My aunt passed away last month after a long and painful battle with cancer. She had breast cancer first – diagnosed in 2006 - and underwent chemotherapy and radiation after a lumpectomy. What we didn’t know then was that she probably would have been MUCH better off if she had skipped the radiation treatment completely. Ultimately, what literally consumed her and claimed her life was a radiation-induced sarcoma that she first pointed out to the doctors on the one year anniversary of the completion of all of her treatments for the breast cancer. Her oncologist had just congratulated her and had told her she thought she was cancer-free when my aunt pointed out the small pea-sized lump under her arm. She didn't live to see another full year finish. I have many, many problems with the way her case was handled by the doctors and will one-day vent my misgivings, I am sure – but not today. My uncle asked me to deliver the eulogy at her funeral mass.
We are all here today to pay our respects to an amazingly beautiful person, whose time here with us was cut far too short.
My Aunt Lina was one of the most wonderful people that I will ever know. She was one of my favorite people.
She was full of life – feisty – and fun. When she walked in a room, you knew. To me, it was like someone turned a light on when she arrived. She had a wonderful smile and a laugh that couldn’t help but elicit laughter from others. My favorite laughs were the ones that seemed virtually uncontrollable. She had a knack for recounting stories and would quickly have us all in stitches. She loved children and children seemed to love her back because she was so much fun. She had a special relationship with her dogs, most recently Sebastian and Oliver, as well as with the pets of others. She ran in the mornings and kept herself in great physical condition – My sister tried to run with her once and couldn’t keep up. I never dared to try. She had a distinct personal style and a heightened sense of aesthetics – her elaborate table settings for gatherings, her skill at the art of presentation, her lush gardens, her amazing organization, her personal dress and demeanor, her beautiful handwriting – she had a way about her that was so very special.
But yet, my aunt had a way of making other people feel special themselves. If you remember the way that she looked at you when you spoke with her and the way that she listened intently to everything that you said to her – you know. She really cared. She knew the people that she came across in her daily life by name – neighbors, receptionists, butchers, florists, waiters, sales clerks – and she usually knew something about them all because she took the time to converse with them and to get to know them. She was also amazingly thoughtful. She would call to make sure you were alright. She would clip articles from magazines and newspapers that she thought you may want to see and send them in the mail to you with little notes. She never forgot a birthday and was always so diligent about sending occasion cards and thank yous. She would sometimes make food magically appear in your refrigerator. She tended to the family’s gardens and plants because she had the magic touch – and was generally consciously or subconsciously always on the lookout for ways to help us all out. My Aunt Lina took care of us all. Just a few weeks ago in between hospital stays, she was worried because I had been getting headaches and she wanted me to see a doctor. She was the one stuck lying in bed with a laundry list of medications to take and she was worried about me. That’s my Aunt Lina.
She retired over a decade ago from her career in dietetics and had the opportunity to spend her days doing what she wanted. There was always something that she had to do. She was passionate about many things. Her meticulously cared-for garden was the envy of many. She enrolled in several literary and history classes. She performed charitable work. She made every holiday special for the family. She took care of the many children in the family in any way that she could – watching us, playing with us, carting us around, cheering for us. She was so very generous with her time as well as with her possessions. Though my aunt almost never asked for any help for herself, she was always offering her aid when she recognized an opportunity to make a difference. I think her greatest passion was for her husband, family and her closest friends. It seemed that there was nothing that she wouldn’t do for us. I had to stop complimenting her on items that she had because if she thought I liked things, she would likely try to give them to me. It seemed that no possession meant more to her than the joy that it might bring to someone she loved.
After her retirement, I remember thinking that over the years, my aunt had become a great example of how to go through life on a daily basis.
Love people deeply and be mindful of them.
Be passionate about your interests.
Be generous with your time and your possessions.
Appreciate the aesthetics… and…
Advocate peace and harmony – especially within your family.
Here lies a woman who was brave enough to cross an ocean and immigrate to a new country alone – with no other family here in Chicago to comfort her. A woman who was bold and smart – who guided the many interns who were in her program at the hospital over the years and the many of us here who were lucky enough to spend time with her. A woman so loved that her family followed her here from the Philippines. A woman who loved deeply – who cared for many of us even though we didn’t always deserve her.
Until her passing on Wednesday, I never knew a day without her unconditional love. She was my role model and one of my greatest friends. I am forever grateful to have walked in the light of her love. I will miss her every day for the rest of my life. I know that no one that knew her will ever forget her. Let us all remember her and the way that she touched our lives.
Rest well, T. We will carry you forever in our hearts. We love you.