[highlight]Editor’s note: Following is a eulogy delivered by A.J. Espinosa at the conclusion of a funeral mass for his grandmother, former Filipino Star News columnist Linda Ibarreta. The mass was held on Feb. 24, 2017 at St. Michael church in Sterling Heights, Michigan.[/highlight]
Before my later high school years, my grandma was a prominent writer for the Filipino Star. I remember countless, painful times when she and I would sit at our kitchen table, and I would transcribe her handwritten articles as she spoke them out loud. She realized the potential for her articles to reach the Antonios, and she took advantage of the fact that she had someone in the house who could type.
Truth be told, it’s thanks to her that I got a lot better than using my two fingers. I mentioned earlier that grandma was a writer for the Filipino Star. For those of you who aren’t familiar, she would write often about different events happening within our communities, both here in Michigan and in the Philippines. She was always a woman of community and communion, and she made it known to every person who read her work that she wasn’t just a grandmother. It was through those articles in her “Bits and Pieces” column, or simply talking with her, that every one of us saw her for who she was: A guardian, a teacher, a neighbor, a sister, a mother and, occasionally, a prankster. That last one is something I’ll never forget about her: She always loved a good laugh. No matter your problems, no matter your age, she would always be there to care for you and tell your story.
I also knew my grandma as an active woman. Despite the way she hobbled from place to place, which she and I endlessly joked about, she was one of the most helpful people in my life as I grew up. I have too many fond memories of her folding our laundry, packaging clothes for our family in the Philippines, and cooking family dinners. Trust me when I say that my family owes her and my grandpa a huge debt for everything they’ve done. My grandma showed just how much strength it takes to be a mother, something that I know my mom has learned to emulate gracefully.
I mentioned earlier that my grandma was a teacher, and it would be inappropriate of me not to illustrate how much she contributed to my education. She was always one to support me growing up, constantly pushing me to strive higher, love stronger and hope greater. There were days in my elementary and middle school years when she and I would spend hours practicing math or spelling, just so I would feel prepared for the test the next day. As school got harder, she and I dialed down on the one-on-one education, but she never stopped supporting me. She would always be one to listen to the day’s worth of stress, congratulate me on the occasional academic accomplishment, and then cry in my face, despite me always telling her to stop. In a lot of ways, she was one of my biggest fans.
However, I would be remiss if I didn’t highlight one of the greatest things that my grandma was: A caring, compassionate and committed wife. After she passed away, I looked at old pictures of her from when I was growing up, and every time I came across a picture of her, only an arm’s length away would be her husband, my grandpa. That was always one of the beautiful things about their marriage: If possible, they would always be there to support one another. My grandparents came to this country at a point in my life when I thought that a lasting and happy marriage was just a fantasy. It was watching them make each other laugh, cook meals in synchrony or her grooming my grandpa that showed me otherwise. That’s why it shattered my heart to know that they were nearing 50 years of marriage, and to realize that my grandma wouldn’t live to see the day that I’d find someone to spend 50 of my own years with.
‘My grandmother Linda Ibarreta was nothing short of spectacular’
Then again, Erlinda Ibarreta was always about hope and faith. Too many times do I remember her praying over a rosary at her bedside, and too many times do I remember being inspired by the words that were carried from her writing to my keyboard. My grandmother was nothing short of spectacular, and I’m so grateful to know that she has been immortalized through every connection she’s built.
The last few days of her life, when I saw family members drive miles across cities and states just to say goodbye, showed me just how spectacular she truly was. It warms my heart to know that she helped form a family out of all of us, and to know that every day she exists in our memories as an inspiration to be so much better than we are now. She had such high hopes for every single one of us, to carry on the faith in us that she had; that’s what a good teacher, a good mother, a good sister and a saint would do.
To my mom, who sometimes wishes she could have done more, to my grandpa, who misses her more than anyone in the world, to family and friends here, who have shown immeasurable support over this last week, and to countless family and friends in the Philippines, who are heartbroken that they will not be able to say goodbye to her body, I say this, Thank you so much for loving her. Thank you for making those last decades as happy years worth living. That very act of loving is enough to put her to rest, where she will be with us until the end of time. She may be in ashes when she returns to the Philippines, but her spirit will be nothing short of present among all of us.
We had a running joke as I was growing up: Whenever either of us would leave to go somewhere, one of us would always tell the other to behave. Just a silly joke, but I think it deserves to be said one last time: I love you, grandma. Behave, because I know we will.