All Roads Lead Home

“All Roads Lead Home” was a tune written and performed by musician and dear friend Noli Aurillo in his latest “Noli” album/CD. He had asked me to listen it when we met again last year, after having lost touch of each other for like “centuries”. Noli had found out about what had happened to Mariel and consoled me with this song. Perhaps to tell me that Mariel is in a far better place now, or that someday I will have her again in my arms when we meet in our heavenly home. I’m just guessing though because we never really got to talk about it. But then it’s been said that “what is given with the heart should be taken with the heart”, so I will just let the beautiful music speak for itself.

(I’d like to share this inspiring tune with you all tonight, and most especially to my dear blogger friends Robert , Linda and Jan who have always had a special place for music in their own journeys.)

To Noli, thanks again, bro

To my love Mariel, this one’s for you Mommy. I love you so very much.

Thank You Mommy!

mariel-at-the-park

“All that I am, or hope to be, I owe to my… mother” — Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865)

Coming home from school, I asked Sam about the little box in her school bag that had this wonderful Lincoln quote (it was a gift from her grandma). I also wanted to know if she still often thinks about her mom. She just simply nodded, probably thinking it was a rather silly question. I guess I just wanted again to find another excuse to talk about Mariel. (I’ve often felt a bit embarrassed finding myself unintentionally “appending” my beloved into many casual conversations. Friends I think do their best however to “accommodate” this habit). That was when I asked Sam further about what she thought she had “owed’ her mommy with regard to being who she was. I kidded her that I was quite sure that she had “inherited” the healthy appetite from me. She then went on to enumerate the following, as best as a young ten-year old can. ”

“Thank you mommy for”:

– “my good grades” (she believes it’s her mom and rightfully so, who had instilled in her the discipline to take school work seriously and consequently excel in it. Sam works hard at it and I see Mariel’s passion for perfection in our little Sammy too)

– “my nice skin” (Mariel did have that unbelievably flawless complexion. Fortunately too Sam got her’s and not mine)

– “my nice clothes” (I think Sam meant mommy’s fine taste in clothes. Mariel had always been a smart dresser and channeled this passion in getting Sam clothes and accessories almost weekly)

– “our nice house” (Mariel loved to make our home comfortable and beautiful. She was always taking care to decorate it specially during Christmas. I guess I just have to do my best to continue where she had left off)

Our only daughter, in time, I know will come to realize that there are so much more to be appreciated about her mommy  (specially with her mom’s complete love and devotion to her). I have come to recognize more and more each day, that Sam is indeed becoming to be all the best things her mommy was.

I still miss Mariel as much as the day when she had left us for God’s garden. But it eases the pain somewhat each time I get to be with Sam. Because she is truly Mariel’s greatest gift to me, having given the best part of herself through our beloved daughter.

We thank you Mommy for your life of love. We love you!

Happy Birthday in Heaven!

new-mommy

Dear Mommy,

Last year, Samantha wrote you a birthday card wishing you a happy first birthday in heaven. Well today would then be your second one there. Actually I’m not sure how they celebrate it over there, if at all, but all I really wish for is that you are truly happy now and that you are always gloriously in the presence of our Lord. I’m sorry though if I still bug you from time to time with my trivial little problems. You know more than anyone that I could never get any rest unless I had shared them with you. (I also miss those reassuring hugs so much.)

I posted too this candid photo of you when Sam was barely a week old because it speaks to me about how much you had loved her– then and now.  I promise to do my best to face life bravely for her sake and shall always strive to take care of her the way you have always wanted. She is growing up so fast and I see more and more of you in her with each passing day. Please try to guide her also whenever you can because there are just some things I was never really good at, like perhaps explaining about “the birds and the bees” thingy.

Mama offered Holy Mass for you today as I make my usual trip to Heritage. We will also have a simple dinner to remember you tonight with Mama, Alma, Baguie and kids. I do hope you can join us then. And always, always remember that we love you so very much, now and forever.

