Where do I begin?
Let me start on Good Friday. After the faithful have dispersed from the Holy day’s procession, BFF and I visited GI Jane’s mom across ex-soulmate’s house, just around the bend from my own home.
We were talking animatedly about GI Jane’s arrival on Easter when I got a text message from my cousin saying “Lola is gone.”
It is still clear in my mother’s memory, that moment when her birth mother handed her to her childless relative. I could imagine my mother screaming and bawling, small hands reaching out to her birth mother while her new mother carried her off.
It must have been a painful decision for Lola, to give her child away. But what could she do? Without a husband to help her raise the child, with only memories of the fortune her parents had, without an education, without… without…
But there was her childless cousin, married to Chinese Joe, they would take good care of the baby.
And indeed, the child was schooled in the best in the city, brought up swimming in books which she loved so much, hobnobbed with the children of who’s-who while her adoptive father tended the most happening club in town (which served special tuba, sweet coconut liquor) and it was called Nevada.
My mother’s adoptive mother, though I loved her dearly, was a character to reckon with. She was possessive and jealous and made her new baby call her birth mother, “Older Sister”.
But Lola, whom my mother called “Older Sister” hence, would frequently visit her child and her cousin, and later on when I was had, me.
By the time I was born, Lola had been living with a widower who had 5 children from his late wife. Lola bore him 5 more children. 10 in all.
It was not an easy life. Days of glory were memories for Lola. But she found and clung to the Lord.
Throughout the years, she would talk about God, sometimes incessantly, in a whining singsong voice. Interspersed with what she has dealt with in life and the Bible verses which she had learned, she would set off for a day long soliloquy.
She died at the age of 78 on Good Friday while her children, my mother’s half-siblings were attending the procession. By the time they got home, her body was already in rigor mortis.
Five days later, after her burial, my mother hosted a dinner for the relatives who attended her wake and burial. Some had traveled from Lola’s place of origin, a beautiful island, two hours away from my hometown. One of her cousins, a keeper of the family lore, told how Lola’s parents were affluent in their time. Lola’s father was a trader who owned the first cinema in a neighboring town; this was before the second world war. During the war, while ducking from the Japs, Lola’s father was thirsting for coconut water. He was given what he asked for; but later he died of diarrhea. Lola’s mother died shortly after. She was in a state of despair over the death of her second husband, perhaps thinking how difficult it would be to raise four children.
One of Lola’s brothers graduated from aviation school. A licensed pilot, though he was accepted by the flag bearer of our country, he never flew due to alcoholism. Her other brother was a high official in the government. Sadly, Lola succumbed to always looking back with regret.
But she was sturdy: she loved to keep house. She loved discourse. Perhaps if her pains were channeled well, she would have made a great orator, or a talk show host perhaps. But she chose the life she lived.
Yet I believe it wasn’t a life lived in vain. My mother, the baby who remembers what happened when she was given away, is always thankful for being handed over to her adoptive mother, the one who gave her an education and left her a small fortune to begin with. It was the best Lola could do at the time.
Lola took good care of her second family, my mother’s half-siblings, the best way that she could. And she was steadfast in her faith - and I believe that going on a Good Friday was God’s way of telling us that though she lived a difficult earthly life, He loved her very much. She was special to Him from Whom she sought comfort.
"Into Your Hands I commit my spirit." - Psalm 31:5
Eternal rest grant unto Lola, oh Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon her. May she rest in peace. Amen.