I am sitting on the couch drinking my cup of tea reflecting on memories of you in my life. All those moments as a child that I would hang on to your every word when you would tell me a story, the gentle way you would talk to me when my heart was broken in my teens, how you were my biggest supporter when my world fell apart in my thirties, how you held my hand when I married Tod and told me how blessed I was to find somebody who would love children that were not his own. I have learned so much from you Mama. You showed me how to love unconditionally, how to forgive people, how to look for the best in people even when they have hurt me, how to stand tall through difficulties, and how to never allow the world to label me.
I loved hearing about your childhood growing up in the Philippines and how you smiled when you would tell us stories. How you were “escorted” everywhere by your Uncles and Aunts because that is the way things were done when you were growing up. The joy you experienced in childhood was also mixed with tragedy. When you told me about how your life changed when the Philippines was invaded and how you had to hide underground during the war, I was just so amazed at how brave you were. When you told me how you and your friend decided to become nurses instead of lawyers and the rules in the house at college just make me laugh, but I also stand back at admire your determination at making your own path. The romantic story of how you and Dad met in Vietnam. He, a soldier with a broken leg, you the nurse taking care of him. He kept asking you out and you kept saying no. Then you laughed and told me that you said to him, “When you don’t need those crutches anymore I will go out with you.” Dad threw his crutches down at that very moment and not only did you go out with him, you were married six weeks later and celebrated 59 years together in September 2016. These and so many more stories you have shared with me over the years.
I think about how so much has happened, so much has changed in the past six months. My beautiful sister, your precious daughter, Arlene, killed in a tragic car accident and then Dad passing away just six short weeks later. Our world was literally turned upside down. I will never forget when they presented you with the American Flag at Dad’s Military Honors Funeral. I could barely contain my pain as I looked at your face, so much grief, strength, love, and again you were so brave. Even now with dementia, you are still the glue that holds this family together, so full of grace, so full of wisdom.
When you first came to live with us, sometimes I would lay in bed at night crying. Mourning a childhood that was no longer remembered, seeing you struggle to find the right words, not knowing that I am your daughter or not knowing my name crushed me. Alzheimer’s is a cruel disease. It steals memories, precious moments in your life, But you see, we have one up on this disease. I am so grateful for the memories you shared, the stories you told me, because now I am your Historian. I can answer questions for you, tell you stories of your past that have long been gone.
You asked me how long I will take care of you. My answer to you, Mama, was until Jesus’ comes to take you to heaven. You smiled, grabbed my hand, and said, “Sissy, I’m so glad I have you.” So whether you know my name or not, whether you think I am your sister, your friend, or know that I am your daughter it doesn’t matter. Just as long as you know you are loved beyond measure, you feel safe, you feel honored, and that you can hear your life story from my memories anytime you want, then I am doing exactly what the Lord desires.
I love you Mama,