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!

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.

Some Thoughts From Vincent

New Jersey trip

today, i finally get to write my thoughts on the loss of my friend, bong. i was in the process of finishing my first piece around a few weeks after this blog was set up. unfortunately, my stupid finger pressed something that made what i labored for around ten minutes disappear in internet heaven or hell. i guess it was meant to be since it gave me more time to fully appreciate and share with bong the loss of mariel. well, let me begin by saying that mariel has always been the quiet type every time that i met her. and this will often been mistaken by some who do not know her that well as aloof. but then i got to know mariel through bong. he would spend time sharing with me all the wonderful things she was to bong and sam, their wonderfully gifted daughter. bong would almost always relate stories about his loved one that showed another dimension — one of a loving wife, mother, daughter, sister, and friend. in the movie, jerry mcguire, tom cruise said the famous line “you complete me”. i guess this would be the best way to express one’s love for his or her soul mate. and now that i see how much of a void mariel has left behind in the life of my friend bong, i realized how much he loved and still loves her. and i am so blessed by the life of mariel who even in the death continue to take care of bong and sam in more ways that one. and i think bong you know what i mean. i am sure the she is your special guardian angel who takes care of the two of you. today is easter sunday and the message in our sunday service is about the two men going to emmaus. and when Jesus joined them, they didn’t recognized him for they were focused on despair and disappointment over the death of Jesus. i guess, at times, bong misses mariel in the physical sense — wanting for her to be with them again. but presence is not the only proof of love. it is when one realizes that a loved one will always be with us — meaning in our hearts and minds — do we get the strength to carry on. i know that bong is still grieving over the loss, but maybe the thought that mariel is and will always be there beside them is more than just comforting…it is so reassuring that the separation is only temporary. and we will all be together with our loved ones in His perfect time…just as we await the coming of our dearest loved one which is Jesus Christ. i apologize if this does not really make so much chronological sense. but one thing i am pretty sure of — it is only mariel that can complete bong. what a lucky and blessed person is my friend bong.

( Written by our friend– Vincent Huang Dy Buncio. please watch his beautiful video tribute to Mariel)