This is my first Mother’s Day without my mother.
There is no escaping the reality that Mother’s Day is Sunday. All the TV commercials and store displays make that very clear. Unfortunately, my mother’s passing at 87 from cancer is still fresh in my mind. She left us on Nov 17, 2015 just two days before my birthday and the Thanksgiving holiday soon after.
My mother taught me how to work hard and be independent.
It is still surreal, but it allows me to view life through a different lens. It might not be rose-colored glasses, but a different lens none the less. So why this topic on packyourbaguios travelblog? My mother as a widow raising me and managing an organic farm did not afford her the time or money for travel. However, her independent, hardworking spirit gave me my drive to leave the farm at 18, join the army, and see the world.
Beyond the borders of dirt
Growing up on a organic farm was a difficult task. Working the land to support your family takes dedication and perseverance. It was all hands on deck which was my mom, uncle, and me. My mom lived through the Japanese invasion and occupation of the Philippines in WWII. She immigrated from the Philippines when she was 35 years old to marry my dad, someone she had barely met. I can’t imagine having to be that brave! She went back to the Philippines with me just a few years before my papa passed away (I was about 3 years old). She would never go back to her homeland again.
As the only child, I toiled on within the borders of the farm. I was cheap labor!
As friends asked me to ride bikes during the summer I would long to go with them, but my mother’s tenacious drive to work the farm didn’t allow for much free time. Plus my mother never learned to drive, so I was on my own for transportation. On occasion I would have the opportunity to ride bikes with my best friend Ron. We would ride our bikes ten miles one way to see a movie and dream of life outside of little Pacific, Washington. Little did I know that having to ride my bike everywhere would develop into a lifetime love of cycling and mountain biking.
When your mom can’t drive, your bicycle equals freedom.
School was an outlet from the toiling challenges on the farm. When I signed up for band, I was bit by the travel bug as a sophomore in high school when traveling with the Auburn High School Marching band competitions to places in Spokane WA, Salem Oregon and the 1986 Victoria British Columbia Worlds Exposition and culminated in marching the Pasadena, California Rose Bowl Parade in my senior year. Somehow my mom always would scrape together the money to pay for these extra curriculum excursions. She could lecture on and on (like an expert Filipino mother), but when it came to my school work and band practice, she would take on my share of the farm work, so I could complete these educational opportunities to the furthest extent.
Where to go from there? It wouldn’t be following in my mother’s footsteps to manage the farm.
Leaving the family farm
I got the travel bug and signed up for the U.S. Army where I was sent to Fort Leonard Wood Missouri in May 1987 for basic training and Fort Benjamin Harrison, Indiana for advance individual training in Information Technology. I joined the Army to help support my mom financially and fill the urge to travel. My time in the Army allowed me to live in Germany and Japan with lots of side trips whenever I had the leave available.
Where to call home?
No matter where I was stationed I still called little Pacific, WA my home of record and home base. Most of my remaining family and several childhood friends (including my best friend Ron) still call Pacific, WA home. Each place I would visit I would send a post card back of my journey to my mom. Friends and family have told me that my postcards, letters, and souvenirs were frequently pulled out for all to see whenever they would visit my mom.
My postcards and letters were my mom’s link to the rest of the world.
As she got on in years she felt tied to the farm. She had worked so hard to raise me and provide for the family. It was important to her to stay. Although she retired and friends would encourage her to travel, she felt no need and felt content to stay home and live adventures through my eyes. My mother felt at peace with the familiarity of home and keeping her hands in the soil, continually keeping a small vegetable garden and proudly giving away the fruits of her labor.
The final journey home
Last summer in 2015 we visited my mom and got together with family and friends as a reunion. At the time I didn’t know that cancer was already ravaging her body. She was a tough Filipino woman. She wasn’t about to let anyone know, let alone her only child know about her true condition.
During my last days of her life I paid one last visit to be with her during her final days. She seemed at peace as I retold her story after story of my past travels.
When my mother was at last letting go of me and the farm, I recited a final prayer for God to ease her suffering. As I said a final, “Amen”, she took one last breath. My mom was finally making a journey of her own, to be united with my papa in heaven.
My mother made the most important journey of all, to call heaven her home.
I will always consider Pacific my home and long to send post cards and pictures of my travels to share with my mom once more. As I said, it still doesn’t seem real. I’m trying to brace myself for this first Mother’s Day without my mom. When my childhood home is sold, I know it will hit me hard.
Through the upcoming difficult weeks and months, I cling to the knowledge that my mom was very proud of my service in the Army, the education that the Army provided, and the many adventures across the globe. When Carmen and I were packing up the house, I was amazed to find all of the letters and postcards I sent her. Every souvenir was on display. So I encourage you to share those travel adventures with your mom. Plan an outing or special adventure with your mother while you can. You will never regret it.
I will always keep the post cards I sent my mom and shall mourn and remember the joy she found in those far away places she did not have an opportunity herself to visit. I’ll carry on her memory and continue to write a post card to her throughout our future journeys.
Happy Mother’s Day, Mom. God bless all of you who carry special memories of your own mother.
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TiffanyMay 4, 2016 7:28 am
I’m so sorry for your loss. I can’t imagine how difficult the first mother’s day would be. Big hugs to you – what a beautiful tribute!