She was 90 years old.
She had 10 sons and daughters.
She had over 45 grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
She was the gravitational force that kept a family that large so closely-knit. She was the force of nature that had us always coming home, or knowing that we had a home to go to no matter what.
It was with great sadness that I said goodbye to my grandmother, Gloria J. Tan. She was the only grandparent I knew on my father’s side since my grandfather passed away in 1978, long before I was born. She was always strict. We had homework during the summers we spent with her. She was a school teacher that drilled education into all 10 of her children.
She hoarded and portioned everything.
In some ways, it was odd that all gifts to anyone in the family went through my grandmother first. But in the end, I see the bigger picture. With such a large family, there was absolutely no room for ideas of favoritism or any perception that one person was valued higher in the family than another.
She loved all of us equally.
When my father died, he was the first of her children to pre-decease her. I remember witnessing her grief. She had crumbled right in front of his casket, unable to move forward, unable to bring herself to look inside at her son.
“Indi ni siya tarong, gid,” she cried. This is not right. A mother must not have to see her children die before her.
I cannot understand that kind of grief right now. Mine was of a different sort. But she lived through the same grief two more times. I cannot imagine having the strength to relive my own grief three times. It must have taken inconsiderable strength.
But from my grandmother, it comes as no surprise.
I will always love her. The lessons she taught (bulutong [pimples] if I don’t finish my rice), the idea of family that she represented, and the way she used to absolutely light up, open her arms wide and hug us whenever we came to visit. She always felt like home.
Rest in Peace, Lola Amah. You are loved.