Decade Cousins: Growing Up

I call them the Asercion Decade Cousins, even though none of their last names is actually Asercion. They are the grandchildren, and great grandchild, of Mama Fe and Papa Paul.

For three decades, starting from 1983, a child was born to our collective family – three first cousins and one first cousin once removed.

Andrew, Ruthie and David’s eldest child, is the first of the Decade Cousins. Kristin, Miriam and Donald’s eldest, is ten years Andrew’s junior. Then came, Zechariah, Zee’s and my son, ten years younger than Kristin, and Jonah, Jayna and Stephen’s first born, ten years younger than Zechariah.

I know it’s redundant to use the words “ten years younger,” but it’s pretty neat how those births are spaced apart. Of course there are cousins who were born in between and after Jonah—just as important but not born at set intervals like the Decade Cousins.

I remember commenting to my siblings at a party back in 2012 how it would be nice if a baby were born to our family in 2013. Jayna was already expecting Jonah, but she and Stephen hadn’t yet made the announcement. Not only did Jonah add to the “train” but Mama Fe was able to experience the birth of the next generation.

When our kids are young, we mark the steps in the stages of their lives by the start of each new school year. And so we come to another first day of school. Zechariah just started the eleventh grade and Jonah the first grade.

Jonah had already gone to preschool and kindergarten. But he was still so little, and those school days were shortened. There came the realization at his kindergarten graduation, at least to me, that he was growing up. He and his classmates sang how they were ready to leave kindergarten and go on to first grade.

For the next twelve years, Jonah will be at school for the full day and will have wonderful learning adventures. He’ll be loved by his teachers and fellow students as they are blessed by his kindness and sweetness. And the teachers are in for a treat because Mommy Jayna will be one of the room mothers.

When it comes to growing up, I can’t stop Zechariah from doing it. He turned sixteen a little over two weeks ago. He gets his clothes from the men’s department (no more boys or youth sizes); he stopped asking for toys for his birthday wish list; and he’s ordering full meals from the menu (no more kids’ meals). He’s not driving yet, which is okay for Zee and me. But I know it’s just a matter of time.

This summer, Zechariah went on a trip without his dad and me for the first time. Uncle Gideon Mesia invited him to join them on their vacation in Florida. Zechariah packed the majority of his things, but as I was getting together some of his essential items, I was sentimentally overwhelmed. He was going to be on “his own,” without me there to make sure he took his medications or brought a jacket or ate. For those six days away, he didn’t need his dad or me.

But isn’t that the job of us parents? Ruthie told me, in her practical wisdom, that the job of parents is to raise our children so that they will become responsible adults who can live independently. If we do our jobs well, our adult children will not need us.

Hopefully, though, they will still want us – our advice, our approval, our presence, our love.

One of my associates and our office manager brought their children to their respective colleges a couple of weeks ago. They had to let them go. I still have Zechariah for another two years. I try not to think about the future too much. While he’s at home, whenever he needs me, I’m ready.

The Decade Cousins are growing up. Andrew is a pediatrician, husband, and now, most importantly, a father. Kristin is a lawyer doing her internship far away in New Jersey. Zechariah is in his junior year in high school and will be looking at colleges. Jonah is in the first of many years of grade school. Life is moving fast for them and the rest of the cousins.

For my brothers and sisters, congratulations on raising my adult nephews and nieces to become responsible adults and good citizens. For my nephews and nieces, even though you are grown up, thanks for not growing away. And to those who are parents, take care of and, more importantly, enjoy your little ones.

Whether our children are grown up and away or young and under our care, we need to remember what Mom and Dad taught us:

“Love [Yahweh] your [Elohim] with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up” (Deuteronomy 6:5-7, NIV).

“Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it” (Proverbs 22:6, NIV).

“Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it” (Proverbs 22:6, KJV).

As each of our children enter a new stage of their lives, I pray that they will continue to grow in Yahweh and walk with Him, through Yeshua Messiah.

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Happily Ever After Part 2: Bundle of Joy

May 28, 2017 – It was like a scene from one of Disney’s fairy tales.

