Earlier today, we went to a Catholic Mass funeral for a longtime friend. She died last week of cancer, after a two-year sporadic struggle with the insidious disease. I believe she is now in the glorious presence of God.
Born a Filipino Catholic, she went to parochial schools, attending Mass every day and even praying between classes. The eldest of five children, Prosie's father died decades ago, and she worked long and hard as an engineer in the Philippines to support her mother and siblings. She left for America in 1984 to find a better life. Prosie eventually was able to bring her entire family to Southern California, where they, indeed, settled into comfortable, healthy lives.
She met and married Jerry, a New Englander who moved to California to avoid snow, in the 1980s. Jerry is an equally successful engineer, and they built a stable and secure life together. One beloved son was born in 1990, and another four years later.
But she continued working long and hard. Working extensive hours, foregoing vacations for business travels. She missed soccer games and PTA meetings, homework and fun times.....Jerry always covered for both of them. She never cooked or did much housework...her mother, who lived with them, did all that for Prosie's family.
Work never left her mind. After her first cancer surgery in late 2003, when she was too weak to run to the office, she had the office come to her home for meetings. Her cancer first showed its ugly face in a hip. She ignored the pain for many months, according to Jerry. She assumed it to be the aches and pains of middle age, and besides...she had work to do.
Prosie always seemed stressed out. She was the most animated when discussing engineering work. Not when doting on her sons or savoring the company of her devoted husband. Once cancer rendered her unable to work a few months ago, she crumbled and gave up the fight. She died far more quickly than anticipated. With work gone, she had no goals...and tragically, no more time to develop new goals or refocus her life.
She sparkled with joy and laughter when with her sisters. But not when spending time with her husband and sons. Work captured her first attentions. She died surrounded by Jerry and their sons, her mother, siblings and even a few cousins. She died holding her sister's hand...not her husband's hand. Not Victor's and Stevyn's hands.
I believe Prosie ascended to heaven, and is now in the glorious presence of God. But I also believe she made some bad choices in her life. My heart aches for her sons, who, as far as we know, got less of her energies and time her than work.
And my heart aches for Jerry, too. It seems he wanted more of her for himself....he certainly had it during their courtship and before children.....but in later years, they drifted apart. Work seemed to hold her affections.
Jerry spoke during the service. The priest asked him to describe Prosie in two words. He said he had a thousand words of praise for her but the two that most came to his mind were.....charming and hardworking.
As my husband said later over lunch, think of the words Jerry could have selected.....generous, kind, loving, thoughtful. Jerry chose charming.....positive, happy, bubbly, with the ability to light up any room or any person at will. And hardworking.....for her loved ones and especially for work. He talked about what a great engineer she was. He never once mentioned that she was a great wife or mother. He never mentioned shared holidays or vacations. He never alluded to intertwined lives or a passion for each other.
The priest pointed out that God blessed Prosie with a good life: that she had a loving husband and children. I wonder if she ever truly knew that. I wonder if she valued the precious treasures that she had. I wonder if she ever stopped and counted her blessings.
Prosie has gone to be with the Lord, now. She died worn out from 30 years of stressful, hard work. I hope she had no regrets for her choices, and I pray that Jerry, Victor and Stevyn felt loved by her.
And I pray that, despite my own ambitions and talents, that I always first love, and show love to, the family God generously placed in my life.