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A prologue to my eulogy.

I sit here staring at the computer, my sister Grace told me over viber that my brother Gie would skip my eulogy, because he didn’t like the melancholic tone. So, in a last ditch effort to be part of my Mommy’s Celebration of Life Viewing, I am attempting to draft another…

Sigh! What fun moment do you want me to tell you guys, that we all shrieked when one time, Mommy was spring cleaning, and she emptied the huge jar she bought from a Muslim peddler, an intricately designed piece of pottery that everybody used as garbage bin, and in order for Mommy to clean the bottom, she has to stretch her arm in, and as she did that time, she spoke in her usual loud voice “Ano ba itong malambot na ito?” or :”What is this soft thing?”, and when she put it out, it was a 3-inch dead mouse! Imagine the pandemonium.

Okay. I concede. So, I watched Mommy’s video again, and was sort of asking her to help me write what she would want me to tell about her. And as I watched the photographs, there was Mommy smiling all the time. As if sadness was not a part of her. My brother Gie is right. Mommy loved life. When there was a problem, she never wallowed. She solved it.

Mommy was a positive person. From the vestiges of the second world war, a deprived childhood, she gracefully emerged the congenial and gregarious young lady, winsome  and forever smiling. She made many friends, and kept them in her heart. Her treasure.

Mommy enhanced her clerical skills. Yes, Mommy was a topnotch secretary. And we are not referring here just about that undecipherable stenography and super speed, error free typing, Mommy was editor par excellence. The admirals and commodores that were her bosses at the Fuel Department of US Naval Supply Depot were bullish. They had a one-woman package deal commanding the Seventh Fleet. If not for Mommy, communications would have been faulty. Ha ha. But that is true. She was the only one person not in uniform who was allowed to press the red button, in case of emergency.

Mommy was punctual. One morning, I woke up and the sunlight already lit the room. I saw Mommy dashing, and when I asked why she was in a hurry. she answered. “If I don’t catch the shuttle, it would be some six kilometer walk.”  That was why she was never tardy.

Mommy was gracious. Every Christmas, she would fill our long rectangular dining table with bountiful food. Kare-kare was our main dish. So, the night before Christmas, I was pounding peanuts and roasted rice.

Mommy was benevolent. When Metro Manila was drowned in a deluge that was Ondoy, Mommy mobilized me to get through mountains of piled trash to check relatives and friends, and extend to them her humble aid. At the end of my ordeal, Mommy did not ask if I was okay, she wanted to know if the recipients were better. I said yes, and she ordered me to check on them again.

That was Mommy in a nutshell. A cheerful giver. Her friends and family could attest more about her generosity and kindness, the true mark of a Christian.

But please, Gie, could you make this a prologue, and still read my previous text.

A Eulogy for my Mommy

How does one talk about Eugenia Caraos Leyva in a matter of minutes? Perhaps we need eighty years, for that is her lifetime, and in that lifetime, each day did count.

She is my mother, a blessing that spells how God loves me so dearly.

Oh yes, Mommy did scold me when I ran down the hill and smashed face down, and instantly my arms and legs turned black and blue, or so I recall. And she spanked me when I refused to take a hot shower and I was chilled to the bone. I was a stubborn child, I suppose, but Mommy never ran out of patience .

She brought me and my siblings to St. Joseph’s Church, for splendid Mass with music. The Magnolia kiosk beside the church though was part of the Sunday package activity, pinipig crunch for Ate Grace and twin popsies for me. My two kid brothers were not as choosy yet, to my advantage.

Mommy loved the piano. She said that my grandma Lola Naty could not afford one, so she practiced on the table, after asking someone to teach her how to play the ebony and ivory keys. She enrolled Ate Grace and me to the Herminia Albano Piano Studio, Ate Grace succeeded in reading and interpreting the notes. She was awarded Outstanding Student. I slept. But Mommy never reprimanded me. She smiled and continued bringing me to the Saturday nap lessons. And for Mommy, a house is not a home if there is no piano.

When Lola Naty took us under her wing, and we moved from Olongapo City to Marikina, we would see Mommy and Daddy only on weekends. The glorious weekends meant loads of comics: Archie, Peanuts, DC, Marvel, new pencils, clothes, a bounty of food on the table, fruits, and the sweetest of all, our dearest little sister, Portia. How we longed five days each week for a weekend when we could play with our bunso with the large, round eyes. In hindsight now, Mommy and Daddy commuted by Victory Liner, how they managed to carry all the bags of pasalubong, including hot monay from a bakery in Cubao, sigh, Mommy never complained about being tired.

The first physical concern i became aware of was when Mommy asked me to accompany her to UST Hospital. For whatever reason, she was bleeding. We took the bus, and I courageously asked someone to give his seat for Mommy. Oh how afraid I was Mommy might fall. Eventually, Mommy had to undergo hysterectomy. That scared me, because I saw the concern in my Daddy’s face. But how brave Mommy was.

And even braver when she came to America. It was a whole new world to conquer, initially with my two youngest siblings Lupo and Portia, and then with my Daddy, brother Noel, sister Grace and niece Tami.

