Graduation Day: The Final Walk

It was close to 4 years ago when I was asked to give the closing prayer at the end of the church service. It was the Sabbath just before Kristin started college at William and Mary. I had just started my prayer when I got to “…please be with Kristin….” At that point the dam broke loose.

When Kristin started her senior year in high school, I was already getting sentimental. On that Sabbath day, my emotions got the upper hand (yet again). I was sobbing so much that people, even members of our own family, were worried that there was something terribly wrong with Kristin’s health. I was finally able to sputter out my request that Yahweh keep Kristin safe as she left for college. Later someone asked where she was going. Then he asked how far away was William and Mary. Zee replied, “Just down the road.” I got a lot of ribbing that day.

Graduating from high school meant Kristin would be leaving her home and the protection of her Mom and Dabby. It was a major milestone in her life. Even though William and Mary was “just down the road,” Kristin’s going to college meant another step in her growing up. And that made me very emotional.

But William and Mary really was “just down the road,” and we got to see Kristin often, especially during special family gatherings.

And so arrived graduation weekend for The College of William and Mary Class of 2016. Kristin and her family were able to attend the Baccalaureate and the traditional candlelight ceremony on Friday night. They spent the Sabbath together while the main graduation ceremony took place. Because the students with Kristin’s major were to receive their diplomas on Saturday, Miriam had asked for special permission for Kristin to march on Sunday. Yahweh provided the opportunity for Kristin to walk with the government department. (As Ninong Zee said, the sign read “The Government Department & Kristin Rodil”.) So our family congregated outside the iconic Wren on Sunday morning, May 15, 2016 to see Kristin receive her diploma for the degree of Bachelor of Arts in International Relations with a Minor in Hispanic Studies.

It turned out to be a beautiful day. The weather was cool and sunny. The atmosphere was dignified and, at the same time, warm and inviting. The ceremony was a wonderful end to Kristin’s four, straight-A years of college. And it brought to mind all the blessings Yahweh had poured out on her and her family. Yahweh blessed Kristin with the ability to excel academically, graduating Summa Cum Laude. Because she and her family honored Yahweh by keeping His Sabbath, Yahweh provided a way for Miriam and Donald to hear the announcement of their eldest child’s name and to see her march in her cap and gown to receive her diploma. And if that weren’t enough, He provided the best venue and wonderful weather for our family and friends to witness this special event. What a wonderful testament to the fulfillment of Yahweh’s promise to bless His children who obey Him. Because of Donald and Miriam’s faithfulness, Yahweh blessed their daughter. But graduation day was more than a day to acknowledge Kristin’s academic success. It was a day to commemorate her own faithfulness to Yahweh and her devotion to her Savior, Yeshua Messiah.

After the picture-taking and the wonderful reception provided by the proud parents, I was blessed yet again. I was able to witness possibly one of the most beautiful walks on a most beautiful day. Kristin wanted to visit some special places on campus for one last time as a student. First Kristin walked across the Crim Dell Bridge (with Zechariah so that she wouldn’t “die alone”). As I took pictures, Miriam videoed Kristin crossing over the bridge. (And, as a side note, Aiden and Andrew crossed over afterwards, thus sealing their togetherness forever – since Aiden decided not to throw Andrew over). After Andrew and Aiden left, Zechariah and I followed as Kristin bid farewell to TJ (the Thomas Jefferson statue).

Then Kristin made her way to the Wren. Tradition is that when the students start as freshmen, they walk through the Wren building toward the Sunken Garden to begin their journey at William and Mary. On the convocation day, the graduating seniors walk through the Wren in the opposite direction, I suppose to symbolize their leaving the halls of William and Mary. Because Kristin chose not to participate in the Saturday events, she missed the traditional walk. The Wren was locked during the diploma ceremony, but Miriam saw people coming out of the building later. So she took Kristin to take “the walk.”

I stood back to take pictures again as Miriam videoed. The scene struck me as one of the most powerful demonstrations of a mother-child relationship. Twenty-two and a half years ago I watched as Miriam brought Kristin into the world. Through the years she cared for Kristin and protected her to the best of her ability. She helped Kristin roll over, sit up, crawl, then walk, and then run. She helped her learn her lessons – both in school and in life. She supported her endeavors and let her explore and learn away from home but was always “just down the road” if needed. As Miriam stood behind as Kristin walked through the Wren, and then followed her at a distance to the other side, I realized that what Miriam did was symbolic of her next great act of love. She would be letting her daughter pass through the hall—the transition from childhood to adulthood—alone. In a way she was releasing Kristin into another world—a world far from home in a new setting with a whole new set of experiences. But her distant presence let Kristin know that she was still there for her.

