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‘JUST ONE MORE’ by Malu E. Gacuma , June 20, 2017

For what could be the hardest battle to win but that which we fight against our own selves? Yesterday, JUNE 20, I had celebrated my 3rd year (!)  of being nicotine-free and caffeine-free!


During those 26 years of enslavement, I was fully aware of the dangers of smoking cigarettes. In those days, the late 1980s, cigarette boxes did not display gruesome photos of  the harmful effects nicotine causes to the human body. Vapor cigarettes they call ‘e-cig’ were not in style then. I never patronized tar guards, too.  A lighter in my pocket was just as vital then as money in my purse.They had to be together all the time. I couldn’t last long in a house that had no ash tray and whose owner scowls at smokers.

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1993- At age 27,while vacationing in Fabrica,Sagay City at my late grandfather’s house where I grew up. Holding my pet puppy,Coo-coo, a silent witness to the two vices I had in my left hand.


How did I learn such vice? Environmental influence,definitely. It seemed everyone around me smoked.Then came the brokenhearted days, when tears were not enough. So,what could be the best of friend to have, in my solitude, but a pack of those sticks to burn so I could  puff my heartaches away? I always believed then that  next to a dog, it should be a cigarette, not a diamond, that should be man’s other  best friend. So, I never allowed being left without it.

When I started working as a broadcast journalist in 1989, it was when I started chain-smoking back-to-back with coffee-drinking. While immersed with work, I must be fully-equipped with the tools of both vices: a mug filled to the brim with creamed coffee, a lighter, an ash tray and my brand of cigarettes. Without them, I got restless. Very restless. Unknowingly, it was addiction setting in.

My habitual nicotine-and-caffeine routine  became the usual butt of jokes among my work colleagues. A naughty anchorman even called me ‘Robo-Cup’, an off-shoot term from the famous Robo-Cop film in those days.Eventually, I was often remembered as ‘someone who drank her coffee like water and whose fingers always held a lighted cigarette’.

The man I married also smoked, so it was more convenient for us  both ways. We seemed to be comfortable smelling like ash trays to each other.  I only stopped –not quit– smoking voluntarily during each of the three pregnancies I had. Thank Heavens the craving dropped to a nil whenever I was infanticipating and  it lasted until I gave birth. Then the cravings returned with vengeance.

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My late husband, when I met  him in 1993.

The more I was dragged to a quicksand when times became tough and I was struggling as a solo parent. The vices seemed like a moment of respite from each long and tiring day.


How did I quit? I must admit that I owe it to a spiritual conversion. Born a Catholic, I had later on converted to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. However, I never took the bread and water on Sundays considering my unworthiness.Then I started  having a deep,unwavering desire to enter the LDS Temple in Cebu City. Among its spiritual preparations is a vice-free lifestyle to give due respect to the body. It took me  years struggling to be just that, vice-free.

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March 2015: The Cebu Temple of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints ( Thanks to my 2nd daughter, Christienne Marie G. Gancayco for this photo.)

I became an expert in trying to quit a hundred times before, and repeatedly failed. There was always a good reason to backslide: stress, bills,a good meal, skipped meals, a bad memory, a nostalgic moment,people I was with. Name it. It was called ‘alibi’, per se.

For the first step away from both vices, I ended up extremely dehydrated, with unexplainable permanent headaches and my vision started to get slightly impaired. I  had to be hospitalized  for a week, first in June then on December, in 2014 . It was on June 20 that year that I  resolved never to allow both vices to overcome me.

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June 25, 2014 -During my 5th day of hospitalization at Bacolod Doctors’ Hospital.


Nicotine and caffeine never did me anything good except giving me false adrenalin shots, a fake sense of relief and an insatiable craving for ‘just one more’. Just one more light.Just one more sip. In actuality, one more just kept going on. It was very deceiving! I had been fooled for so long! When talking about vices, ‘just one more’ actually meant ‘just one…then more.’


