Our Mom

We converged from far distances, some from across the wide Pacific Ocean, each enduring the hardships of travel to this remote island in the south of the country. But, we all did it willingly to say a final adieu to the world’s greatest heroine: Our mom.

After we had put our mom to rest and took care of countless details, we settled around a big brown milk box. What would it be like inside, we wondered. My father absented himself because he knew mom specifically left the box for us.

It was a precious moment. With our throats dry and our eyes full of tears not shed, we carefully opened it. To be honest, we all thought mom had left us a windfall. We knew she had several stock certificates, money, and jewelry. But what we saw were faded photographs, Christmas, birthday and valentine cards, and a few documents tied with a blue ribbon — all crammed inside that box. There were also letters for each of us, as she had promised.

By the time we finished going through everything, we realized the box held more than all the treasures of the world put together. It held a fortune that money could never purchase. It held the finest inheritance anyone could ever leave us: the gift of love and self-sacrifice.

The faded photographs were of us, in the small house of our childhood. Oh, how happy we looked in those humble surroundings. Those pictures spoke volumes of her never-ending sacrifices as a parent coping with five children, with only the modest remittances from our father who worked far away. We never had much, but I distinctly remember that we were happy.

Her jewelry was simple and nothing extravagant or very expensive. What made them priceless were the tags each had on them. The girls knew what they got and so did our brothers. We could tell that she spent a lot of time dividing them fairly — she always was a fair mother. But more than anything, the simplicity of her ornaments bespoke of her choice to feed and educate us, rather than decorate herself.

As for her money, there was a letter attached to some passbooks and instructions with what to do with her money. Most of it was to pay off funeral expenses. She didn’t want us to have to pay for anything. She didn’t leave us any loans.

The stock certificates were there all right — duly signed and transferred to her nine grandchildren.

But the most precious things were our diplomas and graduation pictures that she treasured. She had bequeathed to us an indestructible weapon with which to face the world — a legacy with a lifetime guarantee against ignorance.

Going through that treasure chest was an experience that will forever be engraved in our hearts and minds. I don’t even remember when we stopped crying. But sometimes through our tears, we laughed at some funny pictures or we read aloud poignant poems from cards or letters. Somehow, we had this wonderful sense of connection. It made us feel like we always belonged together. By the time we finished going through it all, there was something that extended beyond that moment. Everything in that box made us feel cherished.

In the end, we once again separated into the far distances of our homes, as the richest people in the world, having learned that the bond that held us together was not just of blood, but of joy and respect in the life of each other.

Marisol L. Verallo