It takes a brave parent, a loving parent, to let her child spread her wings in pursuit of her dreams. But Miriam and Donald prepared Kristin well. You could see it in the excitement in Kristin’s eyes and the happy anticipation in her smile as she turned to look at her mom just before entering the hall of the Wren. Kristin was ready to take on her new challenge.

As we helped the Rodils pack up and clear Kristin’s dorm room for the last time, I was grateful for all the times Miriam and Donald invited us to participate in their family’s special events. It has been a privilege to witness the love, devotion and protectiveness of Donald for his family. But as a mother, I will always remember the final walk through the campus of The College of William and Mary that a devoted mother took with her equally devoted daughter.

Congratulations to Miriam and Donald—you have done an excellent job raising a beautiful, intelligent young woman with a heart devoted to Yahweh and family and for the pursuit of excellence. She has learned from your example. My standing ovation to you.

Congratulations to Julie and Lindsey – you made your sister look wonderful for her graduation. Your love and devotion for each other is so inspiring. I’ve enjoyed watching you all grow up and look forward to your celebrations.

Congratulations and many blessings to Kristin Marcella Rodil, Summa Cum Laude – the newest alumni of The College of William and Mary. I couldn’t be more proud of you. You never wavered from your faith and obedience to Yahweh, your love for your family, and your commitment to your moral values. In turn, Yahweh has blessed you by giving you the desires of your heart. Next stop—Georgetown!

My Prayer to you is from Psalm 20:4 (NIV): “May He (Yahweh) give you the desire of your heart and make all your plans succeed.”

Kristin: As you continue to walk with Yahweh through your next adventure, may your pathway be filled with wonder and excitement and blessings. I love you – Yaya.




High Calling

April seemed to fly by. I had looked forward to the celebration of Indiana’s first birthday for months. Her actual birthday was on Sabbath, and her “fake birthday party,” as Zechariah referred to parties that weren’t on the actual birthday, would be the next day. We had fun giving her some of her presents on her real birthday and getting pictures of her with Uncle Zeek.

Then I got sick and couldn’t go to Indie’s birthday party. Great-Uncle Zee and Uncle Zeek went. It was a happy celebration from their account. And I missed it.

I was so disappointed because first birthdays are so special. But I also needed something happy to offset the sadness of another April without celebrating Mom’s birthday. Yahweh, in His Master plan, put Indie’s birth just a few days before Mom’s birthday—perhaps so that the joy of celebrating Indie’s birthday year after year would help soften the sting of Mom’s absence.

And now May is here and Mother’s Day. There was a time when Mother’s Day was really hard for me. Before Zechariah was born, the pain of being childless made the day for mothers pretty tough to get through. But I focused on Mom and the blessing of having her in my life. Even after Zechariah was born, Mother’s Day included spending the afternoon or evening with Mom. And now she’s gone.

During Louie’s Mother’s Day Sabbath sermon, he spoke of the great importance of mothers in the lives of their children, especially while the children are young. The love of a mother plays a major role on the development and future of her child. There was a powerful picture of the bigger, well-developed brain of a child well-loved compared to the smaller, poorly developed brain of the neglected child. It was a blessing to look around our Assembly and see all the “big-brained” children. But who captured my attention the most was Indie with her mommy.

There was a special sweetness and beauty on Jayna’s face as she cuddled with Indie. The mother and daughter genuinely enjoyed each other’s company. I captured that moment with my phone, and when I looked at it later I saw true adoration and love in Jayna’s eyes as she smiled at the rambunctious Indie. Later that day I was able to get a picture of Sally, Jayna and Indie—three generations. It was a wonderful portrait of a mother passing her knowledge to her daughter, who will, in turn, pass her knowledge to her own daughter.

Now Jayna has just as much love for Jonah. But I realized that Sabbath that there is a difference between her relationships with her son and daughter. Jayna will have a special bond she will share with Indie that she won’t have with Jonah, just as she has a bond with her mom that her brother doesn’t. It is the bond of motherhood.

From creation Yahweh assigned to woman one of the most important roles in life – to be a mother. He chose us to bring life into this world. Psalm 139:13 (NIV): “For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.” Before Zechariah was born, I had a longing that couldn’t be soothed. It was the desire Yahweh places and in women’s hearts to prepare them to care for and nurture their future children. It was an emptiness that was waiting to be filled by the overwhelming love for my son. Yahweh formed a mother’s heart to accept the responsibility, the self-sacrifice, the unconditional love required to bring His children into this world and care for them.

In Isaiah 49:15 (NIV), Yahweh assures His people: “Can a mother forget her baby…and have no compassion on the child she has borne? Though she may forget, I will not forget you!”

“Though she may forget”…Even IF she could….