So, I vowed to start giving due respect to my body. To respect its  purpose. To take care of it. I persevered and went organic. I also avoided sweets. Noticeably, the very first thing that tasted so refreshing was WATER! (You see, I hardly drank water before because it usually killed my craving for cigarettes.) I started drinking water regularly especially after waking up and before sleeping (the Japanese way, as they said) . My perspiration reeked with the smell of cigarette. This lasted for about 2  months from quit time. My hair became brittle,too. Later on, my skin started becoming lighter and my hair regained its luster.

It was alarming that I had temporarily lost my voice. Whenever I spoke, it became a squeak! No modulation at all, just a thin voice escaping my throat!  I had to write most of the things I wanted to tell my children. It seemed whenever I wanted to speak, there was not enough air to breathe and my lungs felt like bursting. I knew I was ‘oxygen-deficient’ in some way, so I must let my burnt lungs heal fast! I must get out of the house and gasp more of the morning’s cool breeze! Water therapy  also helped a lot!

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PRUSSIAN SALAD : The very 1st heavy meal I took  (4 days since I checked out of the hospital  on June  26, 2014) Taken at Shakey’s  Pizza at Robinson’s Main,Bacolod City.



Each morning was  a test of discipline, to pursue  a routine of exercises as early as 5 am. The first 3 days were trying moments. I could hardly walk beyond 15 minutes and both knees wobbled. My lungs were grasping for air—not cigarette smoke anymore– and  I really wanted them to heal fast. In the succeeding days,the walking turned to half-jogging then to full-jogging. The next month, I was running for more than 30 minutes. Appetite increased. And wonders, I could carry a 5-gallon water-filled container with ease! Stamina was finally back!

 

 

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July 12,2014 – During one of my 5am jogging routine.


From a usual 90 lbs. frame, I bloated to 170 lbs after 6 months! To regulate this back to 130 lbs., I had to get attuned to the word ‘diet‘.

 

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2016 – Visiting our mangrove-planting area in Tuburan, E.B. Magalona, Negros Occ. Me at 170 lbs.

In-between, I kept myself busy day in and day out  by home-making, pursuing hobbies, writing on my journal,serving others (specifically the less-privileged children thru humanitarian projects I had organized), doing environmental  and Church activities, finding time to join my daughters’ invitations,then end the day by reading the Scriptures.

 

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Volunteering during a Church activity.

 

Being preoccupied with worthwhile tasks takes away the mind’s attention from  the immediate desire to give way  to the vices and redirect  the mind  to the task at hand instead .
Most importantly, the cravings just disappeared, for good. They died a natural death.That was how I believed it  and it worked! Until now.
From ‘Just one more’, the mindset finally boiled down to ‘No more’!
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(NOTE: The writer also runs a column titled ” The Diarist: On Love and Life” published over Negros Daily Bulletin.)

‘A ROLE NOT MINE ALONE’ (A Father’s Day Reflection) by Malu E. Gacuma , June 18, 2017

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As Father’s Day arrived a minute past midnight earlier today, my 3 girls greeted me “Ma, Happy Father’s Day!“, considering I have raised them single-handedly for 18 years now. They see me taking the role of both mother and father not only by provision but even with some physical tasks a father is expected to do, e.g. carpentry, carrying heavy things, staying up and sleepless to guard the house in times of danger , braving the worst of weathers and the threats of some chauvinistic men.

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Some of our countless roles  in life! (Thanks to my eldest daughter, Chickie, for this 2012 collage)

 

 

 

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December 2016- Doing the usual house painting task every Christmas (Thanks to my 2nd daughter, Angel, for this candid shot)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

But the hardest father’s task to do is coping with the financial demands of raising the children for them to be educated, decent and God-fearing individuals. It is not done with ease but more with pains, sacrifices,self-deprivation and countless tests of faith and endurance.