Jeremy and Cora said their “I do’s” at the Chrysler Museum on that beautiful spring day almost two years ago. I still remember how excited I was when Jeremy called to let Uncle Zee and me know that Cora said “yes” when he proposed to her at Disney World.

The wedding was elegant and personal. The couple was very deliberate in choosing the venue, the elements of the ceremony, the food for the reception, and even the treats for the guests—Doumar’s ice cream.

One detail that greatly impressed me was the music playlist. Jeremy put together all the music for the ceremony and reception, especially the song for the Mother-Son dance (which of course made us cry).

It was a joyful event. The love between Cora and Jeremy was evident in every moment of that day and the days that followed.

Then came another announcement a little over a year later. Jeremy asked to speak with Zee and me in private one Sabbath after potluck. Cora was working that day, but he wanted to inform us that they were expecting! I was over the top with excitement – quietly, of course, until the parents-to-be made the public announcement. But man! What great news!

“Baby Asercion” was due to be born in April 2019. Then more good news! Jeremy and Cora were going to have a Girl! After Indiana, our family and Assembly grew with the addition of baby boys. Finally, another Little Girl!

The early weeks were difficult for Cora. But her strength and determination got her through. She was smiling every time I saw her, even in the midst of the “morning sickness.” She was a cute mother-to-be and clearly looking forward to her new role.

Daddy-To-Be started preparations for his Little Girl early. Once again, Jeremy was in search of the perfect music. This time his research was for the right music to help with his unborn baby’s brain development. He downloaded the works of recommended composers to a little chip on his phone and played the music from his playlist for his Baby Girl, as she grew in her mommy’s womb.

The delivery day finally arrived. Up until then, Jeremy and Cora had not formally chosen a name for their daughter. After months of deliberation, they finally announced their daughter’s name just before they went to the delivery room.

On April 9, 2019, at 10:10 AM, Abigail Mesia Asercion was born.

Abigail—Hebrew name meaning “joy of the father.”

What a perfect name for Jeremy and Cora’s daughter! I could see the absolute JOY on Jeremy’s face every time he gazed at the tiny face of his Baby Girl and cradled her in his arms. And he was so excited to play the different classical pieces and watch her reactions. When Jeremy played Ravel’s “Bolero” for Abby for the first time, she seemed to settle down and listen as the opening strains gently filled the room. This, of course, delighted Jeremy since Bolero was the piece he wanted his Papa Paul to sing-hum as Papa pushed him in the stroller late at night.

Little Abby definitely captured her mother’s heart, too. Even in her discomfort from the delivery, Cora lovingly cradled her Baby Girl to comfort and feed her. And the new Mommy happily agreed whenever a visitor said how cute her baby daughter was. Cora seemed to enjoy how excited we all were to hold and admire her newborn infant.

With everything going on in the world, that little hospital room became an oasis of joy. Yahweh smiled on Cora and Jeremy and made another dream come true by bringing them Abigail.

“Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights…” (James 1 17, NIV).

To the Mesia family: You have a little girl after so many boys. She has a lot of cousins to be her body guards. We are so happy that Cora is part of our family. And now we have Abby. Thank you for sharing them with us.

To Papa Louie and Mama Sally: Congratulations on the addition of another branch to your family tree. You both have so much love to give. Each of your grandchildren are blessed to have you in their lives. May Yahweh continue to give you good health and strength as you care for another generation and nurture them in the Word of Yahweh.

To Auntie Jayna: It is most certain that Abby will feel so much love from you and enjoy many fun, and silly, moments with her jolly Uncle Stephen. She will learn a lot from Kuya Jonah and have “girls’” playtime with Ate Indie. I hope you will have many Auntie-Niece moments. I can tell you, they make for some of the best of memories.

To the new parents, Cora and Jeremy: You have brought so many exciting moments into our lives. We celebrated at your wedding and now we rejoice at the birth of Abby. What a blessed little girl she is. She will learn from you, Cora, how to be strong and brave and still be a beautiful young woman full of grace, dignity and respectability. She will learn from you, Jeremy, to love music and the pursuit of knowledge, and to appreciate your gentleness and patience. You are the perfect parents for her. Thank you for letting us be not just witnesses but participants in your new adventure.

