Three weeks ago, we received news that my Mom’s older sister, my dearest Aunt Emilia (Tiya Milya to us nieces and nephews) came down with pneumonia. At 91 years old, she truly was spunky and energetic despite the fact that she literally stopped eating for weeks on and the doctor just gave her a few days to live.
My Mom lives with me and thank goodness for her iPod touch, she’s able to connect with our super extended family in Marikina City, Philippines – my beloved hometown. That’s when she gets real time updates on the progress of Aunt Emilia – special mention and thanks to Ellen Muriel – De Guzman and Emma de Guzman for keeping my Mom posted on her progress.
It was so sad to see my Mom cry thinking of her sister everyday and how she may never see her again. I then thought about Skype video chat! We immediately set up our computers and connected on Skype! Looking back, why didn’t we think about it early on?
When my Mom saw her, she cried even louder – she couldn’t believe how tiny she has become. Garrett immediately jumped into the camera and was in awe of seeing my Aunt who shares so much resemblance to my Mom… Garrett kept on telling her “You are so beautiful, Auntie… I love you!”
What was truly touching was when I saw both sisters, reaching out to each other on the screen and started touching the screen to “hold each other’s hands”.
That loving gesture brought a smile on my Aunt’s face! Just look at the difference from the initial photo to the the photo with her aura completely changed and you can see JOY in her eyes! Oh that smile!
Seeing my Aunt Emilia and her relationship with my Mom, reminded me of the deep bond they have for each other and rightfully so.
My Mom is the youngest of 8 children and Aunt Emilia was 11 years older than her. During the World War II when my Mom was 12 years old, the Americans who were fighting against the Japanese Army, accidentally bombed Marikina City and their parents – my grandparents – died in that bombing. I never got to meet them though my Mom always told me that I looked like my Grandma Braulia.
From that point forward, it was my Aunt Emilia who took care of my Mom and stepped up as her Mom and Dad rolled into one person! I can only imagine how a 22 year old can take over as the matriarch for a brood of 8 siblings!
Right there speaks of what courage and faith my Aunt Emilia had. I remember as a young child how generous and open-hearted she was. She would come to our house from time to time to check on my Mom and her kids. Yes, she was very strict and firm yet beloved by many because she has such a great sense of humor. She’s a teacher by heart and worked as a teacher while having to rear 6 children of her own.
What I really remember so vividly from my Aunt Emilia was her love for education and books. I remember when I was in 4th grade, she came to our house with a big brown box full of books from America! Really old and used hardbound books with short stories for children. They were surplus books from their school and she wanted us to have them so we’ll start reading…
That was the beginning of my love affair with books and cultivating a thirst for knowledge. When everyone else played outside, I would stay in my room surrounded by books for hours and feeling the gratitude to her for giving us those books!
I remember when my Uncle Ponce – her husband – passed away probably almost 30 years ago – she would go visit his grave at the cemetery EVERY SINGLE DAY! She did that consistently and without fail for 30 years. I have never seen such dedication, commitment and love… EVER!
Through her inspiration, my life was never the same. It was her who inspired me to gain the love for reading and to this day I kept that love and passion for books. It was through her actions that I learned the love and commitment for family and to my husband. Her life story taught me to be courageous and have faith, against the odds. She truly is one of my most favorite aunts and to this day, she continues to inspire me!
Two weeks ago, her family asked my Mom to fly back to the Philippines and frantically, we booked her on the next flight out. My Mom spent 2 weeks with her and although my Aunt Emilia’s strength started dwindling and she was getting weaker and weaker by the day, it was so wonderful to know that she was surrounded by the love of her grateful family, yes including my Mom.
My Aunt Emilia passed away yesterday and my heart grieves…
I am grieving from sadness yet with joy, knowing that she’s in a much better place… A place that’s free from pain and struggle. It’s so reassuring to know that she is now with her beloved husband my Uncle Ponce and are bound to spend eternity together, hand in hand, living in pure love…
My Aunt Emilia’s life’s purpose has been absolutely served. She lived an absolute full life and has planted so many seeds of greatness among many. I am just one of the many people she has inspired just by living a life of faith, hope and love!
We could only hope that we too are able to find and serve our life’s purpose doing what we love with those whom we love. Through my Aunt Emilia’s inspiration, I found mine and it is my fervent prayer that you too will do whatever it takes to find yours and use that purpose to serve others.
To my Aunt’s Emilia’s family, I love you all and I am right there with you, grieving yet celebrating her life with utmost GRATITUDE.