Happy Birthday in Heaven Mommy!

With all my love,

Bong

Lovely Flowers For A Lovely Lady

“Dear God, The journey has been long and hard. Thank you for being with me. There is still more to do. Please stay with me… Amen”   — Marta Felber, Finding Your Way

The week ended with the yearly commemoration of All Saints’ Day. To just about everyone in our largely Christian country, November 1 has always been reserved for the remembrance of lost love ones. It usually meant bringing the most beautiful flowers one can possibly get for them. I had white ones for Mariel because she had told me once before that she had specially liked them for these occasions. The special day however had made a few more thoughts cross my mind. For one, it had reminded me ever so viscerally that in a few days, Mariel’s and my birthday shall be coming. I’m still very much saddened by these expected anniversaries and celebrations, simply because Mariel and I had always given them a lot of importance and seriousness . I know nevertheless that I must do my best to see them in a slightly different light now. As I even try to start new ways of keeping the memories alive. It’s easier said than done though when your loved one’s not there to make it worth celebrating. However, I must strive just the same because I know Mariel would’ve bravely breezed through these times.

(Now I guess I should be working on putting up that nice Christmas tree for Mariel soon.)

Through the Looking Glass

This week brought me back to where my journey had began. I tried so hard to avoid going to UST hospital this past year but I just couldn’t get out of this one simply because Sam needed to be admitted to the same hospital after having taken some “bad food” at a party and her pediatrician happens to come from the very place too. And much more, the only available room was on the same floor where Mariel and I had stayed a year ago. It was like diving to the trenches anew. Tough luck or providence? You be the judge.

For a time I was of course more preoccupied with Sam who was going through the lab tests and was running a high fever. But still the images and emotions of the recent past had kept hounding me, taunting me to confront my fears and regrets. It wasn’t long before I had finally found the guts to again walk the long, lonely corridor. To relive the days when time had stood still. To return to the valley of tears.

I must admit however that it was not as bad as I had imagined. In fact, I felt a certain kind of peace with my sadness, as I stood outside the door where Mariel and I had shared seven fateful days not so long ago, believing love will be enough to get us through. At that point, some nurses at the station recognized me and remembered Mariel. (I guess very few people really forget her once they somehow get to know her.) They said they remembered most the whiteness and porcelain-like texture of her skin. I’m not surprised though, because I had always known that Mariel had radiated such simplicity and childlike purity. That’s what most people usually grasp, that was the very feeling I had when I met her for the first time at the Gourmet Cafe. She was glowing and almost translucent. It was like old times again for some fleeting moments. And I neither felt afraid nor burdened because I was sure, Mariel was there holding my hand.

Good night Mommy. ‘ Love you.

Mariel’s Day

Of course, never a day passes that Sam and I do not remember Mariel’s love and cherished memories. But Saturday, September 20 was one we had specially marked to gather friends and loved ones to remember her on the day of her passing a year ago.

We would like to share this one with those of you who may not have had the chance to be with us on that day, but share our love and memory of a truly beautiful person.

We love you always Mariel.

Mariel’s First

At around 5:20 am exactly a year ago, Mariel was called home to God’s garden leaving behind me and our daughter Sam to try to make out the Lord’s plan for her…for us. We were at such a loss then because she was the one that held our family together. Her self-effacing ways made everything in our home run routinely easy and almost boringly simple. Until of course this fateful day in September, which will now forever be etched in our hearts.

I started this blog really to try to “communicate” with her. Because there is so much more I had not told her well enough. Like, how much I loved her and how much I had truly appreciated her loving ways. (You know these very important things are oftentimes the first casualties of our obsession with the daily grind). Now therefore, all I want to do for the rest of my life is to remind others to “pay more attention” to love. And in the process even make a few more people “discover” what an exceptionally beautiful person Mariel was.

