Happy Birthday, Merry Christmas

Today is my Mama’s birthday.  She would have been 78 years old. As most of my relatives and friends know, this is the third Christmas that she is no longer with us. It was in 2014 when we last celebrated her birthday as a whole family. I was grateful I was able to visit them in 2014 and spent our last Christmas together.  She was strong, funny, feisty, wise and always had a way of finding the positive in everyone and everything. Her neighbors call her Nanay/Lola (Mom/GrandMa).  Children loved to talk and make jokes with her. She was their buddy.


My siblings and I grew up with December 25 as Mama’s birthday. Christmas Day was secondary to us.  Mama’s sisters and their children will flock our house every December 25th not because it was Christmas Day. It was because it’s Mama’s birthday. Her original name was Natividad. Having been born on Christmas Day, Grandma named her Natividad but she kept crying as if to tell Grandma she doesn’t approve of the name she was given so Grandma and Grandpa renamed her Nelly.

Natividad from Navidad (Christmas) –  she was made for Christmas.  Which is why a simple Christmas song can have me burst into tears without warning.  I was at Costco yesterday. The Christmas carols were joyful but sadness engulfed me instead until I couldn’t hold back the tears anymore. I hid at the candy aisle. It was a good thing not so many people were shopping for candies. I thought about leaving my cart and just go home but I needed the laundry and dish detergent.  Since my Mama’s death, I dreaded the month of December. It brings me more tears than smiles now. I miss her. I don’t think I will ever get used to her not being around. Sometimes, when I am having a rough day, I find myself calling her name and wishing she will reach out her hand and remind me everything will be okay and it’s not the end of the world yet.

My niece posted yesterday on Instagram an old picture of her, Little Tashi and Mama.  She captioned it ” To my dearest lola💕 Merry Christmas 🎄😍 and Happy Birthday 🤗💕 I miss you 😢 and I love you😘”. This broke my heart.  Despite of the festivities around us, we are all hurting.  It’s true, even if you have the world’s best gifts and tree and food, there’s no joy in it if you don’t have your loved ones to share it with you.

Due to the 14-hour time difference, I normally call my family in the Philippines at midnight here in the U.S on Dec 24th to personally wish Mama a happy birthday and to wish everyone a Merry Christmas. I am finding it difficult to call them tonight.  I do not want to be emotional and make everyone sad.

Although my heart is broken on this Christmas Day I want to wish you all a very Merry Christmas.  May you touch the lives of your loved ones, as Mama has ours – especially mine.

Today my forest is dark. The trees are sad and all the butterflies have broken wings. 

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