Yahweh chose the strongest example of human devotion, a mother for her child, to emphasize His love and His own devotion to His people, to us. If a mother couldn’t forget her own baby, how much more would He NOT forget us. Yes, there are women who abandon their children. But they just birthed the children. They are not mothers in their hearts.

For the mothers of daughters, you have the high calling of passing on to them your knowledge and experience so that your daughters will be the mothers that will raise children devoted to Yahweh and their family. For those mothers of sons, we have an equally high calling to love and teach our sons in a way that will make them want to choose for their future wives women who will be the type of mothers who will raise their children in a manner that will please Yahweh.

Even though this is the third Mother’s Day without Mom, her life and her legacy live on. I see it in the lives of my three sisters in how they raised and continue to guide their children (and for Sally her grandchildren). I feel it in myself in my desire to point Zechariah to Yahweh so that he will find favor in the eyes of Yahweh and man. It was through Mom that Yahweh demonstrated His love and true devotion for us. Hers are big shoes to fill. But through Yahweh’s leading, we are trying to follow in her footsteps.

And, even after thirteen years, I am humbled and blessed that Yahweh appointed me to the vocation of Motherhood.

Happy Mother’s Day to all the wonderful women in my life.

At Just the Right Time

When I answered my cell phone close to 10 PM on February 14, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. Jeremy apologized for calling so late but quickly assured me that he had some good news. “It’s really good news, actually,” he added (or something very close to that). Could be it? Wait for it…Wait for it? “Cora and I got engaged.” YES!! YES!! OK, calm down. “That’s great Jeremy! I’m so happy for you!” I tried very hard not to shout and deafen him. Jeremy’s voice was calm, but I imagined him grinning from ear to ear and pacing back and forth. As we ended our conversation I thanked him for taking the time to call with the WONDERFUL news.

When Jeremy was little and got mad he would swing his arm in a hitting motion. His parents would tell him to “stop hitting,” but he would reply, “I’m hitting the air.” Well, as soon as I hung up the phone, I started hitting, actually PUNCHING the air. I was JUMPING and LEAPING and PRAISING YAH! Zee calmly looked at me and stated, “They got engaged.” I said, “Yes!” and started to punch him—in the air.

At a very young age, Jeremy was very persistent to get what he wanted. He insisted on being sung “Ba-yero” (Ravel’s “Bolero”) for his bedtime lullaby as he was pushed in his stroller in Mama and Papa’s house. Unfortunately, his daddy didn’t know that music. Good thing for him, and for the rest of us, that Papa did. Jeremy would ask his Uncle-David-Ninong-Boyet to draw a car. Back then, he couldn’t quite pronounce the “r” sound and it came out as “cow.” So, Uncle-David-Ninong-Boyet drew him a cow. “Not a “cow.” A “cow.” Again his baby-sitter uncle drew a cow. “No! Not a “cow.” A “cow”!” Eventually Auntie Ninang interpreted the request, and a car was drawn to Jeremy’s satisfaction.

Jeremy mastered whatever it was he put in his mind to do. In music, he studied with a master and, in turn, performed difficult classical pieces with beauty and finesse. In academics, he studied and worked hard to achieve his goals and succeeded. Most recently, he accepted Zechariah’s request to debate the “Christmas” question for a church exercise. His research and dissertation were exemplary because, in his own words, “I didn’t want to let my cousin down.”

During Jeremy’s teenage years, Cora moved to town. As Jeremy recounted, Mama Fe had a major hand in arranging his first outing with Cora so many years ago. We all liked Cora, and as the two got older we hoped she would become part of our family. I know for sure Mama wanted it to be, and Jeremy sure didn’t let her down.

Many times, two people traveling to the same place arrive there at different times. One person might reach the endpoint quickly while the other needs more time. But the journey brings experiences necessary to prepare him or her for life once they meet at their intended destination.

Just as important as choosing the destination is choosing your travel partner. Jeremy has chosen well. Cora is a gem that has the gift of bringing light into Jeremy’s life without losing her own luster. She knows Jeremy – his interests, his uniqueness. She helps keep what’s important to him in his life. But what’s so beautiful is how Jeremy values Cora. It’s nice to see how this persistent little boy has become a young man so thoughtful and caring toward his young lady.

Cora and Jeremy are right for each other. They’ve been right for a long time. Of course, those of us watching from the sidelines wanted them to move on to the next stop in their journey together sooner. But it wasn’t up to us – we weren’t the ones traveling. So when Jeremy called, I knew that in his heart he felt that he had made the necessary preparations. He was ready to ask Cora to become his wife and to commit his life to her. And just as he has proven through his music and academic achievements, I’m sure he will excel in his upcoming role as the husband that Cora so much deserves.

