All of my grandparents are now basking in the light.

I learned yesterday that my Lola (grandma) had joined her husband, my two paternal grandparents, and all of my late relatives in a better place. Just as I had asked my paternal grandfather when he passed almost a year ago, I did not need to listen hard to connect with my Lola.

I felt that she was in a state of joy with my grandfather, and connected with all living things around us.

I didn’t know my grandmother until she arrived in Vancouver in 1995 and I was 13 years old. At the time, she was about 78. She and my newly arrived aunts loved telling over and over again the stories about when I had visited them in the Philippines in 1984. I was the baby of the family (my brother had not yet been born) and I could not pronounce “cereal” properly (“SEE-yeow”) and refused to eat “that sticky rice.” The stories went on and on.

And that was the first lesson I learned from my grandmother – the importance of memories and stories.

In my teens, I learned the story about how my grandmother fiercely marched up to Japanese prison guards during World War II and asked for the release of my grandfather. She had brought with her all of her valuable items and food because his life was worth more than all of her material goods. My grandparents were devout Catholics, and she knew the meaning of generosity, but also cunning. It was then that I held my grandmother in such high regard, even though she had lived most of her career as a Home Economics teacher and eventually a Director of Education. I do not think my grandmother and I are too different in this regard. Even though I have never encountered a situation in which I have had to risk my life, I think of myself as pretty modest, while others seem to see this fire in me, the source of which I don’t understand.

But then again, if I look at my grandmother’s heritage, I understand. In the early 2000’s, I did something that my uncle did with my paternal grandfather, and that was record a conversation I had with her about her life. Even though Lola’s memory was not too sharp, during that conversation I learned about the area in which her ancestors had lived and how it was a very matriarchal society of Waray people (as I write this I have found a Wikipedia entry dedicated to this and am learning more about it).

She described these tribal women as warriors who went out and fought and hunted alongside the men.

I pictured Amazon-like women fending for themselves in nature, and realized that this is the same fire that my mom has, and likely my Lola had as well. She may have been a Home Ec teacher, but no ordinary teacher would have risked her life and demanded the release of her husband from a prison guard. Lola also LOVED watching boxing when the Olympics were on TV in 1996.  I enjoyed seeing her so riled up watching those fights. This is the Waray fire that she had, and it’s the same spirit in my aunt, who served as the doctor of a former Philippines president, my aunt who received a national award for teaching special needs children, and my mom, who was the first to emigrate abroad in search of a more fruitful career and a better life for herself and for us.

Lola was also the ultimate caretaker.

In addition to running a household of seven daughters, she adopted two boys and I believe that they had a real experience of sisterhood. This sense of caretaking is still evident whenever my family gets together, no matter how far apart they live. Everyone is cared for, and everyone is fed.

My Lola and her sister were big bakers. My love for baking was cultivated before her arrival, when my “Auntie-Lola” Ethel had immigrated to Vancouver from the U.S. The Waray were also big on music and song. In our interview conversation, Lola talked about how she knew all of the traditional Filipino dances. I have seen photos of her in the traditional dress, and even though she was well into her seniors when I met her, I can very well believe she was a great dancer. I can still her humming while knitting, sewing, or sorting leaves that were made for a jewelry business. It is why in our households and at parties, there is always music playing, someone singing, or Zumba dancing.

When she moved out of our house, I saw her less often, but always remembered her as someone who prayed, shared, told stories, smiled, and laughed. At her 90th birthday celebration in 2007, she danced as hard as any of us, waving her cane up in the air.

I can hear her telling me not to be afraid of anything.

This is difficult, because as humans it is so natural for us to feel afraid and to shrink back and blend in. She is telling me to light that fire and to be fearless, and that she is together with Lolo, experiencing pure joy without human burden.

While I can only hope to get just a glimpse of what she experiences in this life, I feel a lot stronger now that she is at restful peace and without suffering as she might have been in human form. I’ll miss you, Lola.

Reposted from ConsciousPR.com

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