“O give thanks to the LORD, for He is good: for His mercy endures forever.” – Psalms 107:1
At the start of 2021, I spent some quiet time and reflected on my goals for the year to make my life more manageable. I have been writing for The Philippine Times for 25 years featuring my spiritual growth. I had an impulse to “retire” from my column. I heard the Lord say: “Step aside.” I thought He meant to step down from my column, but I soon discovered He meant something else – to feature other notable people who love Him, till the end, even at their twilight years. This column will be the first of many months of featuring our seniors worthy of thanks, in partnership with the Australian Filipino Community Services (AFCS) in their forthcoming 30th anniversary. May you enjoy their testimonies.
When I hear my daughter say: “Thank you mom for dinner… for coffee… for picking up Eva…” my heart leaps. The spirit of gratitude is like music to one’s ears.
One person whose life is one song of thanksgiving is Timmie Barber who is 95 years of age. With no family to call her own, here or overseas, Timmie’s life is a testimony of God’s goodness despite her aloneness. Often people hear her say: “Praise the Lord!” “Thank you, Lord!”, and she expresses her gratitude unashamedly, sincerely and earnestly.
Born on 8 April 1926 at Bacolod Provincial Hospital in Negros Occidental, she was the apple of her parents’ eyes, Jose Barber Ruiz and Isabel Sodusta. Her dad was a certified public accountant and her mom a certified nurse. Both passed away in their 60s.
She was educated at the American International School, and graduated from Silliman University with a degree in education. She later became a teacher for two years in their town, but the family moved to Manila so his father could teach Mathematics.
Her father wanted her to go to America to pursue her music career as she also graduated with a bachelor’s degree in music. Unfortunately, he passed away. Timmie decided to try her luck in Australia and brought her adopted son, an Iranian national whom she helped educate when his father died in Iran. He finished architecture. In 1998, he passed away due to stomach cancer, aged 45.
Timmie busied herself and founded the Modern Filipiniana Modelling School, teaching her students poise, refinement, grooming and confidence. She became a popular tutor to candidates of Philippine beauty pageants and could turn even the “stiff” or “most awkward” contestant into a potential winner. More than 30 years ago, she stood as among the founders of The Philippine Times.
At 65, she retired from this profession to rest and pursue her spiritual goals. Timmie’s intimacy to her faith started in her early childhood, being a member of a choir, and later became a music director in church events back in the Philippines. She had a conversion experience from another faith denomination through a devout Catholic and has served well at St Augustine’s Church in Bourke Street, Melbourne in many different ministries as a volunteer.
When her adopted son died, she experienced a trial of faith, but persevered and held on to her trust and devotion to God more as the periods of aloneness re-surfaced. But God, she says, is a Father who provides for her needs- small and big. Every day is a day of miracles for her. All she needs to do is trust.
When she was about to find herself “homeless”, she was rescued by the Department of Human Services who gave her a lovely one-bedroom apartment, overlooking the beach at a decent, quiet environment, where she now lives. When she needed a fan, she ended up winning a raffle for one. When she does her groceries, a stranger would offer to pay for them and even get an Uber for her to be taken home.
At 90, she has no medication, has not been confined in hospitals with major illnesses and can still walk around. I asked what her secret is. I joked it could have been the absence of stress from a husband and children! And we laugh!
At 90 plus, she knows that death is around the corner and her perspective about it is positive. She says that if the good Lord wants her home, she is ready anytime and she is not afraid. Her love for Jesus is strong enough for her to believe He will take care of her until the end.
Thus, she does not complain or get upset by life’s many quirks. She takes one day at a time and is very grateful for all the blessings she receives.
As she has no immediate kin, we have adopted each other as family. We have sat together for her Advanced Care Planning, and discussed her pathway when that critical time comes, which alleviates my angst since I know precisely what she prefers when that life-changing moment transpires.
Max Lucado shares: “The grateful heart is like a magnet sweeping over the day, collecting reasons for gratitude. A zillion diamonds sparkle against the velvet of your sky every night. A miracle of muscles enables your eyes to read these words and your brain to process them. Your lungs inhale and exhale eleven thousand litres of air every day. Your heart will beat about three billion times in your lifetime. Your brain is a veritable electric generator of power. Thank you, God. Join the ranks of the 10 percent who give God a standing ovation.” (An Attitude of Gratitude, October 8, 2013)
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