My family recently lost a rare, precious gem. Her name was Inang, meaning “mother” in Tagalog—a language of the Philippines. She was one month short of 108 years when she passed away. Today, we celebrate what would have been her birthday.
I met Inang about 23 years ago when she was the youthful age of 84. At first meeting, she looked me up and down with a furrow in her brow and spoke in harsh-sounding tones words I couldn’t understand. When another family member graciously translated, I found she thought I wasn’t the best choice for her grandson. Soon enough, she was sniffing me behind the ear (a traditional Filipino greeting), and slapping me on the back, saying, “Kumain ka! Kumain ka.” (Meaning, “You eat!). I was in, and she became my dear friend.
Fast forward to the present. During the holidays at my in-laws, I was changing an outdated picture of my husband and I for a more recent one. When I took the frame off the wall, Inang grabbed it from me and hugged it to her chest, ranting in her native tongue words I still couldn’t understand. I later found she was afraid I had taken the frame down because I was leaving the family. My response was a warm embrace and the promise to stay. She seemed to believe me when I put our updated picture back on the wall.
If there’s one thing I learned from Inang, it’s endurance. She came from a time when if something is broken, you fix it. In her lifetime, she witnessed the industrial revolution, endured two world wars, and observed countless world-changing events. And love is what brought her to the United States. My sister in-law was gravely ill, and that’s when Inang determined to bring her halfway around the world to get help. Years later, she stood by her teenage grandson to protect him when he was tempted to take his life. Thank God she did, because today I’m blessed with a loving husband, and my kids have a gentle, caring father.
Looking back, I think the reason Inang didn’t like me when she first met me is she wanted to be sure I had the quality of endurance she’d developed over the years. She lived in precious commitment to her beloved husband until his passing many years ago, and she continued in faithful commitment to her family through the years to follow. Inang was known for her tough love, and that’s because life made her that way. Endurance is a rare commodity these days, and that’s why I look back on Inang’s life with great reverence. When I grow up, I want to be like her—someone who endures no matter what, especially when it comes to love.
“Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.” (1 Cor 13:7)