“Nobody can do for little children what grandparents do. Grandparents sort of sprinkle stardust over the lives of little children.”
– Alex Haley
Today would have been my Lola Epion’s 84th Birthday. She passed away peacefully in October this year, after fighting cervical cancer for over two years.
Although I’d only spent time with my Lola a handful of times throughout my life – we spent our Summers in the Philippines every few years- I do have some very fond memories of her.
When I was seven, we spent the Summer in Cebu and because my Lola’s house was still being built, we stayed in a sort of cabin, made out of wood, we’d wash with a bucket outdoors and I clearly remember a tree growing next to my bed; it was great.
One evening I was stood watching the builders as they stacked one brick after the next, forming the walls of what would be Lola’s new home. I must have been daydreaming as when I looked down both my feet were covered in ants, they were crawling everywhere including up my legs, I panicked and screamed, my Lola heard, ran over, picked me up, carried me inside and began batting at my legs to get all the ants off. It was horrible. I was covered in bites that led to scars for the rest of the year, and I had nightmares that I was covered head to toe in thousands of little ants. But what I’ll always remember is how amazing my Lola was in that moment. She reacted like any Mother would to the sudden shrill scream of their child and didn’t hesitate to scoop me up into her arms, despite being a small 68 year old woman.
We didn’t actually exchange many words during those few visits, because her English was so limited, as was my Filipino. I would try and communicate in Visayan, and it was generally quite basic.“Where are the spoons?” or “I’m just going to have a shower..”.
I also remember mano. Mano – literally hand in Spanish – is a Filipino gesture performed as a sign of respect to elders and as a way of accepting a blessing from the elder. Usually when greeting an elder, we bow our head towards the elder’s offered hand and press our forehead onto the back of their hand. It’s a sign of respect, but it’s also to show that you acknowledge and accept their wisdom.
I loved doing this with my Lola because it was one way of saying, we may not be able to communicate much, but I do love and respect you, and I still want to learn from you.
And I did learn from her. Through my Mother.
My Mother spoke to my Lola every Sunday sometimes for hours. They were incredibly close, and when I was pregnant my Mum would ask her advice on everything pregnancy, birth and baby-related, because, well, she had been through it six times.
Lola had three boys and three girls, all natural home-births, with zero pain relief. During my pregnancy I did think to myself; if my Lola can do it, on the floor at home with no pain-relief six times – some of those times without a health professional, then I can do it all-natural, in a hospital, with midwives and doctors just a button away. She was my “See, people do it, it is possible!”.
Lola Epion raised all her children to be kind, hardworking, and generally awesome people. She was a beautiful, intelligent, and strong woman who showed me nothing but love each time we went to stay with her. (She was forever going to the market to buy ointment creams for my endless mosquito attacks).
I know she was an amazing Mother, because she raised my Mother to be the woman that she is, and for that alone she is my inspiration.
So Happy Birthday Lola Epion, thank you for being the woman and Mother that you were. Your love, wisdom and blessings will live on in your children, grand-children, a great-grand-children.
We love you. God bless you.
“The family is one of nature’s masterpieces.”
– George Santayana
Flowers from Lola’s beautiful garden.