96 years. 96 birthdays.

96 years. 96 birthdays. Her husband, my beloved Papa, passed over a decade ago. She has 12 children, two of who proceeded her. Her scores of grandchildren are all over the world. They have given her a over a dozen great-grandchildren.

My grandmother, Consuelo Moreno Luansing, passed away 5 hours ago. 

The last time I spent with her was at her care facility in Los Angeles a few months ago. She saw me from across the multi-purpose room. Her "roommates" were scattered around the room. Some where playing board games. Others were watching the soap opera on the giant television while enjoying a snack. Many were just chatting with each other, just passing the time. Mama sat in the middle of it all gazing across the room at a familiar face, me. 

As I approached, her eyes followed me. Her eyes met mine as a kneeled right next to her. Her eyes lit up with familiarity and a huge smile spread across her face.

"Hi Mama. Do you remember me?"

She didn't respond. She just pulled my face close to hers and did the all-too-familiar Filipino "smell kiss" on my cheek.

I looked her in the eyes, "I'm Lysa, Mama. Lysa."

"Aaaaah, Lysa!" she said as her eyes lit up her entire face as if saying "Oh yes, I remember! My chunky granddaugher Lysa!"

She pulled me in again with a longer, stronger smell kiss.

I pulled Jelo over who was right behind me. He gave Mama Nene a hug and a kiss and she replied, "Ooh! Utoy!" then hugged him tight and greeted him with the same smell kiss. Jelo and Mama Nene had a special bond which started during Jelo's first few years when Mama Nene lived with my parents. He loves her and always includes her in his prayers.

Utoy, the pet name she's called him since he was months old. Utoy is the affectionate pet name for "little boy" in the Tagalog dialect of the Batangas region of the Phlippines where our family is from. I don't think she ever really remembered his name. I don't think she remembered that Jelo, whose real name was Julian, was named after her husband, my Papa. She always called him utoy.

We spent a few hours chatting with her, wheeling her around the facility to go for a "walk", and watching some TFC with her in her room. We helped her with lunch since she repeated many times that she was "hungry". The nurses did say, "Nanay is always hungry" teasing that she's always asking for food which was very unlike the grandmother I grew up with who ate very small portions.

After lunch, she was ready for her nap. She could hardly keep her eyes open as we went from the dining room to her bedroom. We helped her into her bed and tucked her in. Half asleep she said, "Take off my socks. I don't like the socks." I slid off her socks and tucked in her feet into the fleece blanket.

She was already asleep by the time I kissed her on her forehead and said "I'll see you soon Mama". I knew that that goodbye might be the last time I saw her. It was the last time I saw her.

My earliest memories of my Mama goes way back when I was just a few years old when we lived in an apartment in Los Angeles. Mama and Papa lived in a unit above where my parents and I lived. Being just 3 years old, I remember the fried "tuyo" mama used to cook. To this day, whenever I smell "tuyo", it brings me to mama's kitchen in that Los Angeles apartment.

L to R: Papa, Mama, Mom with me in her belly, Dad
I remember Mama and Papa's apartment in San Diego that would always be stocked with Crunch ice cream bars.

Mama and Papa in the early 80's
I remember when Mama made me the "bubble skirt" I saw on a mannequin in Macy's. She said it was "too expensive" and "I can make that! Nicer than that one!"And she did. As a young woman, she was a seamstress in the Philippines. My bubble skirt was made of a pearly, peach, silky material. I adored that skirt!

I remember taking Mama grocery shopping at Seafood City and waiting for her fish to be cleaned while she browsed the aisles.

My mom with Mama shopping at WalMart
I remember pharmacy pick ups as Mama and Papa got older.

I remember how well dressed she was for every worship service.

I remember how Jelo and DJ enjoyed pushing Mama Nene in her wheelchair on their trips to Plaza Bonita.

I remember Jelo and DJ would spend afternoons watching the dramas on TFC with Mama Nene.

I remember the giggles and hugs Jelo and DJ have shared with their Mama Nene.

I remember the many birthdays we've celebrated in honor of our matriarch, our queen.

Mama, may you rest in peace. Peace knowing you finished your race. Peace knowing you lived a faithful life. Peace knowing you have left your legacy with your children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, and generations to come. I pray that the peace in which you rest be shared with your family you leave behind.