To Abigail: Welcome Little One! We all greet you with our open arms and hearts. Your parents named you well. The moment you were born, Yahweh filled our entire family with joy. You will learn very quickly how much joy you bring to your parents. And in time I pray that you will know that you are the Joy of your Father in Heaven. You bring Him great pleasure, Sweet Girl.

I pray that Yahweh will grant that you and your parents will continue to live Happily Ever After….

One to One Hundred

Last month, members of my family and I were honored to attend the 100thbirthday celebration of a special woman, Mrs. Paz Peng. (Somehow it seems appropriate to use numerals instead of letters in this situation. A three-digit number to designate a person’s age is indeed extraordinary).

The invitation from Mrs. Peng’s daughter, Aileen, to this momentous event brought to mind a happy, simpler time in my life. That time included Mom and Dad, Mrs. Peng, her sister Ate Raquel, and our families.

The celebration was a wonderful tribute. The family presented a video documentary, put together by a niece and her husband, of Mrs. Peng’s life. We learned that Mrs. Peng was named “Paz” because of the peace the world enjoyed one year after the end of World War I. We were taken through her life—her childhood, her school years, her work life. We learned of her courtship and marriage to her love and partner in life, Mr. Peng.

Mr. and Mrs. Peng enjoyed a long life together –with Mr. Peng living a little past his 100thbirthday. There were times of hardship, but there were more times of peace and prosperity.

For me, the most touching part of the program was when Mrs. Peng gave her remarks. She thanked all those who made the celebration possible. She also acknowledged the friends who had been part of her life. Included were “Paul and Fe Asercion,” Dad and Mom. It was because of her friendship with our parents that my siblings and I, along with our spouses, were blessed to be a part of this wonderful occasion.

Mrs. Peng’s life has been filled with many “riches.” What she cherishes most are not her material possessions or professional acclaim, but the love of her family and friends. She has been able to live a life of service that has touched and enriched so many people. The world has been a better place for the past century because of Mrs. Peng.

Go back in time one week before this centennial event. It was the First birthday celebration of a special little boy, Joseph.

It wasn’t too long ago when we drove to Hampton to meet the newest edition to the Lorenzo and Espino families. And just shy of one year later, we gathered at the Virginia Aquarium for the birthday party of Stephanie and Ray’s soon-to-be-one-year-old son.

The birthday celebrant had a grand time – walking around, while Lolo Frank guarded his every step. Ninang Jayna decorated with the “Finding Nemo” décor, which added that special personalized touch. Daddy Ray provided the music (probably the most special “DJ gig” he has had to date), and Mommy Stephanie made sure all activities went according to plan.

Grandma Ruthie, Lola Tina, and Grandpa David greeted family and friends as we sat among the water creatures “under the sea.” And we all enjoyed not only the food but the exhibits—some of the guests seeing the aquarium for the first time.

Then came the cake. It was a beautiful baked work of art. And little Joseph had his own “smash” cake. There he sat in his high chair with his cake on his tray, surrounded by dozens of onlookers. At first, he didn’t know what to make of it. Then he patted the cake with his right hand. Immediately, his face lit up with a smile. Hmm…something different. After a few more pats, he had enough.

First, he flung the icing off his little hand. Then, in what is becoming a signature Joseph move, he took one swipe at the cake and sent it flying off his tray. It was good Lolo Frank was right there to catch the cake before it hit the floor. But the “OHHH!” that erupted startled Joseph and sent him into tears. Thus ended his happy cake ceremony.

Joseph’s party was a great time. As Uncle Zeek commentated, everyone had a good time—not just the kids, but the uncles and aunties, too. He thought that was the best kind of party.

Two birthday celebrations: the first to celebrate 365 days of life; the second to commemorate more than 36,500 days. One year to 100 years.

Although a difference of 99 years separates them, Joseph and Mrs. Peng actually have a lot in common. Both of their lives are filled with people who love them and who have been blessed by them.

And they both have a Heavenly Father who loves them and has loved them since before the foundation of the earth.

Mrs. Peng spoke of her faith. It is evident that she lived her life following the One who gave her life. Because of her faithfulness, Yahweh has truly blessed her and continues to bless her.