May I please ask you to say a little prayer for Mariel Gina Francia Bello today. She was one who wanted neither fame nor great riches. All she cared about was to be with family and do every little part of each day properly and boringly well. And that is why she was truly special.

We love you Mommy.

Your Heart Is My Garden

It’s three o’ clock in the morning and I just have to get a load off my chest. In less than three days, we will be commemorating the first year of Mariel’s passing. It was one that I knew was coming but had somehow tried  to deny. Because the “wounds” are still as fresh as the day when I was roused from sleep at about 4 a.m. to be told that my Mariel is already being given CPR, only days before we had checked-in to the hospital for some routine treatment. In fact we had felt like simply going to some “picnic” and had happily celebrated our togetherness. It was only hours after I had kissed Mariel goodnight (on her toes, not wanting to give her any “germs”). Then I found myself helplessly wading through a sea of bewilderment and tears and having to tell my daughter Sam that her beloved Mommy has gone. Gone to heaven. Oh the pain was almost as unbearable as my losing Mariel. For how can I ever forget Sam’s expressions of panic and disbelief over what had happened to her mommy. It’s been nearly a year now and I’m still terribly heartbroken. Moving on, I guess may still have to wait.

I am very grateful however for the love and kindness of my family, relatives  and friends who had helped me make it through it all largely in one piece. To my Mama, Alma, Baguie and kids I will forever be thankful for your life-giving care of Sam and me. To my relatives, officemates and “barkada”, I will always be awed by your tireless support and understanding. And still to my dear blogger friends too–  Jan, Linda, Writinggb, Shadowlands, Robert and many,many others who had propped me up on this journey and had put up with my constant and embarrassing whines, thanks truly from the bottom of my heart.

Now I await September 20 with great ambivalence. Wishing to wake up from just another bad dream. But then too yearning to make sure that the day is made into a fitting tribute to my Mariel’s beauty, kindness and love. Among others we are planning to offer Holy Mass in her memory at Santuario de San Antonio Church at 6pm, then have a thanksgiving dinner for close family and friends at the nearby Parish Center. We have also prepared a short program to fondly remember what she had meant to us and share reminiscences of our happier times. I know Mariel will be in our midst hopefully reveling in our stories and for sure lending us her usual tenderness and warmth.

Mommy, I promised you once to build you a garden. I now try to live all the days of my life telling everyone how you have shown me that the most precious garden is one where true love blooms. Thank you Mommy for your gift of love and all the wonderful memories. I will treasure every bit till the day we meet again and share our heavenly garden forever. I love you now and always.

We Miss You Mommy

Sam as Hannah Montana
Sam as Hannah Montana

Dear Mommy,

I can’t believe that it’s almost 11 months since you left for God’s garden. I still miss you so much every day. In fact, many times I even half-expect that you’d be there when I get home from the office. And when those “tough days” come too, I wish so much that you’d still be there to listen to my lamentations. I miss having you tell me to take things in stride, with matching hugs and “Daddyyyy” trailing in the most pleasing “decrescendo” tones. Now I am lost in limbo hoping to wake up from some bad dream. But I know only too well that this is for real. And that my life will never be the same again. Or whole again.

Yesterday I had to accompany Sam to Joanna’s 7th Birthday party. I miss your having to dress her up for the “Rockstar” party theme part (Of course Alma and Mama made sure she got her costume). I miss your being there for her for the “Bring Me” game (you and Sammy always won). I miss that big smile from you when Sam had performed that short dance number with her cousins. I miss your coming out in your usual “best-dressed” style. I miss your being with me in “entertaining” the guests. You always knew how to be gracious and make good conversation. Now I just try to sit in a corner and pretend to take photographs. I miss coming home with you after a long day and just watching TV and snuggling on the bed. I miss your “reminding’ me to get up for Sunday mass or service. You know I miss just everything about you.

