The Christmas season will always bring joy and happiness to all of us; in the Philippines, it is one of the most celebrated events of the year. The Christmas of 1963 was the most memorable Christmas I have ever had.
In my younger days in the Philippines, I was very active in our church and was the President of the Legion of Mary at the Christ the King Church, Project 7 in Quezon City. Our duties included catechism and leading block rosaries, to name a few. One of the apostolic works that we did was visiting parishioners during weekends to spread the word of God and to support the elderly of our community.
While doing my apostolic work, I befriended an elderly lady by the name of Lola Rose. She was in her mid-eighties, with no family apart from her only son who was living in America with his wife and two sons. After Sunday’s morning Mass and church meeting, I always visited her. She would bake my favourite chiffon and cassava cakes. We shared the same interests in reading inspirational books and playing classical piano pieces. We talked about a lot of things, and every time she talked about her son and grandchildren, she would show a twinkle in her eyes.
Every December, Lola Rose’s son and his family would come and visit her. Every Christmas eve I would come by and experience a great feeling of warmth to be a part of this beautiful family. On Christmas eve, she always cooked pancit (noodle), leche flan (crème caramel), puto ( rice cake) and dinuguan (pork blood stew). She would have a little gift wrapped with a beautiful ribbon as present for me.
One Sunday morning when I visited, she was crying. She said that her son won’t be able to visit her that Christmas. Embracing her, I assured her that she won’t be lonely as my family would be there for her.
I told my Dad on Christmas eve that I will be going early to visit Lola Rose, and then would head to the church afterwards for Christmas eve Mass. The door was open when I arrived at her house; when I called her name, there was no answer. I thought she must be asleep, so I let myself in.
Passing through the kitchen I noticed she had already prepared the leche flan, pancit, puto and dinguan and a nice wrapped gift for me. Smiling I went to the bedroom, there was a note at the bedside saying, “ Dear Lorna, I am so tired I will have a small nap. Please wake me up once you arrive.”
Lola was sleeping peacefully with a rosary on her hand. As I began to tenderly wake her up, she was not responding to my voice. When I touched her, the body was cold as ice. I screamed and started sobbing in a confused panic; my whole body trembling with shock.
It will be more than five decades now since that harrowing experience but I will always remember with love the good old memories I shared with this lovely lady whom I fondly called my Lola Rose.
Excerpts from my book My Innermost Thoughts
Death will always leave
A gaping hole in our hearts
It will take time to heal
But, all the beautiful memories
Will always be treasured
And kept in our hearts