Yesterday our family joined together to celebrate Jonah’s third birthday. Afterwards we had the pleasure to spend some time with Jayna and Stephen in their new home. For the first time I was able to see Jeremy really interact with Jonah. Uncle and nephew were working on the new Thomas track set. Jeremy was so patient and gentle. And Jonah was so responsive. Then I watched as Cora fed Indie. It was a much more animated scene. Of course the “when” in starting a family will be up to the newly engaged couple – they still have to plan their wedding. But sitting in Jayna and Stephen’s living room, I couldn’t help but think what a happy family. What a happy home. And it made me so happy for Louie and Sally.

To quote Solomon from Ecclesiastes 3:11 (KJV): “He had made every thing beautiful in His time….”

Timing is important – in music, in public speaking, in decision-making. But Yahweh’s timing is everything. He has a “when,” “where,” and “how” our life events happen. What’s so funny about Jeremy’s proposal to Cora is that with all his preparations, Jeremy forgot the two important sentences he had planned to use to “pop the question.” The moment he envisioned did not go according to his plan. But it went according to Yahweh’s plan. And Yahweh was probably smiling because the perfectionist got the “yes” even though the execution of the proposal was less than perfect. Cora and Jeremy had their once-in-a-lifetime moment just the way Yahweh designed it to happen.

Yes – Yahweh makes “everything beautiful in His time.”

Hopes for the New Year

New Year’s Eve is always a time to think back and to look forward.

Last New Year’s Eve, the Rodils spent time with Mrs. Rodil at her bedside. Donald and the family entered 2015 with no hope for her recovery. Within a couple of days she passed from this life. Mr. Rodil also faced the coming year in poor health and little hope for physical restoration. In the spring, he, too, left this life. A final blow came to the Rodils, like an unexpected, vicious tornado. Suddenly Donald’s brother, Del was gone. One storm after another tried to knock Donald and family down and sweep them away. But, just like the wise man who built his house on the rock, Donald and Miriam stood firm.

Eventually every major storm passes, and the sunlight does finally appear. As the end of this very trying year fast approached, Kristin got word of her acceptance into the Georgetown University Law School. Yahweh showed His presence in a major way to a family who needed that reassurance.

Two New Year’s Eves ago, most of our family enjoyed the pre-midnight gathering at Andrew’s place then hurried to the hospital to greet the new year with Mom. Suddenly, the entire family was huddled together in the waiting area, faced with the great possibility that we would have to start 2014 without her. When Mom entered the hospital just a couple of weeks earlier, it was with the full expectation that she would return home to watch another year unfold. And now, our precious Mama was slipping away from us. But Yahweh, in His infinite grace and mercy, restored our happiness by strengthening and stabilizing Mom. We weren’t ready to face the coming year without her. Yahweh knew that and gave us a few more days to help us prepare for her homecoming into glory.

After our hearts were broken by the loss of Mom, Yahweh brought sunshine back into 2014 with the one-year birthday celebration of Mom and Dad’s first great grandchild, Jonah, and the high school graduation of their ninth grandchild, Julie.

Five New Year’s Eves ago, the family filed in and out of the hospital to see Dad. After his failing kidneys zapped all of his physical and mental strength, he had finally agreed to enter the hospital for treatment. He wouldn’t eat or drink and was ready to leave this life. But we weren’t ready to let him go. During one of my conversations with him, we talked about dialysis and how it would help him feel better and stronger. Dad was ready to rest. He told me to leave everything in Yahweh’s hands. So, when he agreed to go to the hospital, it was for us, his family.

As we ate at Mama and Papa’s house, we received a text from the hospital. Donald and Miriam had sent a picture of a smiling Papa Paul wearing a New Year’s top hat. He had eaten his first good meal in weeks after receiving his first dialysis treatment. We eagerly packed up and met the New Year with Dad in his hospital room. To me, that was one of the happiest New Year’s Eve celebrations because it was as if Dad were physically reborn. Yahweh did finally take Dad home some nine months later, but that extension allowed us to hope – even for a little while.

Last night, as our family and loved ones ate, celebrated, worshipped, and prayed together, I couldn’t help but think that this New Year’s Eve could be one of my favorites. The young of our family are grown up, and some are starting families of their own. The youngest of Mom and Dad’s grandchildren doted over Jonah and Indiana, the next generation, as they sat and played on our family room carpet. Despite the storms, 2015 produced many sunny days. We celebrated the birth of Indiana, the wedding of Stephanie and Raymond, and the engagement of Andrew and Aiden. Except for Chad and Kim, all of the Asercion families were together in our home–along with current and soon-to-be extended family members. I definitely felt the absence of Mom and Dad. But, to quote the Cinderella movie, of all things, the “hurts of the past became memories.”