And I look at our daughter Sam today and I miss you even more. Because she is growing up to be like the fine and beautiful lady that you were/ are. I will miss you still eleven months or eleven years or eleven centuries from now. And I love you still so very much… We miss you Mommy.

With all my love,

Bong

Mariel My Wife

I fell for Mariel even before we actually “met”. Call it what you want, but I knew she was the ONE even before that fateful Friday at the Gourmet Cafe. The “affinity” we felt for each other was so strong that in spite of the short time we’ve known each other then, we had already shared many of our “well- guarded secrets”. For even Mariel who was normally cautious and deliberate surprised herself with this leap of faith. We had friends calling us soul mates and our relationship “karmic”. To me however Mariel was simply a gift to me from heaven. Because the more I think about it, why else will God want to match Mariel’s beauty with my unattractiveness, Mariel’s class with my crudity, Mariel’s selflessness with my self-absorption. God must have loved me somehow because I know I had not deserved such charity. But it was a gift too that I had not come to see in its totality save for now.

One of Mariel’s many outstanding traits was her great capacity to listen. She could make you feel you were in conversation even when you were the only one doing all the talking. In my case, she would always seem genuinely interested even with my obviously boring narrations. She made me believe I was smart when deep down I had secretly acknowledged that she was intellectually my superior. And she had made me look like the “genius” in the family, especially with my friends.

She can come across as “left-brained” but she was really also very intuitive. She could instantly sense if I was feeling low or if had something on my mind. She would not however pester me with “wanting to know”. Not until I was ready to share. She usually just hugged me and comforted me without saying a word. I miss those hugs today. So I just try to close my eyes now and get an awareness that she is still there for me.

Mariel never liked to talk about money. Or let me re-phrase that, never talked about my utter lack of it. We did not have a single argument about it in all our married life. She had just accepted what we have and did her best to make us live luxuriously comfortable within our means. This may have meant that she had to probably sacrifice the usually desirable “signature” girl stuff. But Mariel was creative as she was practical. While everybody thought she had those brand-name- of- the- stars wardrobe, she had actually just made up for it with great neatness and poise.

Mariel was also the most thoughtful and caring person I’ve ever known. She had maybe considered me as her “other baby” (next to Sam). Almost every day she’d bring home “something” for Sammy and me. Whether it was my favorite sweet food or DVD movie, she’s just basically telling me that she’s thinking about me all the time. She took care of me so much that I was “lost” when I had to buy a shirt for the first time after she’d been gone. I had not done that in a very, very long time. I also missed her packing my bag for me, when I had to go on those trips overseas. She did it lovingly, even making sure I had fresh “supplies” in my toiletries kit. She was constantly looking after me, and most of that I’ve only come to realize on hindsight.

Mariel was super-efficient in running our home. She had kept impeccable records of everything (she’s not a CPA for nothing). She kept track of bills, filed all the necessary statements etc. In fact, I was primarily its beneficiary when I had to produce all those arcane documents for the “system” after she left us for God’s garden. Then also, there’s our house which had become Mariel’s “canvas” for her love of home decoration. Mariel was happiest making our little place fit for “Better Homes and Gardens”. My only problem now is that I don’t think I have the heart to re-arrange her “masterpiece” and to tell you the truth, I don’t think I can really do a better job. (But I have to try because I know that’s what she wants).

Mariel also had a great sense of adventure. You could ask her to go on an impromptu hunt for some new restaurant or make an unplanned out-of-town trip (if we can afford it) to some exotic destination. She was always ready to support my short attention span and plainly go out on a limb for something untried or untested, especially if it would make me happy. As I’ve said before she was my fairy godmother, genie in a the bottle, full-time nanny, lover and best friend, who would follow me to the ends of the earth if she had to. For love? Oh, you bet.