Mommy joined the Blue Cross of America, where she was able to gain the respect of her bosses and colleagues, and made some of the dearest of friendships she had.

On the domestic front, she built a beautiful home. She marveled at being a doting grandma to my American born nephews, Lance and Louie.

For us left in the Philippines, Mommy made sure we received two Forex boxes of goodies, towels, night shirts, books, Barbies, Fisher toys, gadgets, trinkets, gowns, pantaloons, casseroles, and practically the whole of Wal-Mart every Christmas. On good years, the fresh scent of America comes to our home also summertime.

And that was the beginning our virtual bonding. Mommy never failed to call weekly, even when she was exhausted from work. The telephone cards were expensive, but she would call, so she would know if my house already has a roof, or if the old car was repaired, if the tuition for school enough, or have I got myself a physical check. Mommy provided for all, including my hundred thousand peso thyroidectomy, that when I told her about the need for the surgery and cried, she asked: Why are you crying? Gie is going there. Help is on the way,

That is Mommy. She worked so hard so that she could give, Not only to me. When she learns that someone is in a tight situation, I have to withdraw from the monthly remittances she sent and deliver not just grocery goods but money as well, to those who need it,

Mommy’s final years were as trying as when she was a child. First, she lost Daddy. A year and a half later, she was diagnosed with cancer. That turned the tides, my turn to call daily. A few minutes to an hour or more, Mommy would tell me of the pain that is chemotherapy. She said it is not something anyone would wish even to his enemies. I was the one devastated, for she told me she couldn’t breathe in the test chambers, and the long hours of imaging and scans left her cold, numb and hungry. She asked if she has still blood left after the many painful extractions. I would try to appease her with comforting words, but the battle with cancer preyed on the flesh, not the soul. Mommy narrated that the Blessed Mother came to her early on, after being afflicted with the illness, and so I said that that meant Mama Mary is already caring for her.

When Mommy was a child, she lost her father. Then the Japanese bombed their house in Cavite City. Impoverished, Mommy sold peanuts and other kakanin before she attended school, to augment the food on their table. She has just two sets of clothes, the one she was wearing and the one she would change on. That is also why she loved sending towels, she never had one in her youth

And yet she inscribed in one of her keepsakes an adage: Few men during their lifetime come anywhere near exhausting the resources dwelling within them. There are deep wells of strength that are never used

Mommy spread her wings and soared high, reaching for all the beauty that life may bring,

Mommy celebrated birthdays and Christmases and other important occasions with joyful feasts. It is her way of thanking our good God for all the blessings bestowed on her. When I invited a friend one time to spend Christmas with us, he asked, exactly how many people are in the Christmas party, for there must be a tally like a hundred. I told him to commence counting quickly, for the friends and neighbors who partake at Mommy’s festive table come and go.

Thank you, Mommy, for filling life with much glee. Such heartwarming memories you left us with.

Thank you for finishing the race and keeping the faith. Yours is a story of Love and Devotion, your favorite piano piece.

Thank you, Mommy, it is indeed a privilege being your daughter. You are a perfect mother. I love you so much. I will forever hold you in my heart and cherish you in my dreams.

Love, Eileen

My Mommy’s in Heaven now.

The church says that it is forbidden to tinker with gadgets during the Holy Mass. Precisely because of this reason that I did not record Fr, Eymart’s Sunday Homily last night. If only I’d known what he would say, I would have disobeyed that order, and recorded Fr. Eymart’s strongest sermon ever. At least for me.

The Gospel, as we all know by now, is from St. Mark. Our Lord asked “Who do people say that I am?” His apostles gave three answers: John the Baptist, Elijah, and, from Simon, he said “You are Christ, Son of the Living God.” And Fr. Eymart proceeded to explain this Gospel story further in a highly theological point of view.

Wow, I thought, the sermon seems like a super speech in the academe, where minds meet on a highly intellectual level.

But I was not prepared for his conclusion.

In relating the Divinity of our Christ to our ordinary lives, he narrated the story of a visionary who has a woman friend that got afflicted with cancer. When this woman friend learned of the diagnosis for her illness, she told God that she believes in Him. as Simon Peter did, as well as to all the doctrines of the church. And because of this that she made a pact with God. She said: God, I know that i have many misgivings, and that I am not as worthy for your heavenly kingdom yet, and I know that I will be stashed away in purgatory, till I am cleansed immaculately to enter your kingdom, but I do not want Purgatory, so I am accepting all the suffering that cancer brings, I will endure all the pain, without question, so long as when the end finally comes, You bring me directly to Heaven, your Kingdom. And when the woman died, her visionary friend received a vision: she was already in heaven.

There might be a few hundred people listening to the Gospel, but i believe the message was directly for me.

Since Mommy died, I was waiting for her to come visit me, But nada. For how could she? Fr. Eymart just told me my beloved Mommy is already in Heaven.

Such speed, Mommy.

And when I related the story to Ate Grace, she said, of course, Mommy has been physically repressed, painfully, that when she finally was set free, she must have sped as fast as she can.

Show me a vision, Mommy, say a rainbow, or a host of sunflowers, or any of the favorite things. Even if I know you are already there.