I remembered the New Year’s Eve gatherings at 809 St. Clement Road. We’d have skits, like fashion shows, and sing-alongs. The year Zee and I became engaged, we planned to go to the Waterside with Miriam and Donald and some friends. Dad was playing his saxophone with Uncle Al on the guitar and Auntie Emilda on the keyboard. None of us wanted to leave and later wish we hadn’t. Each year Mom would call the grandchildren to her and happily hand out envelopes with money. Those memories crept into my thoughts last night, but they weren’t accompanied by sadness. They filled my heart with gratitude for all the happy New Years we had with Mom and Dad.

Zee gave me a tremendous New Year’s gift this year. He started the Asercion Family photo gallery in our home. On one of the walls in our formal dining room, he placed a picture of Mom and Dad as newlyweds. On another wall, he hung the family portrait, of Mom and Dad with their “ten” children, which presided over our childhood home’s living room for some twenty-four years. Then he turned our stairway wall into the new “Wall of Graduates” by hanging up the collection that Mom and Dad had displayed so proudly in their foyer. We were able to finally add Julie to the group. Now, some of the smiling faces that greeted us as we walked among the rooms in Mama and Papa’s home will greet those who enter our home.

We all carried hopes for a good, and possibly better, year as we raised our cups to toast the passing of the old and the beginning of the new. Our family looks forward to Indie’s first birthday, Kristin’s college graduation and Andrew and Aiden’s wedding – to name a few celebrations in store for us. Just as we anticipate the highs of those coming events, we have to expect that there will also be plenty of lows.

Zee gave Zechariah a great New Year’s present, too. He cleared the rooms so that our son could hold Nerf War games upstairs. So last night, or more accurately, this morning, the young people hid and ran and screamed and laughed. Lindsey commented that it was scary when they had to go solo. She preferred being on teams. Even with the anxiousness and suspense, the game was exciting and fun.

My hopes for 2016? That we all will find the fun and excitement in each new day that Yahweh gives us. That the hurts of the past will be memories that we can treasure and share. That whenever we face the hard times, we will know that we don’t have to go solo – we have family and friends that will team up with us so that we run forward together. That no matter how sad and hopeless situations might get, Yahweh will always bring back our joy. That we spend each day to the fullest and show our love to our family and to Yahweh. That Yahweh will use us to live lives for His purpose.

Happy New Year to all my family and friends. May Yahweh bless us all!

Into the Wild Blue Yonder

A great part of motherhood is getting our hearts broken. A lot of the time the heartbreak is because of the hurtful or selfish attitudes of our children or because of the poor choices they make. This is when we mothers love our kids by holding on to them and fighting to keep them on the right path. Then there comes the other time, when we see the fruit of our labor: the point when our kids have grown into responsible individuals, ready to start life on their own. That’s when we show our love by letting go—hearts bursting with pride but still broken.

Over these past twelve years, I’ve experienced little “letting go” stages. Sending my baby off to school was traumatic…for me. I cried every day for a whole month before Zechariah started kindergarten. But eventually I was able to volunteer in his class and eat lunch with him once a week. Then one day, when he was in the third grade, out of the blue he told me I didn’t need to eat lunch with him. “You have to move on, Mommy,” he said, matter-of-fact. Move on? To what? He was only eight-years-old. I cried that night. After a couple of weeks he forgot what he said and wanted his mommy to eat lunch with him again. Oh the joy! But after the first 2 months in fourth grade he told me, in a more compassionate manner, that he could handle lunch without me. (I thought I at least had through fifth grade.)

But he is growing up, as all children do. This fact of life was made quite evident as we joined family and friends to celebrate the beginning of a new year of life and new career for Linel this past weekend. He was sworn into the Air Force yesterday and today shipped off to Air Force Basic Military Training in Texas.

Other kids in my circle of family and friends have left the proverbial “nest.” Not too long ago John Mark moved out to Philadelphia to start his career in forensic science with the police department. Haley just left to start her full-time job as a dental hygienist three and half hours away. I know their moms ached when they left.

But today, my heart hurts for Liza. Somehow, I identify with her the most. Perhaps it’s because we are similar in age and both have only sons. When Nelvin moved away, it was just Linel at home.

Lots of memories flood my mind as I think about Linel. During his single-digit years he could  be found with a towel on his back under his shirt as he raced around the church after Sabbath services. Many times Liza would be chasing after him. Then there was one Sabbath evening he came to my rescue. I saw a spider on my shoulder and screamed as I swatted it off. Linel quickly ran to me and stomped the spider “dead” with his foot. Liza was surprised because he was afraid of spiders. He had no way of knowing that it was a plastic spider Uncle Zee had used to prank me.