So now while I admit that before I had cringed at the use of the “w” word, thinking its a bit “old-school”. I now advertise it so proudly. Mariel was my wife. For wife meant loving partner and greatest cheerleader. Wife meant the mother of my beloved daughter Sam. Wife meant the only one I can count on when I’m on my way “down”. Wife meant teacher of unconditional love and selflessness. Wife meant the person I’d like to be the one to meet me at the entrance to the “pearly gates”. So then maybe I should just ignore all the “b” about “till death do us part” and just say that, Mariel is my wife, always will.

Good night, Mommy.

Happy Father’s Day from Mariel

I would have been awakened today by Mariel’s gentle kisses and a nice, big box with ribbons and stuff. You see I always looked forward to this day because Mariel had allowed me the complete freedom to wish for anything today. Yes, I was so “spoiled” on Father’s Day. I would have customarily dropped “hints” some days before on what special little thing I might want for today and it had usually “materialized” in gift box on the day. Whether it was some “i”-something-gadget or another useless toy in my collection, Mariel would have taken pains to seek it out. But It was never really about just the gift. It was more like being able to tell me that she cared enough for things that I like and also another chance to say “I love you Daddy“, which was not something she had blurted about easily or took lightly.

But instead I woke to an aching foot because of another “gout attack” today amidst reveries of times passed and things that could have been. Nevertheless Mariel had left me an undated (so I can open it every year) greeting card that even played a tune from the 70s movie, Love Story, on the background. It was another gift. It might even probably deserve a separate post, but for now I’d like to share with you Mariel’s message to me. It was one with quotes from writer Linda E. Knight and it goes like this:

“To My Husband (and Very Best Friend) on Father’s Day.

We share a bond too deep for words and friendship I celebrate every day of the year. It feels so good to know you’re always there for me- listening to my dreams and being interested in my world…

The moments we spend together talking, laughing, and listening have made the years so special and given me a treasured gift of memories I cherish. We’ve been through everything together– pulling for each other and revealing strengths we didn’t even know we had. What really makes our family special is you- your sacrifice and support, understanding and faithfulness, strength and love. Though the years will bring changes, you will always be perfect in my eyes. Though life may bring challenges, you’ll always be first in my heart.

You’re the sunshine of my life, the hero in my world, and I love you very much. Happy Father’s Day, my love.– Mariel ”

Thank you too for always being there for me Mommy. I love you so very much.

It’s Sam’s Birthday!

It”s Sam’s birthday tomorrow, June 9. It’s also the first one that Mommy wont be with us to celebrate on this very important event for us. Well, I would like to correct myself. I know Mariel will be with us still, but only in ways that we’ve not had before.

For her birthdays, usually it was some creatively- staged children’s theme party that Mariel had tirelessly organized each year (see my most recent post). But the last one was different. As Mariel had suggested that for once we should try to spend it with only the three of us. At the drop of a hat, she had set up a short trip to Singapore for a family outing which had included a fun day at Sentosa resort . We were so tickled with the “scary” cable car ride then and had a nice time too at the entertaining pyro and laser show. I can even recall that it was raining hard when we arrived but simply nothing could have stopped Mariel from booking that one essential “package tour”. And I never saw it coming. For in about a month after we’ve returned from that vacation, Mariel will so suddenly fall ill.

I also remember her to be so unusually insistent that we made this Singapore jaunt. And that she had wanted Sam to fully enjoy her unique birthday treat. Although we’ve made other trips before, this one had, on hindsight, a burning sense of urgency for Mariel. She had even “orchestrated’ a mini-reunion at the Changi Airport with her brother Gerry and sister Joy who was merely passing through Singapore on a connecting flight to South Africa with her family at that time. It was another unusual but very memorable experience. Imagine meeting at the Airport visitor’s lounge at 1230 midnight for some much- needed bonding and coffee (only hours after we just arrived from Manila ourselves). But then maybe Mariel was really just “unconsciously” trying to squeeze in as much time with us as she can muster with an apparently slowly closing agenda. I will never really know for certain. But I am just really glad that she did it it again with her ever- efficient signature style. And that after all, she was just being herself and as predictably she was just again doing the “right things”.

