Following is a posthumous tribute to a dearly beloved friend of mine in letter form, which I wrote immediately after her passing in April 2014, but which I got around to publishing only now. This is a toast to true friendship that knows no bounds. This, too, is to celebrate her life that had touched many other lives…..
My dearest Carina,
There are “so-called” friends. And then there are the true friends. The real ones stand out, like rare, sparkling gems on a bed of sand. You’re one among the few.
Remember how we started out casually as classmates in a special course in college? One invitation to a prayer meeting in your house became the ticket to our journey together. Into your life, into your home, into your family and inner circle of friends, you unreservedly welcomed me. Your winsome ways won me over to you, and our common passions made us gravitate toward each other. An inseparable dyad, like two peas in a pod – that’s what we were.
And how conveniently close we were geographically! Lying below your former Blue Ridge residence atop a hill is the street where I live. I was your frequent house guest, and our “sister act” would stretch for hours on end, extending to sleepovers, almost making me blend among your home fixtures. We would do what we loved doing – sing, talk, giggle, and so much more of the same. The steps carved out of the rock on the hill slope beside your house became our private tavern. On other occasions, we would be out enjoying acoustic music at the folk house of Asian Institute of Tourism, hanging out at your cousins’ place in Loyola Heights, ball-rolling in Greenhills bowling lanes, attending parties here and there, or visiting your close kith and kin.
When physically apart, we would burn the telephone wires with our endless conversations. Those phone marathons would have spill-overs to include your two sisters, Lisa and Patty. Not surprisingly, we would dwell just a little bit more on the favorite subject of normal girls our age. You and your sisters even went as far as setting me up on a date with your neighbor. And how can I forget that weird but funny moniker you coined as our secret code for a schoolmate turned boyfriend of mine!
While we were later building our respective careers, we would arrange to meet after work, and together with your sisters, we would take our ride home in your cousin’s car which we jokingly referred to as our “school bus.” A few times, you gave me the privilege of witnessing corporate prayer for your business concerns in your office premises. In your unrelenting pursuit, you kept to your agenda to lead me to the Good Shepherd by bringing me to the ministry activities of the church you were attending. It was there that I once tearfully responded to an altar call.
Then came the time when you and most of your family migrated to the U.S. We lost touch for what seemed like ages (blame it on our constantly changing home phone numbers coupled with my wandering days). Thanks to Mark Zuckerberg, our connection was restored. But this much I will say: Our friendship was not rekindled, no. Because neither did it diminish, nor was it ever extinguished. Like an old pair of gloves, it felt just as snug even with the years and distance that came between us. Time never rendered our friendship irrelevant.
Come to think of it, do you know what suddenly dawned on me as I was writing this? How so alike our minds work! Hmmm…..on second thought, I could be robbing God of the credit due Him. I am fully convinced that as surely as you received His inspiration for your blog title, I got the exact same thing from Him. You see, I was asked one time by my small group in church to lead a devotion. After praying for God’s wisdom, lo and behold, the theme “I Am” was impressed upon me. The confirmation came when I tuned in to a preaching on TV. The topic? You guessed it! Coincidence? I think not!
Writing…..that’s another validated item in our list of “commons.” Dabbling in poetry in your youth had somehow rubbed off on your sister Lisa. Do you remember how we all were in stitches reading Lisa’s funny poem about cockroaches? Ha ha ha ha! Seriously though, your giftedness in writing cannot be denied.
Through your “I Am” blogs, I not only saw how you have matured as a writer, but also how you’ve evolved into a woman of greater substance and depth. Underneath your musings are a profundity and vivid imagery that can only come from the God-breathed utterances of the heart, allowing us readers to take a peek into the windows of your soul. Your dexterity at wordplay makes your work sound almost lyrical. They are decidedly refreshing to the spirit, evidently the outflow of intimately close encounters with God. In journaling your journey while you battled with the Big C, you were dropping golden nuggets along the way for us to pick up. Words may never be adequate to describe just how much you’ve inspired and encouraged me (and I’m sure many more out there) by how you carried your cross with grace and how admirably strong you finished your race. Yes, you wrestled with your giant, but you fought a good fight and you ultimately wrested the victory.
When I got wind of the news that you crossed the finish line, it hit me like a ton of bricks. It was a bitter pill to swallow. Tears kept my grief company. I took comfort in the knowledge that you are now in the crook of Abba’s arms where eternal rest begins. No more tears. No more pain.
In the few weeks that followed your passage, I found myself revisiting your blogs. Each time I did, a wave of unspeakable sadness would form lumps in my throat. Earth has turned a little dimmer for having lost you, for you were a sliver of light that made the world around you brighter. The life you lived is a tough act to follow. Your unpretentious nature made you comfortable to be with. You made allowances for me to be the real me……embracing me for who I was even at my worst. Not once did you judge me for my words, deeds or misdeeds. You did not reckon it as an excuse to shove me away when the skeletons in my closet started to show. Not one recollection do I have of any disturbing undercurrent that threatened to undermine what we had. With patience and understanding, you lent me your attentive ears and offered your shoulders for me to cry on.
Gently, albeit slowly but resolutely, you goaded me to the direction leading to the quintessential essence of life and the afterlife. I once was lost, but you showed me the way. Surely, your fingers have pointed countless others to the path that leads to Life. Your memory shall live on and your life of robust faith I celebrate, for the lasting legacy you left behind is more precious than silver and gold. When you bowed out of the world’s stage and finally entered the pearly gates, God must have beamed with pride and said as He ushered you in, “Well done, good and faithful servant!”
I miss you, my dearly beloved friend! Yet I am redeemed by the thought that we have both made each other feel our genuine love and affection for each other, especially during the last stretch of your earthly journey, even if only in the virtual realm. Owing to the vast ocean between us, the possibility of giving a eulogy at your memorial service was quite remote. Let this message, then, be my special tribute to someone as extraordinary as you, with hopes that God will deliver it to you. But for all I know, you may be giggling right now while reading this from the lofty places above.
For being my one-in-a-million heaven-sent friend, trusted confidante, wise counselor, first-ever spiritual mentor, soul sister and the other half of our singing duo, a big, fat thank you! One day, we will see each other again. Until then, our favorite duet of Sergio Mendes’ “Put A Little Love Away” can wait. The song will, however, always remind me of you for defining what it means to unstintingly give love away.
As I think of you now, I hear jamming in heaven with you in the midst of the singing angelic host.
Your forever friend