Joseph is blessed because of the faithfulness of his parents, his parents’ parents and their parents. It states in the Bible that Yahweh will bless the children of those who are faithful to Him. Perhaps the most touching moment of the birthday celebration was when Joseph’s Daddy prayed and gave his thanks to Yahweh for his little boy and for the blessings He has given them over the past year. Joseph is taking his first steps on a strong foundation of faith.

I am grateful to Mrs. Peng for including our family, especially Mom and Dad, as a valued part of her life. May she always be surrounded by the love of those who mean so much to her and who treasure her in return. The world continues to be a better place with her in it.

For Joseph, I wish your days and years to be filled with the joy of childhood (even into your adulthood), the security of the care and guidance of your parents and grandparents, and the love and support of all of us who are so blessed to be a part of your life. Yahweh has a special purpose for you. It is exciting to watch you grow in His grace.

“Surely goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of [Yahweh] forever” (Psalm 23:6, NIV)

May Yahweh’s love and goodness fill our days. And may we dwell together with Yahweh, and with our loved ones who have gone before us, forever.

*****************

Of note, the week before Joseph’s birthday party, we held the baby shower for Jeremy and Cora.

To be continued….

One Plus One Equals Three: New Birth

I remember the day Andrew was born.

Well, it started the day before. Dad drove Mom, Miriam and me to the hospital when we got the call from David that Ruthie was there in labor. We waited awhile but ended up going home before Baby Lorenzo arrived. When we went back the next day, we weren’t able to hold Andrew because he was on antibiotics. I felt so sorry for him, with the IV attached to his little scalp. But Ruthie and David’s firstbborn finally came home healthy and loved.

Happiness is a brand-new baby.

In 2014, we mourned the loss of Mama Fe. It was pretty tough as Mother’s Day approached, the first one without Mom. Zee and Zechariah planned to take me out for brunch. We invited any family members who wanted to join us. The RSVP’s came trickling in — Louie and Sally, Jayna and Stephen with Jonah, Jeremy and Cora, and Rob and Karen. The Lorenzos, except for Andrew, would be out of town that weekend. Andrew sent me a message that he would be coming and asked if he could bring a “plus 1.”

We all had our guesses on who the “plus 1” might be, but we had to wait for Mother’s Day to get the happy confirmation that Andrew’s “plus 1” was Aiden.

I don’t really use the word “bittersweet,” but that Mother’s Day was just that. It was exciting to see Andrew with his new girlfriend. But I wished Mom and Dad could have seen these four grandchildren so happy with their spouses and soon-to-be’s. We all were really missing Mom, but being together and enjoying Andrew’s surprise took some of the sting out of her absence.

Happiness is a brand-new “plus 1.”

Two years later, One plus One became One. Andrew and Aiden pledged their love to each other on their wedding day.

Happiness is a brand-new husband and wife.

And last month, One plus One became Three — Nathaniel Andrew Quijano Lorenzo was born on November 2.

Zee, Zechariah and I were visiting Auntie Puring at the hospital when I got the text from Ruthie that Andrew had brought Aiden to a different hospital. The three of us transferred hospitals and went to the maternity floor to wait for the arrival of Baby Lorenzo.

At 1:56AM Andrew and Aiden became parents.

Happiness is a brand-new baby.

As it turned out, my family welcomed Nathan into the world within hours of saying our final good-byes to Auntie Puring. As one life was ending, a new life was just beginning. Auntie left us the following week. She never got to see Nathan, but she knew of his birth. And she was happy.

There’s that word again — bittersweet.

But perhaps that is how Yahweh has planned our lives. It’s hard to take bitterness by itself. And even sweetness can be too much. But if you blend the two, they are much easier to swallow.

Solomon knew very well the dichotomy of life, as he wrote in Ecclesiastes: “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens: a time to be born and a time to die…. A time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance” (Ecclesiastes 3:1-2a and 4, NIV).

It’s a given for every peak, there will be a valley. Even in the deepest of life’s valleys, the Bible gives us great hope:

“…weeping may stay for the night, but rejoicing comes in the morning” (Psalm 30:5b, NIV).

