A mother died today. I couldn’t call her Auntie or Tita. She was my best friend’s mother and mentor. In a way she was my mother too.

When I was in high school, I’d often hang out at my friends’ house before going home. I’d do my homework and projects at their place. If I could only not go home, I’d do that. My father was an alcoholic and would beat up my mom. It’s something that no one actually looks forward to facing at the end of the day.

Geeta’s mother would often watch over us as we’d study. Even if she didn’t speak much English and Filipino, Geeta would always translate specially when she starts giving me a piece of her mind. I couldn’t lie to her. It may be easier to lie to your parents – but not Geeta’s mother. She’d give me this look that pierces through my soul and she knows. And I won’t hear the end of it.

“Does your parents know you’re here?” she’d ask.

“Uhm, no,” I’d reply meekly.

“Always tell your parents where you will be, they will worry,” she’d reply.

“But I don’t have to. They don’t have to know. I go home on time. It doesn’t matter to them.” I’d reason out.

“It matters to me. You are always welcome in my home. I will always care for you as a daughter, you know that.” She’d look at me unwaveringly. “But I don’t like going behind your parents. Promise me, you will tell your parents every time you’re here. Tell your parents where you go, even if they don’t care.”

“Ok,” I’d say.

“Look at me,” She’d command me. “Promise me.”

“I do. I will.” I’d say again.

“I have your word. A person who doesn’t keep their word is nothing. Remember that.” She said. She loves giving me these lessons – simple lessons that don’t make sense when you’re young, but mean so much more as I got older.

And yes, remembered. And yes, I did tell my parents. They didn’t care as long as I’d go home on time. Since then, Geeta’s place has always been a refuge for peace and safety. Although she never asked me how things were back at home, she would always be there ready to listen and feed me her famous indian sweets.

She is also the most spiritual person I know, next to her daughter, of course. 🙂 She taught me how to worship God in all His aspects. In a way, she opened a door for me that allowed me to see God in everyone.

For me she exists in the lives of her children and grandchildren. I will always hear her laughter in their exclamations of mirth and happiness.

She will always be in my heart.

Poonam Vasdev Dowlani

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