G’nyt, Bright Light.

Last Friday I received the sad news of a dear wonderful colleague, mentor and friends passing. It seemed surreal to have to say goodbye to her…It was a shock to hear about it, and when I did, despite the fact that we did not really have much time together, I was so deeply saddened that I had to ask myself why it was so. Then it hit me: Maam Flory was the type of person who no matter how briefly she came into your life, left a mark so deep and indelible.

So today on your birthday, Dear Maam Flory, I send this message out to you and say thank you from the bottom of my heart, for the mark you left in my life.

I never really was one to believe in the notion that one’s mere presence can light up a room. It always used to seem strange to me when I’d hear that, but in the past two years or so, I have been blessed to have met several people who proved just that to me.

Ma’am Flory was one of them.

She always seemed to bring with her an aura of bright light and cheer, no matter how dark or dismal things were. At least that’s how it felt for me. Whenever she’d come in to the DLSU Psych department and pass by my table, often at lunchtime right before she’d head off to mass, she would always greet me and take time out to chat with me about all sorts of random things…my blogs for one, she’d even say she had read it and that she liked what I had said. Sometimes it was about whether or not I listened to her brothers radio show that morning.  She knew how much that, next to my morning coffee, got me going after all. Or at times even about my dog Bubba. Oh, and let’s not forget she always had something to say about my outfit for the day, even though this was before my Project Prettify me makeover.

Yes, Maam Flory was one of those rare people who got to know a wee bit more of me than many others do. I don’t know what it was about her, but for some reason, she just knew how to break through my outer shell and to get know bits and pieces of me on the inside, without making me feel like I was different, or like a child, or insignificant for that matter, which is how I often feel, especially when it comes to research and the more “intellectual” stuff. She also knew how much I absolutely hated research, and how mentoring thesis groups was a struggle for me, but she always made me feel that I was competent enough. That I was worth getting to know. And more than just that, that I was loved.

I don’t really know when it started for me, my being blessed with that bright ray of sunshine called Ma’am Flory. When I look back, I think it all began on a day where she wore this bright red dress that I immediately fell in love with. I complemented her on it, or maybe I should say, I made bati her dress, and she beamed this bright smile and said, “does it bagay?” and I replied, “oh yes, ma’am, you so bagay it”.

Yes, we all know that’s not typical Ma’am Flory speak, that’s Ria talk, after all.  But she said it with such endearment and just the right hint of jest that all I could do was smile back at her and for once, not feel embarrassed or criticized for the way I talk. She said it with such love that it warmed my heart. Since then I think I let myself be and just allowed myself to say things I wanna say, in the way I wanna say it. Kung baga, pwede ako maging totoo. She also had this way of catching me off my guard, especially when some people push my buttons. I never really was good at hiding that after all…my aloof, sungit side i mean. The side of me that gets easily annoyed at people who don’t make sense, or should I say, I don’t understand. Whenever she’d see me going that direction, she’d call me out on it and say, o, ang kilay, ibaba, remember, balang araw ikaw din ang hindi maiintindihan ng masnakakabata.  That would always help make whatever inis dissipate.

In the past few months as she struggled with her illness, she, on ocassion, would chat with me over Facebook or comment on my photos and we’d have a nice exchange of words. One day, she stared a conversation that went….Ri, may tatanong sana ako sa iyo. I was like, ano po yun? thinking it was something serious, because most of the time, our conversations would be that way. Then she goes: Ria, pano mo na nagagawang maka-high score sa bejeweled. Um….natawa na lang ako, literally. Akala ko pa naman kung anong seriosong usapan. After a while, however, our conversation became a tad serious and she said that Bejeweled kept her entertained and busy on days that were quite lonely and difficult for her. She often told me how really wished she could go back to school soon and that she hoped I could visit her one day. I always told her how much I, too, sorely missed her. So much so, in fact, that her absence was one of the handful of things that made last term especially difficult for me. Often times as I’d sit alone in the department those months, I’d walk towards her cubicle and whisper a prayer for her.

The one thing I never got a chance to do, however, was visit her in person. Last December we had planned to get together, on a Monday afternoon, in fact, because I told her that my Mondays were “me”days, meaning these were days I deliberately spend on things and share it with people that make me happy, and she was definitely one of them. However, she was feeling a bit under the weather and said maybe next time instead. The last time we texted, sometime mid January if I’m not mistaken, she said that as soon as she shook of that fluish feeling she was having, I should come see her. Basta when I’m better she said. I told her to just let me know when and I would gladly go, and she said she would but we never got that chance.

And so before we lay you to rest, I will be sure to come by to fulfill my my promise, Ma’am Flory. My promise to come when you are better. Although this is not the better we all were wishing and praying for, I’d like to believe that while my heart mourns you, and many others will continue to mourn you for days on end, you are indeed better…free from what ailed you and caused you pain. You now can radiate your pure joy and brilliant light freely, without suffering and struggle. You are well. And you are happy.

As I bid farewell to such a beautiful soul, another goodbye that just feels so soon, I would like to take comfort in knowing that as she enters the gates of heaven, she now will be rewarded with such warm sunshine and love from our Lord and those she loved who have gone before her. While we mourn her loss in our own ways, I hope and pray that her family, and friends, all those who love her and were blessed to be loved by her in return, and all those whose lives she had touched, will likewise find comfort in knowing that while we will miss her physical presence, her bright light shall never fade.

Good bye, Ma’am Flory. I thank you for loving me and bringing light to my life.  I may not say these words out loud too often, nor do I say them to people much, but I love you too. Go home to our Lord and take our prayers with you. As for me, do know that every now and then I will think of you with lots of light and love, and every time I do, I will remember to smile, and put down my kilay.

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check out my other blogs! Fat Girl No More | Daydream Believer | Teacher Ria | OnADietDaw