“…I will turn their mourning into gladness; I will give them comfort and joy instead of sorrow” (Jeremiah 31:13, NIV).

Andrew and Aiden: You may not realize how you both have brought happiness into my life during times of great loss. Yahweh blessed your union by bringing you a beautiful Baby Boy. Nathan is so very blessed to have parents who love him and can provide for all his needs. Not only will you surround him with love, but you will raise him to know and love Yahweh and Yeshua. Thank you so much for sharing your “Bundle of Joy” with the Zuniga family.

Ruby and Adam: Congratulations on the birth of your first grandchild. How exciting for you! I can see how much Mamang Ruby loves her new apo. Nathan is blessed by your loving and generous heart.

Ruthie and David: Congratulations on being blessed with another grandson. There definitely is plenty of love from Grandma and Grandpa to go around. May Yahweh continue to grow your family.

Happiness is a brand-new grandson.

When I look back at this year, I will hold on to the happiness that it has brought. Yahweh has a purpose for “thorns” in our lives, but I don’t think He means for us to allow them to continue to pierce our souls. I like to think that He wants for us to grow beyond the thorns and to look to the roses, to the beauty He has provided for us. He has gifted us with life and opportunities to show our love to each other. So, I choose to move forward and spend more time “smelling the roses” and rejoicing in all the wonderful blessings Yahweh has provided.

I think I’ll label 2018 the “Year of New Birth”—of Baby Joseph and Baby Nathan joining our family. And as this year ends, I look forward to new beginnings.

Baby Nathan: You have come at just the right time. In a year filled with valleys of pain and sadness, your birth shows the faithfulness of Yahweh to bring “joy in the morning.” You are a symbol of life moving forward — of possibilities for new beginnings. Of hope for a bright future.

Happiness is Baby Nathan! I love you! ~ Nina Nina.

Dear Auntie

Dear Auntie,

Ate Lina and Ate Cristi told me how much you enjoyed reading the letters we wrote to you on your cards. So, I thought I’d write you one last time.

I remember when you first came from the Philippines to live with us. We didn’t have aunties or uncles to dote on us like the other kids. So, I was so excited to finally have “Auntie Puring” for our own.

Soon after you arrived, you gave me your black slip-on shoes because I liked them so much. It was my first pair of grownup shoes. I’m glad I was able to return the favor by giving you some of my gently-used shoes. Whenever you would wear a pair I had given you to church, you would point to your feet to make sure I saw them.

You are such a giving Auntie and Mama. You always gave Zechariah a birthday gift. And if you ever forgot, which was rare, you felt so badly. But then you would give him something the following week. To your grownup pamangkin, you would apologize for not giving us anything for our birthdays. But, Auntie, you have given us so much. Getting a warm greeting from you with your smile and hug were all we needed.

It’s hard to believe we won’t see your beautiful smiling face or hear your laughter again. Your family held your memorial and funeral services this past weekend. Oh, Auntie, you would have been so very proud of them all. Your apo gave wonderful tributes to you. Each and every one of them had their special memories to share.

They shared your humorous side. Their stories of how your quick-witted responses often caught them off guard brought laughter to the service. I know you would have wanted us to remember the happy times.

But your apo had another common theme — how very spiritual you are. Most of them recounted how you had morning and evening worship with them and how you always reminded them to pray. Your faith runs deep and strong. And your witness, through your words and actions, is far-reaching. This past weekend, we heard how your love for and faithfulness to Yahweh have made a strong impression on your grandchildren.

You have touched so many lives, Auntie. You know all the members of The Assembly of Yah love you. You are their Mama Puring, too. And because of how important you are to them, your Luna pamangkin traveled to show their love for you. They brought your beloved sister, Auntie Ising, to be here. When Auntie Ising held the program with your picture, she kept staring at you and saying how “maganda” and “matalino” you are. Her precious memories of you made her so very proud.

Auntie, there are so many qualities about you that make you special. Every one of your children have those qualities, but each has a particular one that stands out.

Ate Aida has taken on the leadership role of being the eldest. Even though she might be taking a step back, she has your decision-making quality and firmness to make sure things were as they should be. She and Kuya Vic opened their home to family and friends on so many occasions to demonstrate your hospitality.

