birthday anniversary or other milestone, and frequently asked at least one of us to tag along during her annual overseas trips. My parents were always grateful, and always made sure we thanked Tita Lily and showered her with gratitude. Because she had many other siblings and many other loved ones in her circle, multiply this feel-good festival by around two dozen and you get an idea of how highly people thought of her.
But Tita Lily’s charity only started at home. At the law office where she worked, in her neighborhood and larger community, and particularly her parish church, little acts of generosity became part of her regular routine. Do you know how with most of us, every time you or I enjoy a happy thought, we smile or hum a tune? Well, every time my aunt had a happy thought, she did something for someone.
She bought a hungry person lunch. She visited someone sick in the hospital. She sent a poor student a monthly allowance. Or she remembered to send someone a birthday gift. She did it so well, and it became such a part of her thoughts and actions that it inevitably became a part of her character to be a remarkably generous person, the way Stephen Covey says it so well:
Sow a thought; reap an action. Sow an action; reap a habit. Sow a habit; reap a character. Sow a character, reap a destiny.
It didn’t hurt that her focus on work and career success allowed her to become a person of means. But Tita Lily was the type of person who would have been uber generous if she was wealthy, if she was of moderate means, or if she was poor. For the entirety of my life, long before, and long after, that’s how I saw her.
I say long after because long after I’m gone, children, grandchildren and probably even great-grandchildren will continue to benefit from her generosity. The fruits of her compassion have been and will be paid forward years and years from now, far and wide, and to people she has loved, friends, acquaintances and those she had never met. It gives me goose bumps to know that long after she has passed on, people will be telling their grandchildren about Tita Lily : I am the man / woman today because of a woman who cared enough to send me to school, and who loved me even though she never knew me.
That woman of course is Ms Lily B Yang. Privileged to have known her, privileged to be her nephew, and privileged to have a life touched by her. Missing you terribly Tita Lily!