Monday, May 12, 2008

Beyond: Remembering Aunt Belay

Aunt Belay and JK looking beyond the shores.

The day before Mother's Day, I received the sad news of my dear aunt's passing. It was unexpected. She was only 57. In my estimate, she still has 20 or so more years left to live before it was considered forgivable for one to die. She did not even outlive my grandfather, her own father, who at 90 plus is still with us though only barely hanging on to LIFE. My grandfather’s sister, Mamang Ika, who at 98 still vigorously moves and eats around her earthy bamboo bed, has outlived her by almost a lifetime. Give and take their age difference is about 40 years. That's longer than my current age at the moment! She should have had more than quite a lifetime still ahead of her. But it wasn't to be.

My aunt's real name is Caridad, a Spanish name which means charity in its literal English translation. Her name, like all of her other siblings on my father's side, is directly lifted from a calendar of Spanish Saints. Thus, like my father, who goes by the odd name of Perfecto, after a virtual unknown saint, St. Perfecta, all but one of them have names of holy origin. By some Higher intelligence in the universe, her name befits her.

She had lived a life of quiet generosity. She was charitable to a fault, if such a thing could happen. Many of my relatives, the poorer ones, that is, lived under her roof and shared her every meal. This, she did, without grudge and discontent. She shouldered the matriculation fees of children not her own. Though she only has one biological son, she has mothered nieces, nephews aplenty. Thus, she was called "Mommy" by almost every kid in our rural neighborhood. She has shared her life, her riches, her self to those who needed her. She was in every respect until the end, truthful of her name, of her legacy.

My fondest memory of her was when she gave me this Barbie doll when I was about 7 or 9 years old. I greatly longed for one (esp. the one with a Ken partner) and it was she who rendered my childhood wish a reality. She would almost never forget to gift me thoughtful presents on my birthday and fondly called me "Inday Mic" inspite of my overly bratty behaviour. She was one of my closest, if not the closest, of my long list of aunts.

I really hate it whenever people attribute goodness to a recently departed relative or loved one even if it is totally unwarranted. I see it all the time on TV when a suspected criminal or junkie gets killed by the police and all of a sudden a concerned mother or wife (usually) cries for justice and says that the death was undeserved as this person was the paragon of human goodness when still living. They conveniently forget all the human frailty and evil this dead person has wreaked when left alone breathing. So in the same stance, when I say my aunt was everything good and nice, I know that people might very well question the veracity and sincerity of those words, but there is really no other way to put it. She was really that nice. And why God choose to take away the nice and good people first, I really do not know, except that maybe they deserve something better that this current life cannot offer.

Last May 30, I went to my home province Iloilo to attend her wake and funeral mass. Upon my arrival, I immediately went straight to the coffin to see her remains. I instantly knew she was gone. Not an ounce of her generous spirit, her engaging smile and sweet aura, is left in that stiff wooden body encased in a white casket. That wasn’t my aunt anymore. She was indeed gone.

We buried her the following day, May 31st. Until the end, many relatives and dear friends shed their tears and didn’t want to accept her untimely passing. If the tears and sheer number of people who attended her funeral would account for her short life, it is safe to say that she has loved well and was well-loved in return. I cannot imagine how she has managed to touch so many peoples lives. If I could get just half of the number of people who shared her final moment attend my own in the future (very far, hopefully), I would be most happy. To make a difference in the lives of so much people, or even just to get to know them somehow is a good enough accomplishment in a lifetime. Her death maybe singluar, but the loss of her is magnified into a hundred-fold and is reflected in the sorrow of all those who have loved her and love her still.

Good bye my beloved auntie, we will see each other again in the beyond. You are now free to embrace God’s loving kindness and goodness, from where your spirit came forth and will return once more. You will be missed, but you will never be forgotten. We will love you always. Always.