Kuya Rey had your humor. We had the great privilege of having him live with us. He brought so much laughter and enjoyment to our lives. Whenever we visited their home, he and Ate Wennie made sure to make us feel welcomed.

Kuya Dante demonstrates your generosity. He opened up his apartment to us and treated us out when we visited the Philippines in 1972. He could be counted on to provide financial help where there was need. And like you, he is the protector.

Ate Cristi shows your sense for decorum. She always wants to make sure everyone is treated well and with respect. All the events she and Kuya Remo hosted through the years, including my bridal shower, were well-planned and so enjoyable. Ate Cristi always goes above and beyond, just like you.

Ate Lina has your quality of service to and appreciation for others. When Kuya Rey was in the hospital, she would massage his feet. And with you, she adjusted your pillows to make sure you were comfortable. She and Kuya Yousef always point out the good qualities of others and make us feel appreciated.

Kuya Nelson always is willing to help, just like you. Whether with our cars, at the church, or any of our other personal needs, he is “on call.” He and Liza are devoted to family. We all know we can count on both of them whenever needed. And they are such an important part of our Assembly, too.

Your children have incorporated into their lives the lessons and advice you and Uncle Ato have given them. They will continue to pass on your legacy of upright living to their children. You can already see it in how the next generation has already kept your teachings in their hearts.

Auntie, I wish I had visited you more. I loved when I could see you in your reserved seat on Sabbaths. When you were strong enough to come back to church for a few weeks, I took it for granted that I would continue to have the joy of seeing you each Sabbath. What comforts me is that you would tell me not to feel bad. I know that you would tell me that you know how much I love you. Because I do.

You are a precious gift, Auntie Puring. Your strength and grace through adversity is a quality to acquire. Your faithfulness to Yahweh is something to strive toward. And your tireless instruction to the next generation to commit their lives to Yahweh is a challenge for all of us to do the same.

“For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix on our eyes no on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal” (2Corinthians 4:17-18, NIV).

You know what Paul said to the Corinthians was true. That’s why you did not fear death. And that is why your final words to us were to remain faithful to Yahweh and to take care of and love each other.

I love you Auntie Puring. If my nephews and nieces would love me even half as much as I love you, I will be blessed. But I know that I have to prove worthy of that love. You, my Auntie, are priceless. Nothing that has any worth or value in this world can compare to you.

Until we see each other again, I will be forever grateful to you for accepting me into your life. And I am forever grateful to Yahweh for giving me such a strong and loving Auntie.

Forever your loving niece, Dorcas

From End to Beginning

“Cornerstone.” “First Class Guy.” “Integrity.”

As I sat and listened to speech after speech, my emotions got the best of me. That was my brother Luis they were talking about. And all those words the speakers used to describe him at his retirement ceremony were absolutely true.

I didn’t always think so. Growing up, Luis—Louie—was somewhat of a thorn-in-the-side.

When I was in third grade, I had this huge crush on Davey Jones of the Monkees. One day, Louie called me to the phone. He told me it was Davey Jones. I didn’t believe him. But he insisted. So, I nervously took the phone and said, “Hello?” Sure enough, the guy on the other line said he was “Davey Jones.” I was beyond excited. Later, I found out that “Davey” was actually Louie’s classmate. Yes. My dear brother had orchestrated this little prank. I didn’t want to go to school the next day because “Davey Jones’” brother was in my class.

Perhaps he outgrew it. Or perhaps his true nature was trying to burst through this stereotypical “big brother” persona. But Louie became, well, a great guy.

When I was in elementary school, he trained me for a race and came on field day to cheer me on when my legs were too tired to continue. At my high school graduation, he took pictures of me with the cutest guys in my class, including the boy I had a crush on since fifth grade, so that I would have memories of being popular, at least for one day. When I started medical school, he and Sally bought me a doctor’s bag and medical equipment—I’m still using the ophthalmoscope.

And Louie helped set the foundation for my writing career. He coached me on grammar while I was in grade school. More recently he edited my devotion that was awarded third place at a Christian writers’ conference I attended.