How many times have I been humiliated for asking assistance from people when there was no last recourse at that moment? How many times have I been subjected to verbal bullying for not being able to cope with deadlines of paying our rent? How many times have I been insulted and debased for trying so hard to cope with the deadlines and demands of the schools? How many kilometers have I walked back and forth, literally, to save every cent that I may be able to go home—as a provider– with food for the table? Countless times. Despite all efforts, it seems like there is always not enough. It takes blind faith to keep going on.

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December 26,2001 in Quezon City : Our 2nd Christmas without their father. With my daughters, Chickie, Angel and Clay ( then aged  6, 4 and 3 yrs old, respectively).

As a once abandoned-then-widowed wife, I may have all the reasons to take pride that today, Father’s Day, I deserve my children’s greetings to validate that I have lived up to the manly role far more better than my husband.

However, that mindset is not what I am instilling to my daughters’ individual character. I always remind them that Father’s Day belongs solely to their late father, Christopher. Regardless of his shortcomings or absolute negligence as he battled his own self when he was alive, he now remains –even in memory– as their father, in essence. Nobody can or must take away that role from him. Not even I. My children got the point.

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For this, I will still, with the least respect due him and his memory, greet him today, “Happy Father’s Day, CTG, wherever you may be.”

And as Father’s Day will end tonight, I can sleep soundly. For a day well-defined and well-remembered. ❤

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HOW TO ‘KILL’ A GOSSIPER by Malu E. Gacuma, May 15, 2017 (9:36 p.m.)

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Philosopher and Roman Emperor Marcus Aurelius forewarned us all about the different kinds of negative people we would meet in our daily lives.Of all such pitiful souls that he cited e.g. meddlers ,hypocrites, ingrates and the arrogant, I have known some and can deal with them by simply forgiving them and not minding their wayward streaks.

But the only kind I can never cope with nor understand is the GOSSIP-MONGERER who is ,most often than not, also a pathological liar!🤥
Gossiping , I believe, is a sign of insecurity,of low self-esteem, of cowardice, of malicious intent and lack of self-respect.

A gossiper’s only intention is to murder someone else’s character and reputation, then make this a footstool to raise his or her own ego. It is banging cymbals signifying nothing but an illusion.Or worse,perhaps delusion.😈

A gossip always travels faster than the speed of sound.Why? Because once a gossip is cast, it always seems so juicy to the next recipient that it mutates to a more monstrous appearance immediately,even long before the next gossiper opens his or her mouth!😶

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(Credits to owner/Norman Rockwell,artist)

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Reality dictates, that after the gossip dies down a natural death, the unrepentant gossiper remains cocooned in his or her make-believe world. 🙃

It takes strength of character , a firm resolve and a straightforward attitude to repel gossips. The buck must stop right with YOU! Once there’s an attempt to pass on a gossip to you, it helps not to tell someone else about it, right? Right.😷

However, it would be best once you stop the gossiper right on the tracks BY REFUSING TO LISTEN. You must, to prove that, unlike the gossiper, you have respect, both for your self and for others. Then come out of the situation guilt-free and able to withstand the temptation to lower your moral standard.😇

You have a right to say ‘No!’

That’s the simplest and most effective way to ‘kill’ a gossiper ! 😀

Now, pass it on! 🙂

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(‘Gossip in the Monastery,by Eduard von Grutzner, 1887)

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‘SHOTGUN MARRIAGE: A Myth Born Out of Some Men’s Alibi’ ( by Malu E.Gacuma, April 9,2017 Saturday @ 11:00 am)

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I remember having met a couple in Iloilo City before, in the mid-’90s, where the husband was dashing and handsome in his 40s,while the wife was the opposite in physiological terms, not to mention that she was more than 10 years his senior.

Not for anything but the woman showed a very possessive, nagging and inconsiderate attitude towards her good-natured husband. At one point of our meeting, this husband confided that he was only forced to marry his wife when, out of a drunken stupor, he bedded her and became the first man who did.She told her parents and this led to their ‘untimely’ marriage.I heard these lines too often.

