one last tribute

Mom2Amara note: I was unable to speak at my grandmother's funeral as I had asked. But because of all the funeral day drama, I still wanted to give my last tribute to Great-Grandma2Amara. I write for a living, yet I could not come up with the words for an appropriate tribute. But hopefully this will give you some glimpse into what a wonderful woman Great-Grandma2Amara was.

If my Grandma were standing with me today, she would be a bit miffed. She would be all smiles because we are all together. But Grandma never liked to be the center of attention. That was Grandma. All that really mattered was that her family and friends remained close.

Grandma would pack her suitcase weeks in advance of a family trip. That’s how excited she would be. It was the prospect of traveling to a new place. It was the thought of being surrounded by family.

And if Grandma had plans to have lunch with her best friends, this would also take weeks in the making. Why? Because Grandma would need the perfect outfit, right down to her shoes. And that usually meant one – or two – trips to the mall.

But there was so much more to my Grandma. Grandma was an extraordinary woman. She was selfless. And she never met a slot machine she didn’t like.

In true matriarch fashion, Grandma quietly supported our family. When we were younger, Grandma would monitor our report cards and interrogate our parents about our boyfriends. And now that we’re older, Grandma became savvy enough to surf the web and check up on all of us in a new way -- by reading our blogs.

Grandma would tell her friends about her granddaughters and how we all married “Americans.” She told them the American guys outnumbered the Filipino guys. But it didn’t matter to Grandma. Why? Because she said the Americans were “all nice” to her, an old Filipino grandma.

Grandma endured a lot in her lifetime – leaving the Philippines, breaking racial barriers in a tumultuous Midwest, then dealing with her own deteriorating health.

Yet through it all, she remained strong and triumphant. She remained undeterred. She was a stoic woman. She admitted that pain was “relative” to her.

I looked up to her so much that I named my own daughter Amara Faye after my Grandma Fe.

Not one to show her emotion, Grandma was beyond doubt an unsung hero. When my mom was diagnosed with cancer, Grandma stood tall. She was my rock. She consoled me. And my Grandma helped me believe we could fight the disease that would ultimate take not my mother’s life but hers.

Grandma’s caring nature was also evident in her work as a nurse. She dedicated herself to the patients of one hospital for over three decades. She was not one to boast. But one teenage patient was quite memorable for Grandma. The girl was comatose. And Grandma took care of this girl as if she were family. Then one day, the girl awoke. Grandma was convinced she had a hand in this miracle. And I am sure my Grandmother took care of every one of her patients with the same compassion and loyalty.

Yet there was still so much more to my grandmother.

Grandma played classical piano without sheet music. She once aspired to be a concert pianist.

Grandma made the best palabok and pitsi pitsi without recipes.

Grandma knew every character on SpongeBob Squarepants because she would watch cartoons endlessly with her great granddaughter, the duo snuggled up on the living room sofa.

And Grandma wrote for her high school alumni newsletter. She even mastered the mystifying world of Windows in order to submit her writings.

Her first essay was titled “Reflections on Life.” I’d like to share a part of it with you today.

Close your eyes and imagine yourself sitting on top of a boulder on a moonlit night. Nearby is a river with its icy water rhythmically lapping against your bare feet. Listen to the sounds of crickets chirping, frogs croaking and tree leaves rustling by the blowing of a crisp, soft breeze. Gaze a bit further at a sight so awesome where thousands of fireflies appear to have set a tree ablaze with their lights, appearing like stars falling out from the sky. Take a deep breath, fill your lungs with the pure air and in an instant, you will feel as if your spirit is soaring upwards, embraced with all this beauty around you.

Grandma says she experienced this magical moment while working in a remote barrio in the Philippines.

Grandma, today, I hope that same calm, that same peace, surrounds you.

I hope your spirit is soaring upwards, embraced with all that beauty around you. Just promise to remember to look down once in awhile to watch over us.

We love you Grandma. Mahal kita.


  1. Your grandma sounds like a neat lady. She surfed the Internet and read blogs? Very hip for a great grandma.

    What a wonderful tribute. Thanks for sharing it.

  2. She has always been such a gracious lady to me. I know you will miss her greatly.

  3. Such a beautiful blog you wrote for her. She would be so proud of you!

  4. I just lost my grandmother this weekend. Your tribute helped me to write my own. Thank you.


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