If she was with us today, Mariel would have already arranged all the finer details of Sam’s little party tomorrow. She would have sent out the invites much earlier, planned the menu and ordered the cake and cute “loot bags”. Of course now, I have my mom and sister Alma who had so generously pitched in because they know I’m really poor at these things. But I also still miss Mariel’s presence because only she can provide that anticipated “order” in our lives.

But we’re not having anything “grand” for tomorrow though. Just your basic poolside get-together for some BBQ and games. And by the way, Sam wouldn’t have anymore of the standard kiddie stuff of yore as she is currently into NBB, Jonas Brothers and Miley Cyrus these days. She even requests a bit of some “rock star” accents to enliven the party if possible. Of course, I’d approve. Because I’m sure Mariel would’ve. And it’s such a tiny gesture to make. And assure Sam that nothing has intrinsically changed with her “connectedness” to her mom. For Mommy just can’t be with us “physically” on the big day. But still all the emotional and spiritual bonds remain strong. For the love Mariel has shared with us persists and endures through eternity.

To “Samanting”, Happy Birthday from Mommy, she loves you so very, very much.

Mariel As Mother

Sam and Mariel in Tarlac

We were overjoyed the day we found out she was pregnant with Sam, although I must admit I was a little anxious then about my new role as incoming dad. Mariel was however, to quote her beloved cousin Annie, “over the moon, and thankful that she was given a chance to be a mom.” Because she truly loved children. Mariel was the most “famous” aunt of the Francia clan. Her nephews and nieces always came to her whenever they wanted “something” from their own moms and dads. She was hard to refuse because she never came to you asking anything for herself. The words selfless and giving are often heard from people trying to describe Mariel. So you can further imagine to what lengths she’d go to when it came to her own daughter’s needs.

Before Sam was born, we took those much-awaited weekly excursions to the “Baby Section” at the mall to shop for the best baby things we can afford. It was like a treasure hunt every time. She’d rummage through all the baby clothes trying to find that perfect shade of pink or lilac. On the other hand, she also took great care to remain healthy and not risk anything that might “harm” Sam. I remember her preferring to endure an aching tooth rather than take painkillers that she believed could even remotely have some adverse effects on our daughter. She also played ‘classical music” through headphones propped on her tummy having read somewhere that this can be beneficial to fetal development. Mariel simply would do anything for her “Sammy”. (By the way, she named her after the female lead of the original TV sitcom “Bewitched” because she found her so lovable and bubbly that she promised to name her daughter Samantha too someday.)

Then Samantha came to us on a sunny day in June. Mariel was so ecstatic that our daughter opened her eyes immediately after she was delivered. She was even so proud of Sam’s “Apgar score” of 10. All I can recall myself was trembling and being at a loss when the nurse tried to hand me Sam knowing I’ve never touched such a fragile little thing before . I can even see now Mariel’s face like when I first met her at our hospital room coming out the O.R. Not being allowed to talk right away after the C-section, she simply gazed at me with her loving eyes as if telling me how much of an ordeal she’d just been through and aching to get a hug. But also I remember seeing a glow of peace, contentment and joy for finally we had both received our heart’s desire.

Sam was so special to us that Mariel had a small “birthday” party prepared each month until our daughter’s actual first-year birthday celebration. We’d invite both our families and have cake and all the usual treats. Onwards, Sammy’s birthdays were “little productions” inspired by every possible children’s theme. We went through Disney Princesses, Bratz, Winx Club and even a Hawaiian poolside party. Far from being extravagant gatherings though, Mariel had managed by just planning everything in advance. She looked for discounts on party favors six months before, creatively mixing and matching colorful plates and napkins while I cheered on from the bleachers and she did all the real work. I would just invariably get my “fat ass” ready for the candle-blowing each time. (Speaking of which, I have not yet prepared anything for Sam’s 10th coming in about a week. Better start working on something “nice” soon because Mariel expects nothing less.) Mariel doted on her daughter that she loved dressing her up for school plays, dances and of course Halloween. Sam therefore has an “imeldific” amount of clothes and costumes. And if you ever wanted to see Mariel’s face light up with delight, merely steer the conversation towards children and if asked, she could talk for days on end about our daughter.