Shotgun Marriage. That’s how our culture terms it. In this odd scenario, it is always believed that the woman ends up hugging victory! She got the man she wanted or she is obsessed with! Forget how.Just think she did,at all cost!

By those two words, one’s imagination would play up seeing a trembling man beside his grinning wife as they wed, and behind them is a father-in-law with a double-barrelled shotgun pointed at the guy! One false move and the unwilling groom wouldn’t make it to the door!

During my media days with DYWB Bombo Radyo Bacolod, in a program I had anchored (a 5-hour-program then called ‘Good Morning,Philippines’,) this topic had been raised. During the last 15-minute part of the program’s Interview portion, I struck the question “Nagapati bala kamo nga may Shotgun Marriage okon wala?  (“Do you believe that Shotgun Marriage exists or not?”) It was so amusing how the influx of calls came from men,all amenable and always with a regretful tone! “Ginpilit lang ako!” (“I was just forced into it!“)- the ruing gentlemen lamented on the phone.

Marriage is a choice and a major decision in anyone’s life. When confronted by a question whether he wants to get married or not, a sensible man needs to choose between two answers: yes or no.There  is no gray area compelling him to say ‘Yes,but..” .Remember, it is a choice. We all have freedom of choices.

For a man to profess that he was just forced into the marriage ,well, that’s the lamest alibi that can exist ! (Strike 1.)

Worst, their declaration is always preceded by another common alibi:” I was drunk and accidentally bedded her!” (Strike 2.)

Failure to make the right choice often leads to that need for an alibi, to justify the failure done ( whether wittingly or unwittingly).

Ergo, ‘shotgun marriage‘ was born out of collective alibi of men who refuse to admit they failed to make the right choice of their wives. It paints a picture of a woman as a scheming villainess who is out to build her coven with an unwilling husband as her first prey. It paints another picture of that unwilling husband as a submissive man bound for eternal martyrdom.( Let her be damned? Blessed he be? )

I always have high respect for the moral hierarchy of a man in a family structure that is brick-layed by a sacred and God-centered marriage. I’m talking about a man who is embodied with character values making him worthy to be vested with his ‘Pillar of the Home’ title.

It is the worst alibi of weak men who made a mistake, refused to accept that mistake and choose to live a lie for the rest of their lives, blaming it on their wives rather than repairing themselves.

Personally, I do not believe in ‘shotgun marriage’ or anything close to its definition.With all the aforementioned, I have all the sensible reasons NOT to believe.

Without any shotgun behind you, would you?

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Credits to photo owner

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“PORTRAIT OF A WOMAN AS A MOTHER”

by Malu E. Gacuma

May 11,2013 Saturday (10am)

(A tribute to my Mommy,  the late ANITA ESCAMOS GACUMA)

She was born in 1935 , in a family considered quite privileged during the pre-World War 2 days,  her father being a bemedalled national athlete and a  U.S. Army Major.

Thus, self-discipline was their daily rule as manifested in their household policies and regimen: all must be around the table on scheduled mealtimes, attendance to daily prayers had to be complied, all five siblings must be home on their given  curfew time, a daughter can go out on a date only with a chaperone, each daughter had an assigned chore that must be done before lunchtime, privacy and proprietorship of personal items must be respected including diaries and mails, every nook and corner of their house must be neat and organized before their Father comes home, and the list goes on.

It was a second household law for them to be resourceful and creative. To ask for something wanted ,not needed, meant to earn it and deserve it.Otherwise, she and her sisters had to make the most of what they had during those times when they were growing  up in  the economic remnants  of the 2nd World War.It was how they were trained to help their father who was always assigned elsewhere to serve our country thru the U.S Army.

