Monday, May 21, 2012

Grandma, Timeless Style

Today, we are bombarded with so many images of beautiful people -- made up, styled, Photoshopped, nipped and tucked and dripping in luxury -- that we sometimes forget to see that there is more to true beauty than meets the eye, and that comes from living a godly life. One such beautiful person is my paternal grandmother Evelyn, whose photo here was taken when she newly arrived in Manila in her early 20s.

A woman of substance and style, her true beauty was reflected in the way she lived cheerfully and positively, even in her last days, as her immovable faith was anchored on her first Lover and Lord Jesus Christ.

It's been almost two months since we buried her as she passed away at 99. Our grandma or Ama as we call her was also supermom, a most loving mother-in-law (how many people can claim the same?), doting great-grandmother, innovative teacher, and loyal friend. It's taken me awhile to write about her because I thought, "How on earth will I condense my grandmother into one post?"

Maybe the best way she can be described is from the words of a book she read everyday -- the Bible.

Proverbs 31:10-30
A wife of noble character who can find?
She is worth far more than rubies.
Her husband has full confidence in her and lacks nothing of value.
She brings him good, not harm, all the days of her life.
Not only did she bring pride and joy to her husband but also to her children and the next generations after her. I truly feel our family is so blessed today because of the blessing poured out on her by God! We are always protected because she faithfully prayed for us everyday.

Our Ama with our Angkong (grandfather)

She selects wool and flax and works with eager hands.
She is like the merchant ships, bringing her food from afar.
She gets up while it is still dark; she provides food for her family and portions for her servant girls.
She considers a field and buys it; out of her earnings she plants a vineyard.
From the summer vacations we spent with her, I remember her hands were always busy, never idle. Even while watching Oprah, she was knitting baby socks for future grandchildren and great grandchildren! The dainty made-with-love socks are something tangible we can keep for the next generation and dearly remember her by :)

One of the funny anecdotes shared by my cousin during our Ama's wake was that she was very creative and thrifty. With that winning combination, she'd use up one whole chicken for soup and roast, and left-over bits for sandwiches and dumplings. As far as we know, she never found a way to use the bones! ;p

She sets about her work vigorously; her arms are strong for her tasks.
Ama always kept herself in tiptop shape. She understood that although her earthly body is temporal, being physically fit brought glory to her Maker. In her sixties (I think?) she suffered a stroke and half of her body was paralyzed. She was told by the doctors she'd never be able to get out of bed again.

Well, those doctors didn't know how persistent Ama was! She exercised everyday and never gave up. When her therapists prescribed an hour of exercise, she'd do two hours. She never gave up. She kept the habit of exercise even during her last years when she was bedridden, putting me to shame in terms of discipline. She eventually went on to enjoy holding and playing with her grandchildren and great-grandchildren for decades to come.

That's me!
She sees that her trading is profitable, and her lamp does not go out at night.
In her hand she holds the distaff and grasps the spindle with her fingers.
She opens her arms to the poor and extends her hands to the needy.
Ama was an efficient and effective manager of her household. As an early widow and mother of five, she had to make sure her resources were used wisely. She would recycle meals, mend hand-me-downs for her younger children, and have enough left over to invite friends and family over for meals!

When it snows, she has no fear for her household; for all of them are clothed in scarlet.
She makes coverings for her bed; she is clothed in fine linen and purple.
I remember her she'd sew together towels to make as blankets -- a cost-friendly option that turned out perfect for the humid Philippine weather. Although my grandparents weren't well-off, she never left the house looking worse for wear. Up to her nineties, whenever she'd have visitors, she'd ask us "Do I look alright?" And we'd honestly tell her, Yes, Ama, you are beautiful.

Her husband is respected at the city gate, where he takes his seat among the elders of the land.
She makes linen garments and sells them, and supplies the merchants with sashes.
She is clothed with strength and dignity; she can laugh at the days to come.
Ama passed on the secret of her life: it is to be content always, to look on the bright side of things and find the good in people. She never had a bad thing to say about anyone. I know this sounds impossible, but all our elders said this of her; even the people who visited us at her wake would say the same. By God's grace, I hope I can do the same!

She speaks with wisdom, and faithful instruction is on her tongue.
She watches over the affairs of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness.
One of the things I'm really thankful for about our Ama is that she taught us early on to love God. As children, we'd go with her to Sunday School and sing worship songs with her as we helped (eat) in the kitchen or while swept the yard with her.

We love you, Jesus!
She would make flash cards and memory pads of Scripture verses both in her impeccable English handwriting and beautiful Chinese script. Ama also faithfully and very patiently tutored all of her grandchildren Chinese; if you've ever been a kid wanting to play instead of learn Chinese characters, you know how difficult a task my Ama had!

Ama made several batches of these flash cards

Ama teaching us how to pray

Her children arise and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her:
"Many women do noble things, but you surpass them all."
Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.
Ama was dearly loved not only by our family but also by distant relatives, her students, and fellow church goers. I cannot think of a better example of a lover of God and neighbor.

Ama at 88

To sum up her personal style, Ama clothed herself with humility, grace, perseverance, and love. And love is something that looks good on anyone and withstands the volatility of trends, don't you think? :)

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