The list on how Louie has made a positive impact on my life is long. And as I listened to tribute after tribute, it was apparent that he had also enriched the lives of all these people with whom he worked side by side throughout the years.

Supervisors spoke of Louie’s dedication and professionalism. Person after person thanked him for his advice and encouragement—for both their professional and personal lives. They spoke of how he balanced work and family but that family was of the utmost importance to him. His younger co-workers thanked him for his mentorship. Of course, there were stories of his pranks. (I guess he will always be a prankster at heart.)

In his 41.6 years working for the City of Virginia Beach, as a budget analyst in the Department of Budget and Management Services, Louie received many awards and recognitions—of which I found out only now. And while he worked many long hours and had many almost sleepless nights to meet budget deadlines, he never once was asked to work on Yahweh’s Sabbath. Louie was dedicated to his work but always put Yahweh first. His supervisors honored him for that.

And Yahweh has blessed him.

As Louie said in his farewell speech, he started working for the City as a bachelor and retires as a grandfather. During the 41.6 years, Yahweh blessed him with the perfect partner in marriage, Sally. Her love and support allowed Louie to dedicate the time needed at work but also to lead the Assembly of Yah as our pastor. Yahweh blessed him with their son and daughter, Jeremy and Jayna, and with another “son” and “daughter”—Stephen and  Cora—through marriage. He blessed Louie and Sally with grandchildren, Jonah and Indiana, and another grandchild on the way.

“Blessed are those who keep His statutes and seek him with all their heart” (Psalm 119:2, NIV).

“Blessed are all who fear Yahweh, who walk in obedience to him” (Psalm 128:1, NIV).

The Cambridge English Dictionary defines “cornerstone” as “something of great importance on which everything else depends.” Louie is not the first member of the Budget Department, but he has definitely proven himself to be of “great importance” and on whom his fellow staff members could depend.

In the words of the Proclamation set forth by Louis R. Jones, Mayor of the City of Virginia Beach, Virginia: “Luis will be remembered for his dedication to serving the employees and citizens of the City of Virginia Beach.” It stated that he “has met deadlines with professionalism and courtesy, always displaying a cheerful and ‘can-do’ attitude, earning him the ‘Class Act Award.’” Mayor Jones went on to proclaim September 27, 2018 as “Luis C. Asercion Day.”

“First Class Guy”—Yes. “Integrity”—Most certainly. “Cornerstone”—Absolutely.

The City of Virginia Beach has lost a “Class Act” public servant. For 41.6 years Luis C. Asercion has served our city well—tirelessly and with integrity. Our city is better because of him. And because of those he has mentored, our city will continue to grow successfully. As a citizen of Virginia Beach, I thank him for his service.

As his sister, I thank him for his encouragement, mentorship and support throughout my life. And, I am even appreciative for his antics during our growing up years. Those days make for fun memories to share with our kids.

I hope Louie’s retirement won’t be the end to his emails. Throughout the years he has sent jokes and funny stories. More recently he wrote about the antics of Indie and her brother Jonah. But I treasure his letters of encouragement and support for whatever event or experience I was going through. Now that he has other obligations in his retirement, those emails may not be as free-flowing. (As the frame from Miriam states, Louie is under new management—the grandkids.) I’m pretty sure we’ll still get emails, but I’m being a bit sentimental because lasercio@vbgov.com is now offline.

A few days before Louie’s retirement ceremony, I visited Mom and Dad’s earthly resting place. I wondered what they might think about how our lives were turning out. I recounted out loud how Ruthie had retired and is now taking care of her grandson. And that Louie would soon be retiring and taking on a bigger role as a grandfather. I “told” them that they would be very proud of the two – that Ruthie and Louie were continuing their legacy of bringing up the next generation in the ways of Yahweh. Before I left, I looked back through the gate at Mom and Dad’s smiling faces. Yes. They would be proud.

As Louie ends one chapter and begins the next chapter in his life, there is no doubt that his tireless and generous service will continue.

And we’ll all be the better for it.

Final Chapter

As I sat among family and friends in the Phi Beta Kappa Hall auditorium on that sunny May afternoon, I couldn’t help but think this would probably be the last time we would be on the campus of The College of William & Mary.