At a tender age from 7  up to 9 years old, she learned to help her mother sell homemade “maruya” ( a banana delicacy) and ” tapioca“,among other food items by a railroad track in Fort Mckinley , Rizal ,where a train filled with soldiers and locals pass by everyday.What she earned, she would keep in her piggy bank,to use for her school needs  when War would be over.

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A pre-World War 2 photo of my late mother with her mother and sisters.(L-R) my mother , Anita,aged between 3-4 yrs.old; the late Teresita or `Tita Tesing’,Quezon City-based  Emerita or `Ninang` as we call her, and their eldest sister,now US-based Leonida or `Auntie Leonie`

She always told me and my own siblings about how Filipinos starved  and died of hunger and  of  diseases  and malnutrition  during Japanese Occupation  of our country in WW2.

While her three older sisters were among those  youth enlisted by the Japanese troops  to work under ‘forced labor’  in a nearby camp during  daytime , my  mother  was spared by her young age, and stayed at home with her youngest sister to help my grandmother.

They hardly cooked every  ‘small can of rice’ her older sisters earned each day. Instead, they kept it for the worst times, and for their Father’s homecoming. Their daily meals were vegetables and beans. Fruits, fish or meat were scarce. Their daily ration of U.S. corned beef,sausages, flour,butter and milk temporarily stopped at the height of the War.

This was, according to my  mother, how she learned to “ extend the life” of each meal to suffice for every family member . Her  eventual culinary expertise,including her impressive German pot Roast , potato salad  and meat dishes,  stemmed from such trying moments.

Their darkest times as a family  happened when her father was imprisoned  and tortured and among those 80,000 soldiers who were forced by the Japanese  to join the infamous Bataan Death March in 1942.

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My late maternal grandfather,U.S. Army   Major Juan ‘Johnnie’ Tambanillo EScamos

But her family’s  deeply-religious faith, with their resourcefulness  and ” a lot of common sense” , helped them survive. She told me how they never experienced looking shabby despite the poverty brought by the War.

On late nights,they painstakingly shredded her father’s old Army socks, and used the shreds as thread to sew and make their dresses from the yards of cloth that  a  love-struck , young and  good-natured Japanese officer kept giving her older and teenage  sister as a gift each time he visited their house. He left for Japan as their troops retreated, leaving a Japanese-English translation book to my Mommy as token of their friendship. My mother said it was the kind heart of that officer that prevented her from hating all Japanese.

I vividly remember her telling me, with a smile,how she –at age 9–loved to write and read despite the absence of any pencil, paper or books which the  Japanese troops confiscated from schools they had raided. My mother and her young friends used fresh “gabi” and  banana leaves and  sticks or twigs   for writing. They played games about their past lessons to keep these in their memory,at least until war would be over.

This was the experience that has drawn out  her artistic nature which she eventually formalized with a Fine Arts Major from  the University of Santo Tomas, alongside her AB Philosophy degree, which she both finished with Honors.

Students were forcibly made to learn Japanese subjects, including Nihonggo which my mother hated. She said she made sure to bite her tongue and refused to open her lips whenever they were made to sing a Japanese song.

She was too young to realize her own patriotism” burning in her soul,”as she said.

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Mommy,then newly-married,in a stolen  shot taken by  Dad. (early 1960s,Fabrica)

Her suppressed nationalistic inclination was eventually expressed in her piano-playing and her passion to write.

She nurtured her  passion for reading (which became our  family habit,especially on lazy afternoons, or after dinner or before sleeping) and perhaps, a ‘certain degree of addiction’ to English crosswords. Never a day passed without her doing the crossword at any given time.

My grandfather escaped the Death March and made it back to his family. But my mother’s eldest brother, Uncle Eli , died from the  Japanese soldiers’ bullets buried on his chest, for covering his friend, another Filipino soldier-officer, who survived.

This was another bitter life experience that made my mother decide to be a doctor. She eventually finished her second degree, in Dentistry, at the University of the East, as a University  scholar and  was among the Top 3 in the  Dean’s List.

