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So long to a real hero & idol
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She was a hero, an idol in so many ways that do not have anything to do with fame, fortune, or notoriety.

Simple little things that are so easily ignored, overlooked or taken for granted in the hustle and bustle and cut-throat pace of modern life but were the very little things that richly defined her everyday actions and deeds through four generations of self-sacrifice and genuine unconditional love – love that never expected anything in return. Were the gems that made her a hero and an idol in the eyes of those who treasured her. Balderdash! She probably would have said with a dismissive flourish of a hand whose fingernails were never touched by a nail polish, except that word was not even in her vocabulary because she never knew it existed.

All she ever wanted to do was to be the wind beneath her loved ones’ wings and to watch them soar as high as, or even higher than, an eagle. Plain and simple, that’s what life should be all about, was the way she looked at it. And that was the down-home principle she lived with.

When her folks asked her to quit school so that her younger sister could go to high school and college, she never demurred or made a peep but simply did what she was told to do. The two sisters had just lost their mother and were being raised by loving grandparents. Their father was half-way around the globe trying to earn money for the family and for his younger daughter’s education by working in the sugar plantations in Hawaii. Those were the years of the Great Depression in America.

After her sister successfully finished college, got married and had six children, her role in the close-knit extended family segued into that of a surrogate mother for the handful of four girls and two boys.  She looked after those half-dozen children like they were her very own, even though she had two children herself with her husband at that time. One can imagine what a task that was, she being a farmer’s wife and her sister and brother-in-law teaching in far-flung villages. That meant she had to cook lunch for the rambunctious children, kept them on the straight and narrow, and made them feel so loved even though their parents were absent during the day on school days and often came home from work late at night.

But her selfless dedication did not end there. She, along with her husband, also helped raise their own five grandchildren who lived with them through elementary and high school while their parents worked in the big city. And when the great-grandchildren arrived, still she found the last dregs of God-given strength left in her body powered by her brand of unconditional love to babysit these dear young ones. One of her great-grandchildren is now a sophomore at UC Santa Barbara. A great-niece is now pursuing her master’s at Columbia University where she also received her nursing degree, and now works at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in New York. Another great-niece is in law school in the Bay Area and says her grandma has inspired her to practice geriatric law after graduation.

Through all her life of self-sacrifice, this great-grandmother never asked for anything in return; nay, she never expected any compensation for any of the things she has done for all those kids. She was just happy to see that those children went on to succeed in life, in ways she never dreamed or expected. For her, their success was more than enough recompense for having had the opportunity to help mold their life. Their success was her pride, the invisible medal of achievement she wore in her heart.

Their success was her wealth and riches, more precious than all the worldly goods that she could have filled her life with had she thought only of herself.

The children she cared for and loved – nieces, nephews, and grandchildren – became successful professionals here in America and in the Philippines. One became a lawyer. The daughter became a midwife, the son an engineer. Many of them are now successful nurses.

While they flew as high as eagles, thanks to the wind she constantly provided beneath their wings, they never forgot to return to their old roost. The love she gave so unstintingly and unselfishly was returned a thousand-fold up to the end when she slipped the surly bonds of earth to touch the face of God the day after the feast of the Immaculate Conception to whom she was devoted.

Fortunate and blessed are the people who know or have known such an individual indeed – a parent, a friend, a caring neighbor perhaps – and I’m sure there are a good number of them out there.

For me, that person was my aunt, my mom’s only sister. My life will forever be richer and more meaningful for being the hero and idol that she was in my life even though she never sought to be one.