Mariel loved Sam very, very much. But she could be unsentimental when it came to disciplining her “baby”. She did not give in to the expected, “manipulative” crying games. She stood firm on principles to teach our daughter (and sometimes, me included) that successful living is to a major part a lot of “maintenance work” and minding the boring, little details like brushing one’s teeth and doing schoolwork before television. (it must be the CPA in her) She did what had to be done and this consistency had borne fruit in Sam’s caring and responsible ways today.

Re-telling Mariel’s winning ways of course wont be complete without talking about how Mariel had sacrificed career over the opportunity to raise up a daughter well. Mariel had shied away from the idea of working for some promotion as it could entail allocating more time for the office and consequently less for her daughter. Every single day she would be calling from the car on her way home already giving Sam pointers for her homework and thus making more time for school work. She would also labor at the computer doing 50- page “reviewers” that made the actual school exams look easy. She encouraged Sam to read a lot such that daily treats were usually educational storybooks and not more “toys”. Because of this, Sam was (modesty aside) prominently always at the top of her class. Mariel was solely responsible for this aspect of our daughter’s development. So I know it hurts her a little sometimes that people would comment that our daughter does well in school because she “follows after” her daddy. Well the secret is out, It wasn’t really me and I was just pretty good at creating hype.

Many of you know that Sam has done very well too at musical theater. It was Mariel’s idea to send her to summer theater workshop at around 5 years old, initially to help our “baby” overcome her shyness. Subsequently after being pleasantly surprised to find our daughter excelling at this craft, Mariel did a whole lot to encourage Sam to develop her gift from God. She’d buy her Broadway CDs and videos and often asked Sam to sing to her, mostly before bedtime. It was all in the spirit of fun and games. That’s why Sam enjoys doing this on stage today. Now I have the responsibility of carrying on with Mariel’s loving legacy to our daughter. And I never fail to remind her to “perform well” for Mommy and honor God’s blessing.

I could ramble on and on about Mariel’s many fine qualities as a mother. But I guess that one Sam and I will miss most are the many days and nights spent plainly with just the three of us hugging on our big, soft bed. Whether it was reading a favorite book or simply engaging in idle banter about that next dream vacation, Mariel just loved to pass time away blissfully celebrating our togetherness. For she had wanted nothing more from life except to be simply near her baby “Samanting” (one of her many names of endearment for Sam) and me. We had never asked for great material possessions, all we had wished for was just to be with each other always.

And while Mariel may not be the perfect mother. She had worked very hard all the time to be so close to being one. And for Sam and me, she will forever be the ONLY “Greatest Mommy in the World”.

“A thousand good nights”, Mommy. We love you.

Every Day I Miss You (Part 1)

“If I had a single flower for every time I think about you, I could walk forever in a garden”.- C. Gandhi

What’s there to miss about Mariel? I’d say, a world. For starters, she had always provided me with that reassuring presence that I could do just about anything I decide to put my heart into, and that she’d be there to follow me to the ends of the earth. Out of enthusiasm, unwavering belief, respect…, love? I guess all of the above, and more. For Mariel had in her also the qualities of any good leader– knowing exactly when to get into the picture and when to get out of the way. And while we had so many “spirited debates” over the years about almost everything, she never once imposed her ideas on me. Because she had always tried to win me with reason and even better, with her example. She was first to sacrifice her love of shopping during times when finances weren’t too great. That’s why I felt so guilty when hankering after my latest “gadget” then. But lucky me, many times she had conveniently looked the other way while as I raided Apple Center. She had “spoiled” me and I miss her so much now.

