Anyone that came to Gentle Hands would see lola. Maybe hear lola singing in her beautiful soprano voice or just playing her ukulele. She would say to everyone, “God bless you! Thank you for visiting me.” No matter if it was a 5 minute chat or an hour long.
She told stories of hiding in the caves when the Japenese came to the Philippines. And as the months went on, and she became more fragile, she remembered her children.
She talked about their stubbornness, their wrongs, but how much she loved them. She wondered where they were and how could she find them. She remembered with so much love and tenderness how she carried them in her tummy and birthed them and then raised them. Each child, she knew.
Poverty and hardship has a way of wreaking havoc on life and relationships. And lola’s children went their separate ways and contact remained minimal. The daughter who cared for her was harsh and often cruel. Burdened perhaps by the pressure and guilt of having little to give to her ageing, ailing mother.
So last year, she fell and broke her hip and almost died. She came to us and recovered enough to become a part of our Gentle Hands family. We loved her. Rarely could you find lola without a child or her caregiver beside her. They would sing, tell stories, and laugh when the same story would be told three times over. They rubbed her little feet and put nail polish on. They gave her letters and drawings and teddy bears. They loved her.
Somehow, the son who she really was close to in earlier years, came with another sister to pick lola up. Lola was so frail. So weak. We had known for weeks the end was near.
As our USA marine visitors prepared to drive lola and her children to the province, we said our goodbyes and prayed.
She put her frail arms around my neck and whispered, ” Neng,” as she always called me, “If I have ever offended you. If I ever did anything to hurt you, forgive me. Please forgive me.”
And I held my breath. “Oh lola… you have done nothing but blessed me. You are so loved.”
She wept tears that ran down my neck.
We released her to her family. Her teddy bears, her clothes, her sheets, pillows, and warm blankets. Everything that she had been given over the year. She told me not to forget her ukulele. I made sure she had it.
It was hard to let them drive away with her… so hard.
On August 25th, Lola went to be with the Lord, just two weeks after we let her go.
She didn’t fit into any of our programs and services but she enriched our lives like we never imagined. She was grandma to our children. She provided rich history for them.
She taught them to respect the elderly and to care for the aged. She couldn’t bake cookies or take them places but she was in every sense of the word, grandma to our children.
And she was lola to me, too.