Little Linel became tall Linel with a squeaky voice almost over night. He would always greet me on Sabbaths and ask if I needed any help carrying something inside. And he continued to grow—tall and handsome with a hand span that could grip a basketball. Zechariah would always mention how he wanted to grow as tall as Kuya Linel.

So what do you do when your child’s dream will take him away from you? That’s what Linel’s dream has done to Kuya Nelson and Liza. The Air Force will take Linel to many places around the world, starting with Texas. He’s excited about getting this chance to fulfill his dream. As much as we are excited for him, we’re also sad that he left. But our sadness is only a fraction of his parents’.

We mothers encourage our kids to dream – and dream big. We want our children to find a passion for their lives and to pursue that goal. Of course we want them to be safe. And we want them to be close. But we also want them to find a worthwhile, fulfilling career. And to be happy. This might mean that they will leave us.

A great part of our job is to prepare our children for life without us. We teach them right from wrong, moral values, integrity and honor. We use Yahweh’s Word as our guide and pray that our training will lead them to love Yahweh and follow in His ways.

“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)

So today, as much as it hurts, Liza is doing her duty as a good mother and letting her son go. She has done her training and has sent Linel off “into the wild blue yonder.” Because of her nurturing, support and love, Linel is prepared for the task at hand and excited for his new adventure.

The wonderful consolation of motherhood is that when we do our jobs well there is healing for our broken hearts. No matter how far our children travel, we’ll always be their Mom, and we will always be in their hearts. And when their lives are settled, successful and happy, we can thank Yahweh for fulfilling our roles as His divinely commissioned Mothers.

Our prayers are with Airman Linel Bobadilla. May Almighty Yahweh keep him in the palm of His hands.

And our thoughts and prayers are also for Kuya Nelson as he adjusts to his new role as a father of a serviceman.

But my heart goes out to Liza. It is an exciting time because she gets to watch her baby fly and know that  she played a major role in making his dream come true. May Yahweh keep her heart strong.

What therefore Yahweh hath joined together…

On October 21 my phone chimed an alert – “Mom & Dad – anniversary.”

Sixty-four years earlier Puling Asercion and Fely Castillo eloped and became Mr. and Mrs. Apolinario Asercion. It was a covert operation, with much secret planning on the part of Dad’s family and friends. Mom’s side of the family and Mom, herself, had no clue what was about to happen that day in 1951. From Mom’s account, Dad and his friend were going to bring her and her friend to another friend’s party. When Mom’s sister, Auntie Ising, heard the news of the elopement, she was devastated. Auntie smashed Mom’s picture and threw her clothes out on the street. Not the most desirable way to start a marriage.

A couple of months later, Mom and Dad had a formal church wedding. Then several years later, they had a third wedding. Dad enlisted in the United States Navy as a single man because married men were disqualified from joining. By “legally marrying” Mom, he could claim her and Kuya Eman and Louie as his dependents. Mom enjoyed telling the story of how, when we were young, Miriam told her little neighbor friend how Mom and Dad were married three times. I apparently got mad at Miriam and told her to tell her friend that they got married to each other each time.

If you sit back and analyze the history of our parents, there sure were some eyebrow-raising moments. They would not have wanted any of their children to follow the paths they took early on. Why, then, would Yahweh bless this union for just one month shy of 60 years?

What Yahweh hath joined together…

 Mom was orphaned when she was a little girl. Raised by her brother and sister, she really didn’t have an established family or family name. Dad, on the other hand, was the son of a well-respected family in his town. When Lola Ada saw Mom, she knew she had found the right girl for her youngest son. Ada and Lolo Teng didn’t care about Mom’s family history. They found the “pearl of great price.” And Dad treasured Mom.

Mom in turn loved and valued Dad. They were devoted to each other. In order to provide a bright future for their children, they endured three years apart after Dad enlisted in the United States Navy. Then Mom, with three small children, left the Philippines and her family to join Dad in America.

For better, for worse, for richer, for poorer…

I can’t imagine how Mom handled her early life in the U.S. She was alone with my three older siblings while Dad worked. Then I come along. Four kids – including a newborn. Mom talked about how she was depressed and lonely. But I look at our family pictures and see a lot of smiling faces. Mom and Dad had a strong faith in Yahweh, and they had a loving relationship. It had to be their love for each other and us that got them through those tough times. Looking back on those days, through pictures and my memories, we didn’t have a lot of money but we had more than enough – food, clothing, toys, and love. Mom and Dad made sure our home was filled with love (many times tough love for some of us).

Dad was a great provider. Mom never had to work, even though she did for a short time. She worked in the GE plant with Auntie Puring. Mom was a cute working mother. She’d bring home some of the defective little parts of the appliances so we could play with them. But her heart was at home. She wanted to make sure the needs of her husband and children were fully met. So her quitting didn’t hurt financially because Dad had his military pension and, well, his insurance job.