I also miss her creative home decor projects. Those who knew Mariel will tell you how much she loved to decorate our little home. While her favorite themes were mostly English country-style, she had this knack for making masterpieces of even “found” objects. But I’d just say that she had only wanted our home to be plainly clean, sunny and comfortable. Bright floral prints interacted with fresh greens and cool blues. And certainly, life would not be complete if we didn’t have her favorite accents of lilac, violet or purple (yes, her signature color). While I often contradicted her ideas with my own “unique” design sense, I have to admit now that most of the time she was right when it came to knowing where to put the piano or next flower pot.

I miss her for her ways with Sam. Mariel loved her dearly, but really knew when to “discipline” her. She had always told me it was all about timing. She knew when to be firm and when to give those hugs. I am truly lousy at it even today. So, I usually end up aggravating Sam’s feelings even when I just wanted to give her some encouragement. I really need to practice more and get guidance from my Mariel.

I also miss just sitting around the house and reading the newspaper with her. We would get into these lively exchanges on politics, business news and at times times about that juicy entertainment gossip around town too. Mariel could gamely trade views on just about everything from Alan Greenspan to Brangelina. And that’s why she was never a bore to be with. She would always make you feel comfortable and knowledgeable. She would try to reach out to you, even when initially she’d appear “offish” when you first meet her. I guess she was just in some ways shy, but she was always really very compassionate.

I miss her for her “heart”. She was usually first to remember birthdays, anniversaries of friends and kin. She had always gently reminded me of these things. She was genuinely concerned about the well-being of people. Whether it was to visit a friend who was sick or to get that little present for my mom when we see her on Sundays to cheer her up, Mariel simply cared for others. And she would do this in ways that you’d never even feel that you’d have to return the favor. I’ve heard many, many stories of people she had “helped”, all of which I’ve come to know only after she died. She never once tried to share any of her little acts of charity with me. Giving came to her naturally, and oftentimes it was Sam and me who were at the receiving end.

Tonight I just miss snuggling on the bed with her and our “Sammy”. I miss her warm and comfy embrace, her nice smell, her kisses that were more like sniffs. I miss her gentle reminder of that “early meeting” tomorrow. I miss giving her those leg massages that put her to sleep. I miss coming home late then waking her up in the middle of the night just to tell her stories about how our high school reunion went. (And she’d even try to stay up and be sympathetic.). I simply just miss being next to Mariel now and knowing that everything will be all right tomorrow when I wake, knowing that she’ d be there to follow me to the ends of the earth if she had to.

I love you Mommy. I do miss you every day. There are so many things I want to tell you when we next meet. Good night.

Happy Mother’s Day Mariel!

I found a Mother’s Day card I gave Mariel some years back among many cards she had so neatly saved in a bundle for me to discover someday. To tell you honestly, I never even remember writing it and it was simply dated “May 2”. You know how it is with boys, we often look at occasions such as this, more like a duty than anything else. Of course I know better now.

And I still have Mariel to thank for finding a safe place for all the memories. For it seems like even then she knew that one day I would gladly give anything for the chance to feel once more her love even just for a fleeting moment (sigh).

The “Hallmark” card had a very nice photo of a flower garden (so appropriate for this blog) and had said simply–

“A mother’s love is like a garden, where the sun is always shining. Because of your thoughtfulness, my life has held many beautiful moments. Because of your caring, my heart has known a special kind of love. Happy Mother’s Day.”

And I also wrote further in the margin, ” To my loving wife, Mariel, who inspires me and makes me whole. To the mother of my child who gives us a reason to be hopeful each day. I love you now and forever. — Bong”

The words rang so true then. And even most especially now, when they try to reach out with my loving wishes through eternity.

Happy Mother’s Day Mommy from Sam and me. We love so very, very much. Now and forever.