It was in U.E.  when she met my father, Dr.Oscar D. Gacuma, her first and only boyfriend whom she eventually married in 1958.She turned  her back on a promising profession as a Dentist and declined an offer from the International Red Cross abroad, to devote her time as a mother  and wife.

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My mother (extreme right) and her sibings with their parents,U.S.Army Major Juan Tambanillo Escamos and Mrs.Elvira  Alonso Escamos.Her sisters were (L-R) Isabel, Emerita Teresita and Leonida.

In a home managed by her highly-conservative mother, she grew up accustomed to the so-called “old school of thought” where it was a household law to maintain modesty in words and actions ,whether in private or public.These were “household laws” handed down to my own generation and even to the next  (among my 3 girls now).

My mother gently reproached us, as kids, with the Elton Camp poem ,saying  “Elbows on the  table were a crime…and not permitted at any time.” This line evolved as we grew up to a simple reminder of “ Elbows off the table, please.”

As a mother, she had a keen eye on propriety, ethics, etiquettes and manners. It was not in a puritan or obliging manner.It was more of her own way of packaging self-respect and present it to the eye of society.

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Yaya Puping with my late older brother. manong Oggie

She and my father also imposed the  use of English as ”mother tongue” in the household , not even our  then-unschooled nanny named, Puping, could escape! The imperfections in Puping’s grammar and her daily conversations with my Mom and Dad are now among favorite household anecdotes.

However, it was my mother who patiently taught Puping how to read and write, until our nanny finished a basic culinary crash-course that changed her life, when she finally had a family of her own, which Puping raised single-handedly thru  her small baking business in the latter years.

Memories about my mother will always lie deeply buried in my heart and mind. She will always remain a revered person, quiet and shy as she was.

To write about her silent achievements is a tribute to her not of words, but of love. Mommy and I  may had bonded, argued, cried, laughed,shared Crosswords, whispered secrets to each other and shared most chores and decisions in life , but her conservative Tagalog nature of not being physically expressive, unlike my Dad , made us feel subservient to her and got used to it.

Her hugs were rare but meaningful.To us children, it was like a Grand Prize for something good we did.She would always kiss us but  only on our foreheads. I grew up always having that arm’s-length feeling about wanting to embrace her everytime i wanted to, without the funny feeling of like stepping intrusively into someone’s sacred ground. I surmised it must be deep respect for her as a person that gave me that feeling.

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Mommy at about 42 yrs. old, 1977

As a budding teenager, I would not have learned how to deal with the growing pains hadn’t she  guided me with her letters and wise counsel, with never-ending emphasis on strength of character and reverence for God. One would never get tired of repeatedly reading her letters also because of her beautiful,disciplined handwriting that were, most often than  not, devoid of mistakes.

A man can only go as far as a woman would allow him’” Never make the first move if you like a man. A sincere man will always find a way to let you know once he likes you back.”…..“Never let the sun set on a quarrel”…. “A mother’s prayer is the sweetest music to God’s listening ears.”

These, i suppose, were her wisest counsel to me along the years. She loved to quote  poets, philosophers, icons and the Holy Bible in her advice.Before she passed away  last June of 2007, our last meeting was the culmination of all that I wanted to know and feel.She was seated on her wheelchair, which bound her for almost 2 years due to diabetes complications.

I was kneeling in front of her, cutting her toenails, when she suddenly embraced me so tight and with tears streaming down her face, she kept repeating how much she loved me and trusted me so much!

There we were,both crying as I vowed to her that I would live up to what she raised me for.

For the first time, I heard her ask for forgiveness,for her shortcomings as a mother and as a person and I asked her the same. She entrusted to me all that she valued, which I took as a gesture of the trust she professed. It was a beautiful moment  which I will always treasure beyond any biological connection I have with her.

Few days later,my mother fell into coma and passed away.Only her beautiful memory will now remain.

I love you so much,Mommy. I am always proud to be your daughter.