But it wasn’t about us. It was about Julie.

After four years of hard work and study, Julia Carmen Rodil walked across the stage and received her diploma for the degree of Bachelor of Science in Psychological Sciences, with a minor in Public Health. Thanks to Uncle Dem, her name was heard throughout the entire auditorium.

Julie is a “middle” child. And though there are a lot of thoughts about the effects of being in the middle of birth order, those of us who are “middles,” or middle-like, have similar experiences. Our milestones are usually not the firsts to be experienced by our families, nor will they be the last. Some might be tempted to view the accomplishments of the “middles” as less exciting. But those who think that way are totally wrong.

There’s nothing “less exciting” about Julie. Most of us have our “Julie-moments” that we can share. Like Auntie Reetie’s (what Julie called “Auntie Ruthie”) account of how Julie told them, “Don’t bother me” when she was eating. And how tickled Uncle Zee was when Julie stuck to him at church to make sure he didn’t forget to take her home with us. Or Auntie Sally’s recollection of how, after she playfully kissed Julie, Julie surprised her with an emotional outburst. And Kuya John John’s, and especially Kuya Jeremy’s, favorite story of how Julie dipped her pigtails in chicken soup to try to straighten her hair. (I confirmed the details of that last story with Miriam. And, I need to add that these stories were about the preschooler Julie – just to be clear.)

No. There’s no overlooking Julie.

In the fall after her successful completion of the International Baccalaureate program at Princess Anne High School, Julie started college life at William & Mary. That first semester was not easy. We had lost our beloved Mama Fe, Julie’s buddy, earlier that year. And “life” brought on some difficult experiences. But Kristin was there, and the sisters had each other for support for the next two years.

After a rough start, Julie dug in and began to flourish. One year she was involved in the college’s TED talks – a lecture series used to share ideas on topics involving Technology, Entertainment and Design. She also joined the campus Christian group and gave of her time to the Pineapple Kids program, a tutoring and mentoring program for kids in the community.

As she entered her third year, she was on her own. But she continued to expand her horizon. She became a research assistant (I believe for two professors). And she continued to volunteer her time for community service. But most importantly, she grew in her spiritual life as well. At one AOY retreat she gave a general-sessions talk based on a book that truly inspired her, Love Does.Then she volunteered to be the main organizer for the next AOY retreat.

One of the traditions at William & Mary is for the senior students to ring the bell at the Wren Building after their final class. When Julie rang the bell, it marked the ending of four years of studies. But what Julie learned was far beyond any school text book. The beginning of her instructions started in her home with the Biblical and moral values taught by her mom and dad. It continued with her lunches with her beloved Mama Fe during her senior year in high school. And, because of the prompting of Yahweh’s Spirit, Julie sought after avenues to increase her knowledge through those Yahweh placed in her path. Julie learned her lessons well.

Yahweh used Julie’s time at William & Mary, the good times as well as the bad, to help her develop a stronger relationship with Him and to give her a heart of service to those in need. Then He made the way for her to use the academic knowledge she acquired to further her education in the master’s program in the Psychology Department at Old Dominion University. It is quite apparent that He has great plans for the newest alumni of William &Mary.

Six years ago, the Rodil family started their story at William & Mary. They were able to stroll through the Sunken Gardens and embrace the history of the time-honored college. Miriam and Donald beamed with pride as their firstborn received her diploma at the historic Wren Building two years ago. We were privileged to witness that milestone for their family.

As I watched the ceremony in the Phi Beta Kappa Hall, I knew that we were witnesses to another milestone—the final chapter of the Rodils’ story at this institute of education that took such great care of this wonderful family. William & Mary did right by them.

Thank you, Miriam and Donald, for allowing all of us to be a part of your journey through the honored grounds of William & Mary for the past six years. Those days of moving in and packing out are now part of your history. Congratulations on the success of “Julie A’Carmen.”

Julie, you’ve made us all proud. Your perseverance is truly inspiring. ODU is blessed to have a student of your caliber. May Yahweh continue to lift you up higher and higher.

To the Rodil family, we all look forward to your sequel.