There were three times that I thought Mom and Dad might get a divorce. The first time was when Dad accepted the “justification by faith” teachings (which was against the doctrines of the church we were attending at the time). The second was when he wanted to cook duck for Thanksgiving (I’m not even sure now why Mom got so mad at that). And the third was when he signed up to be an agent for Lincoln National Life. Mom was really against it because she didn’t like the fact that Dad would be soliciting people to buy insurance. She actually “left” Dad and took Miriam on a road trip with the Aromin and Roquiz family.

But divorce wasn’t part of the plan. To a kid the angry words and yelling all sounded so scary—especially when you’re not used to your parents fighting. Those disagreements were just bumps in the road. Mom and Dad’s marriage withstood separation and hardship. The roots were strong because Yahweh planted them. No storms were able to topple their union.

In sickness and health…

No matter how strong the marriage and how deep the love, sickness still finds a way in. I can’t imagine how Mom got through being very pregnant with Miriam and caring for Dad after his major car accident. And I never saw Dad lose his patience with Mom years later when she went through major depression.

The years went by and we kids grew up. Then came Mom and Dad’s 50th wedding anniversary. It’s not very often families can celebrate such a momentous occasion. As happy as that event was, it marked the decline of Mom and Dad’s health.

Dad developed dementia. After he finished treatment of prostate cancer, his memory started to fail him. He couldn’t remember some of the people’s names at his anniversary celebration – people he had worked with for years. Then Mom developed lymphedema in her legs that greatly affected her ability to walk. Dad wanted so much to see her walk again without suffering. Mom wanted Dad’s mind to become sharp and bright again.

Mom and Dad’s health worsened over the next ten years. Eventually Dad’s prostate cancer came back. His kidney’s failed and left his body weak and his mind dimmer. But even while bedridden he always asked about his bride and if she had eaten. Mom’s legs got worse and her body bent over. She needed a walker for support. But she would always bring food to Dad and try to feed him. Even when we were there to help, she wanted to take care of her groom.

Until death do us part…

 Mom had been much frailer than Dad for so many years. But her desire was that, if they couldn’t leave together, Yahweh would take Dad from this earth before her. She couldn’t bear the thought of Dad being lonely without her. And Yahweh answered her prayer. I can only imagine her pain and loneliness. To have lived with her husband whom she loved so deeply for almost sixty years and to lose him – I can’t imagine. I don’t want to imagine.

Except for those three years and that one summer, Mom and Dad were always together. Nothing and no one could separate them. Louie shared a message on marriage for the past two Sabbaths. He said when Yahweh joins a man and woman in marriage, they are to become one. That is His plan. Mom and Dad were His plan, and they became one.

For a short time after Dad’s death, Mom was separated from him. Then, Yahweh took her home. And now even death can’t separate them because they’ll be together in eternity.

Even though my heart still aches for Mom and Dad, especially at this time, I can’t help but thank Yahweh for the life I had as their child. What a blessing to be surrounded every day by their love – for each other and for us. What a wonderful example they gave us of a husband loving and caring for his wife unconditionally and a wife loving him back and serving him so fully and willingly. Mom and Dad were so very thankful for the “sons” and “daughters” that Yahweh brought to them through our marriages. I like to think that our parents found “pearls of great value” for each us.

Mom and Dad’s anniversary is a wonderful reminder that “what…Yahweh had joined together” no man can “put asunder.”

“Mom and Dad – anniversary: 64 years and forever….”


Within Those Walls

We moved into the house at 809 St. Clement Road when I was ten-years-old. Unlike the Navy housing apartment, where we lived for seven years before moving, our new home stood alone with it’s own front and back yard.

Mom was so excited. Living on only Dad’s income as a Navy chief, they had been able to save enough money for a down payment. The house was supposed to belong to another family. But when their loan fell through, Mom and Dad jumped in and got approved. All the features of the house had been picked out. But Mom was ecstatic. The downstairs bathroom sink and toilet were avocado green – apparently one of her favorite colors. There was an intercom (which we ended up not really using) and red shag carpet in the living room and on the stairs. (I don’t remember if Mom actually wanted that type of carpet).

We move in on September 1, 1971. It should have been a happy day. But the excitement was dampened by Kuya Eman’s leaving for college. Mom’s face didn’t shine like it did when she got news of their loan approval. The first couple of years at 809 were kind of sad. Mom was in a depression – from Kuya Eman leaving home, her own surgery, and her struggles with leaving the SDA church behind. Then, through Yahweh’s grace, the joy came back into her life. And 809 became a home filled with happiness.

