Tuesday, October 27, 2015

A Tribute to my Second Mom

Luzviminda de Dios Bumatay 
October 27, 1939 - July 9, 2015
Mom, Grandma Luz, Manang Bennie, Manang Vennie, Auntie Luz, these are all names that I heard Mom being called throughout the years. I had the privilege of calling her Mom as her daughter-in-law.  I actually met Mom in my early teens, so she has been in my life for a long time, starting from my formative years through adulthood.  I learned many things from my second mom by watching her and seeing how she interacted with all of us, her kids and grandkids.
First, Mom nurtured each one of us and made us feel important.  Personal notes and greeting cards were something Mom loved to write in her own hand.  On my birthdays and anniversaries, she would hand me a card with a simple note telling me she loved me more than I would ever know and that I was a blessing to the family.  I remember her often introducing her son, my husband, Eric, to new acquaintances as “This is my son, the Sheriff.” She would beam with pride when she said that.  'Til the end she would ask me my opinion on anything, even the most minor of things. “Is it okay, anak?” she would say.  Because of these actions, I felt very loved, accepted and valued.
Mom was an English teacher and as such, she was a wordsmith.  She loved books, and magazines, reading everything from classic literature, biographies, fiction to spiritual books. Any verses, poems, psalms that touched her, she would rewrite on post it notes and place them in her keepsakes or in a notebook or journal.  I always felt very special reading her cards and letters, but I suspect she wrote something similar in everyone’s cards. In our midst of going through old photos for her slideshow to be shown at her viewing, I opened a drawer in her bedroom.  In it were stacked bundles of every single birthday, anniversary, Mother's Day, Valentine's, you name it that she every received from her three sons, her daughters-in-law, and her grand kids through the years. She kept it all.  This is one letter that I've kept from her that I will always treasure.
Mom loved music, especially hymns.  She was a longtime member of the Nestor Methodist Church in south San Diego and sang in her church choir for many years.  Mom actually requested to be buried in her choir robe.  "How Great Thou Art" was one of her favorite hymns that she chose to have sung at her viewing and funeral.  I spent some time looking for an appropriate version to include here. I think Mom would have loved this rendition.
Mom (and Dad) was generous from the start. Eric and I became parents while we were still in college. We were starving students so to speak with a baby. In addition to buying diapers and baby food, frequently she would leave some gas and recreation money for us on the counter with our names on a post-it as we completed our educations.  When she knew we were itching for a home of our own, she didn’t hesitate to help us in that way too, co-signing a loan with us.

Being a teacher, education was very important to her.  Almost as soon as our daughters were born, Mom and Dad started to plan for their college educations by purchasing savings bonds. Automatic deductions came out of their paychecks. Dad sponsored Sherilyn and Mom sponsored Allison. In time, patience and persistence literally paid off. They were of great help as college time came faster than we knew it. Mom never missed a school awards ceremony, performance, promotion or graduation for her grand kids. Next to me, she was probably the loudest cheerer in the crowd. She would say off and on through the years that she just wanted to live long enough to see her first grandchild graduate from college. She did just that.

Mom loved the holidays. Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s and Easter were always
spent at the house with a beautiful table and bountiful food prepared. Thanksgiving was her favorite holiday.  Mom would dress the table with fresh flowers, an impressive cornucopia of gourds, fruits and nuts, even a spray of wheat to add that finishing touch. She and Dad would have no less than two huge turkeys and a ham to feed us on Thanksgiving and days afterward.

