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Another kind of love letter

I wrote this letter to a nephew in response to a message he left on Facebook for me. After writing and reading it, I noticed that its message of love is applicable to almost everyone. So I decided to submit it for publication. I know that many sons don’t give love to their mothers, are often short with their mothers, forgetting how their mothers loved and cherished them from birth to adulthood.

My nephew’s Facebook message: “Auntie Shirley, can you tell me about my mother so I can manage with her better, please.”

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Dear Jet,

As I have told you before, I don’t like talking about private matters on Facebook for all the world to see.

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About your mother: She is two years older than me, which means, if I am suffering from all kinds of pains common to old people with creaky bones, your mother must have it worse. At our age, we should have an easy life. Even when we are seated or lying in bed, we suffer pain from all sources from head to toe.

I pity your mother so much. She has no help in the house—such a huge house. She has to market, cook, prepare food, wash dishes, tidy up, do the laundry, mop and generally run a huge household. Even an able-bodied young woman can’t do all that without help and without getting exhausted or sick.

Aside from all these unnecessary responsibilities carried out without any kind of help from a maid or secretary, she has to tend to an ailing husband and a son who probably eats at least three times a day, plus she has to attend to her heaviest burden, her work at the university which entails a lot of thinking and writing.

You have not specified what the problem is, but whatever it is you should be helping and cooperating with your mom. Help her as much as possible wherever and whenever you can and the last thing you should be doing, if you are not that helpful to her, is to, at least, not complain about petty things, but to give her a lot of love and support instead.

When you can, please make her life easier. You should all live in a condo which will benefit, in the long run, no one else but you, when your parents are gone. There will be less to clean and maintain like a yard or garden, less time to prepare food, and it will be easier above all to entertain business people such as you and your mom receive. You can leave most of your furniture and stuff in the house and sell them along with the house so you will only need to bring your personal belongings when you move.

It is not for me to tell you what to do, but I just want you to see your situation from a different point of view. I presumed that since you asked me on Facebook about this matter, I am expected to give my personal opinion on this—which is, what is between you and your mom.

At our age, in our late 70s, most people are in “convalescent homes” being cared for by doctors and nurses, or in private homes being attended to 24 hours by private nurses. Please extend to your mom all the understanding and consideration you can muster. We are in the departure area already. You will miss her when she’s gone. Give her your utmost now. Here is a poem that says it all for you. Please read and understand its simple meaning: Give love while you can.

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If you’re ever going to love me, love me now while I can know

All the sweet and tender feelings which from real affection flow

Love me now while I am living, do not wait, ’till I am gone

And then, chisel it in marble, warm love words on ice-cold stone

If you’ve dear, sweet thoughts about me, why not whisper them to me?

Don’t you know ’twould make me happy and as glad as glad could be?

If you knew someone was thirsting for a drop of water sweet

Would you be so slow to bring it, would you step with laggard feet?

There are tender hearts all ’round us who are thirsting for our love

Why withhold from them what nature makes them crave all else above?

If you wait ’till I am sleeping, ne’er to waken here again

There’d be walls of earth between us and I couldn’t hear you then

So then, if you love me any, if it’s but a little bit

Let me know it now while living, I can own and treasure it

Lovely poem, don’t you think? Lovelier if you get the message.

All your flowers, loving words and tears will be wasted on a cold, unfeeling corpse when the one you love lies dead before you. Why not show her how much you love her now by being doubly patient with her? I am sure she is still doing the best for you and your Papa. She is not in the best of health and may be suffering from ailments even she knows nothing about, which might or could make her a little grumpy sometimes.

Give love each day. Help her all you can. You can be patient with her for the few years more you will be together, considering that she has put up with your shenanigans for more than 50 years now.

Love you, dear nephew. Please read this e-mail at least three times that I may not have wasted a word of it on you.

Auntie Shirley

Shirley Wilson de las Alas is 75 years old and lives in Makati. She admits to finding herself watching a lot of TV, which she says is not so good because it distracts her from her real love, which is writing. According to her, the poem above, titled “If You’re Ever Going to Love Me,” has been around for years and has seen many versions and changes, but the message remains the same and its author, unfortunately is anonymous.

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