Our family celebrated birthday parties, graduations, weddings, and births at 809. Family and friends spent Thanksgiving and New Year’s in our home. Mom and Dad hosted Sabbath services. We’d start in the morning and everyone would stay until late at night – singing, studying the Bible and eating together. Joy, laughter, fellowship and worship filled our home.

Mom loved to cook and entertain. And people loved to come. But Mom and Dad loved it best when all of their children, and eventually grandchildren, were at 809 at the same time. When Kuya Eman and Sandy came home, Mom would make lumpia. She made sure not to use MSG for Sandy’s sake. There was always food. No matter who came to visit, Mom and Dad always had something for their visitors to eat.

As the years rolled on, our family grew. We kids all got married, but Mom and Dad treated the children-in-law just like their birth children. Blessings upon blessings came to 809 in the form of grandchildren – all eleven had a chance to spend time at Mama and Papa’s house. John John always wanted to go to “Virginia Beach.” Not the city. Mama and Papa’s house. It was a place for all to gather. The house on 809 became the cousins’ hangout. And Mom and Dad loved it. The grandkids called the house “Mama’s house.” Papa was okay with that.

But life happened, as it must. Illness and death visited 809. The first to leave us was Sandy. Years later, Dad became ill and took his final breath at home. Sadness and loneliness filled the rooms. Soon after Dad’s departure, Mom left her home for the last time to go to her eternal home. It became too hard to go back to 809. It wasn’t the same.

We had put off sorting through the things at Mama’s house. But last week it was time. My heart was heavy for the several days leading up to that visit to 809. It was a task I never wanted to have to do. Zee and Zechariah went with me. Louie, Ruthie, Andrew, Stephanie and Raymond also went. We took down pictures and diplomas that Dad had loving hung on the walls. We tagged larger items we wanted to bring to our own homes. I sorted through my old bedroom while Ruthie sifted through the kitchen. As I took pictures off the piano, I started to cry. But only for a moment.

Memories can be happy or sad. While I was collecting the pictures, Yahweh did an amazing thing. He filled my heart with the happy variety of memories. The items I was beginning to collect evoked remembrance of happier times spent in Mama’s house. In the living room, I introduced Ray-Ray to his great-grandmothers-in-law. He got to see the pictures of Ada and Lola Carmen. We remembered Papa’s last birthday as we looked at the picture of him surrounded by his grandchildren behind his birthday cake with candles “8-6.”

As we took down our diplomas and viewed the china in the cabinet, Louie, Ruthie and I remembered the one and only time Dad prepared a formal meal of duck that almost got him divorced (not really – but the argument he and Mom had over that meal made me think that their marriage was about to end). We could laugh about it now, as we stood in the dining room. In the kitchen, we talked about how much fun it was to congregate around the table after the nighttime Sabbath Bible Study at the church. Dad would always make coffee for us. Stephanie explained to Ray how Mama and Papa’s bedroom used to be the family den. I pictured us crammed into that room watching TV specials together and getting startled when Dad let out a major snore right at the most suspenseful part of the scary movie Ruthie, Miriam, and I were watching late at night.

Going into our old bedrooms brought back memories of my nighttime conversations with my sisters and how Dad would tell us to go to sleep. One Sabbath night, Ruthie, Miriam and I huddled on her bed and stayed awake talking until we heard the birds chirping to greet the sunrise.

Sorting through drawers and closets, we found “treasures.” Zechariah found Papa’s extendable shoehorn and Mama’s comb and mirror. Andrew found Mama’s stash of folding umbrellas in his Auntie Miriam’s old bedroom closet. Then he called out in laughter when he found more umbrellas in the linen closet. I explained that Mama would buy a lot of items when they were on sale to give as gifts or to send to the Philippines. Throughout the “treasure hunt,” Andrew wore Papa’s tweed hat and really looked like “Little Papa.”

After our “treasures” and mementos were packed, we sat around the living room for a while. We kids told the grandkids how Papa pushed Jeremy in his stroller to try to get him to sleep. We just talked – and remembered.

Then it was time to go. The things that mattered most to each of us were boxed and brought to our cars. I knew I wouldn’t be coming back to “Mama’s House” the way it was. The house on 809 would never be the same without her and Dad. However, by dismantling our childhood home, we were given another blessing. We were able to bring some of those memories to our own homes – remembrances we could see and feel.

As I gazed at the empty walls of the house that started out with avocado green fixtures and a red shag carpet, I felt the love and happiness that filled each room because of parents who loved Yahweh with all their hearts. Mom and Dad got that house through Yahweh’s grace, and they let Him make that house into a home filled with His presence and overflowing with His goodness and love.

For those of us who lived or spent time at 809, we will be forever blessed and thankful for the memories created by every moment we spent with Mom and Dad within those walls.

“Except Yahweh build the house, they labor in vain that build it….” Psalm 127:1 (KJV)