At Christmas time, her decorated tree could grace the cover of Good Housekeeping or Ladies Journal, two magazines she subscribed to.  She had a knack for real artistry with making her home beautiful and inviting with seasonal decorations.  Even her gift wrap for Christmas gifts were selected with utmost care, down to the handmade ribbon that adorned each box.  For mom, it was all in the details. She loved social gatherings and entertaining guests, especially having her family in her home on these special days.
Along with being a special homemaker, Mom was also a great cook. Mom (and Dad, being a cook in the Navy) definitely fed us.  I never was a size small, but when I met Mom I think I was a size medium.  After I married Eric and enjoyed Mom’s cooking on a regular basis, it all went downhill from there. Her pinakbet, vegetable lumpia, mechado, bibingka, leche flan, and pineapple upside cake were some of her specialties.  In my early years with this family, I was amazed that getting a nonchalant call that dinner that night would be at Mom and Dad’s house would consist of these ginormous steaks, lobsters and more! She and Dad would go all around town to pick up fresh dinner rolls that she knew Allison liked, or a specific dessert that she knew was someone’s favorite.  She would remember that my dad loved her Arroz Valenciana and when she would make it, would make sure we delivered some to him. That was her thoughtful nature.
In addition to entertaining and cooking, Mom enjoyed gardening, tending to her numerous orchids and roses in the backyard, attending plays and music concerts, and watching her favorite sports on TV, like tennis and ice skating. Mom and Dad traveled all over, going to their hometown fiestas in Tayug and San Quintin, to class reunions in Boston and Canada, and going on cruises and tours in Europe. She was a social butterfly.
Grandpa Roger and Grandma Luz at one of their reunions.
One of her brothers, Uncle Nanding, spoke about a vivid memory he had of Mom when she was in college and he was still a high school student. He remembered a parade and her riding a float as one of the muses. He described her as a Disney princess. This is a picture of that day. Mom was Ms. Liberal Arts. She was seventeen here.
Mom as Miss Liberal Arts in 1956
When Mom retired, she helped us by watching her grandkids: Julian, Nolan and EJ. As you can guess, 13 years after Sherilyn and 11 years after Allison, our bonus baby would be a boy! We named our only son, EJ. Eric Junior.....Ericson de Dios Bumatay Jr.  Through him, Mom’s maiden name “de Dios” will continue on. Mom and Dad and my parents would alternate babysitting days, and when EJ was a baby, they would come to our house so that he could continue sleeping and Eric and I could leave from work.  They stayed with him at our house until we came home. 

When EJ started school, they took turns with my parents picking EJ up from school and caring for him until we came home.  Mom and Dad would have EJ’s vanilla milkshake waiting in the car and then drive through either Jack in the Box or McDonald’s for his favorite chicken nuggets, of course EJ’s top choice.  Mom kept the fridge stocked with Oreo cookies, milk, vanilla ice cream and cones ready for EJ whenever he spent the afternoons there.  Often, I would come to pick him up and find EJ and his Grandma snuggled up on the couch at their house. EJ would be nestled against her, in a quiet and peaceful state, taking a nap. Mom would tell me to have Eric come back for him later and she would patiently lay with him and let him sleep. She loved being a Grandma. As I did not really grow up with my grandparents, I’m grateful that my kids know theirs.

"Gratitude" and "Faith," two words that remind me of Mom.  She would often say, even on her most painful days and the most difficult of situations that “God is Good,” “Thank you Lord,” that her “cup runneth over".  When she felt anyone of us were going through a hard time, she would say just the right thing to make us feel that yes, everything was going to be okay.  “Trust in the Lord,” she would say. If she was ever mad or upset that she was sick, she never showed it. I never heard her ask "Why me?"  That was Mom. Last August, Mom had surgery. We prayed hard for it to be successful.  Despite her age, mom survived the surgery and we thought all would be well.  We had Mom for another eleven months.

Her favorite psalm was Psalm 23.  Randy, my brother-in-law, read it to her the night she passed. We all knew the end was near that day.  She went peacefully with all of us surrounding her at home and sending her to heaven in pure love.  All that she wanted was her family to be with her in her last breaths.  I will never forget Mom in that last moment. She was still beautiful and carried herself with dignity and grace when God called her home.
Mom's favorite Psalm
In more recent years, I would try to remember to thank her more often for all that she gave to me and my children, but I don’t think in my lifetime, it could ever be enough.   To Mom, thank you for raising this son of yours who became my husband, for he is the best part of my life.  Thank you for having me as part of your family, for providing me with a second Dad, brothers and another sister to love. Thank you Mom for helping me grow into my own as a woman, and most importantly as a wife and mother.  I will forever be grateful for your love and support, for everything you gave to me, as my Mom. I think of you daily and miss you more than you'll ever know.  Happy 76th Birthday.
The Chapel of the Roses is our view when we visit Mom at Glen Abbey

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