[ Note : I’ve been dreaming about a certain person quite frequently the last few weeks, and I just realized why. That person, my aunt Tita Lily, would’ve been celebrating her 90th birthday this month, and moreover was the ultimate Christmas person, practically the modern equivalent of Santa Claus in our cynical day and age. I was not among her favorite nieces and nephews (for she had many — favorites and otherwise), but in my wishful thinking she knew my quirks and failings enough to be comfortable with me. Please indulge me in this little reverie about a truly influential person in my life, Ms Lily B Yang ! ]
I WAS tens of thousands of kilometers away when probably the most influential person in my life (after my folks), as well as that of my family, Tita Lily, passed away this May. For many of us in her family living or working overseas, a dark cloud of extreme sadness and guilt filled our hearts, as our Tita had sent three generations of her relatives to school, supported so many families who couldn’t make ends meet; and found jobs for dozens and dozens of us between jobs, out of jobs, or who just couldn’t get a break in the hustle-and-bustle world outside. She helped us fill our dinner table, fulfill our dreams and keep our dignity intact; she never failed us in our moment of need. When death knocked at her door, God was merciful in keeping her suffering short before taking her home.
But come December, it was like a flood of memories all so real came rushing back, so much so that it was like Tita Lily was among us again. You see, Christmastime was one of her favorite times of the year, if not her most favorite. It was the best time for her to make people happy, which, hands down, was her favorite activity of all.
She literally had a gift list of thousands upon thousands of giftees, a number that had grown through the years and years of friendships, relationships and even one-off encounters in my aunt’s life. It didn’t matter if these were close bosom friends from way back, clients of the law firm where she worked and shopkeepers of her favorite stores, or the multitudinous members of her large family, including brothers and sisters, nephews and nieces, grand-nephews and grand nieces, and untold numbers of godchildren gained in baptisms, confirmations, first communions, weddings, holy orders, silver anniversaries and even golden anniversaries.
She would start filling out her lists early December and would continue sending gifts well after Christmas Day. She could never countenance missing a name, or worse, a family, for she often gave to each member of a family as she enjoyed a personal relationship with two or even three generations in a family.
One year I would help her write out gift cards (an absolute essential in her gift protocol), her helper would help her wrap the gifts, and the driver would stand by to deliver the goodies post-haste. Very soon we realized that she needed more than a staff of two or three and from then on, Tita Lily always prepared for the gift-giving season by having at least two nephews or nieces, two separate wrappers, and of course substitutes who would spell all of them while the gift preparations would extend well into the night.
She was particularly solicitous of people who would be alone and in want during the holidays, cognizant perhaps of her contemporaries who would sometimes be forgotten by the people they had taken care of in earlier decades. Once she rang up an old officemate who she discovered had suffered a severely bruised hip and was immobilized and hungry for nearly 36 hours. Not only did my aunt ask her driver to bring said officemate to the hospital, she also insisted that the latter spend Christmas with her, bandages and all. That impromptu act of kindness was just one of many that Tita Lily did year-round, but which acquired a special sweetness at Christmas.
I could go on and on and on here, but truth to tell I’m already starting to cry. My aunt was a one-in-a-million kind of person, and amazing as she was, Christmas brought even more out of her. Everything I do, every kind thought I think and every good deed I do (if ever), I do in her name. Tita Lily, you will live on in our hearts this Christmastime and forevermore!
Thanks for reading!
- Childish and childlike was my aunt – In memory of Tita Lola, Part 1 (beatzkaneblog.wordpress.com)
- why we’re grateful to Joe & Linda, 54 years and running (ylbnoel.wordpress.com)
- Top 10 Christmas Movies (mademan.com)