Friday, July 16, 2010

Remembering Uncle Rey ...

Just hours ago word traveled to the United States ... my Uncle Rey had passed away in the middle of the night. My Uncle Rey is the younger brother of my mother. He is the reason we traveled half way across the world from Bangkok, Thailand to St. Louis, Missouri in 1968 when my Papa was dying ... he told my mom that if anyone could save my Papa from dying it would be the doctors at Barnes Hospital in St. Louis.

When Papa died he and his wife, my auntie Lita, were there for my mom; they were there for our family. And when we migrated to the States from Thailand in the early 1980s we chose St. Louis, Missouri so that we could be close to our Uncle Rey, auntie Lita and our cousins Phillip and Philbert. They took us in and we became a family. I remember Sundays at Six Flags amusement park ... we even bought season passes so we could go all the time. We attended the outdoor concerts (Beach Boys, Kenny Rogers, Willie Nelson, ....) and on the weekends we'd go water skiing in the Mississippi River. As my cousin Phillip was teaching me to ski one afternoon I remember struggling with the skis, attempting really hard to listen to his instructions, then losing focus as I saw a dead fish floating next to me ... I motioned "Go!" with my arms. I was ready before I was really ready, and I swallowed LOTS of dirty Mississippi River water to prove it! :)

Auntie Lita was like a second mom to me. She loved the rebellious out-of-control teenager who would run away to her place and seek refuge. I'd hang out with auntie Lita as she planted tulips - her favorite. We lost auntie Lita on April 5, 1983 in a car accident. She was waiting to pull out onto the River Road in Alton, Illinois as she was going to work early one morning when a drunk driver crashed into her stationary vehicle. She died instantly. Our entire family flew home to the Philippines for her funeral. In May, 1985 I graduated from Washington University in St. Louis. My mom, sister and brother were there, of course, but so was Uncle Rey and my cousins Phillip and Philbert.

I will always remember the kind-hearted, generous nature and spirit of Uncle Rey. He always made me laugh. And he always laughed. I saw him last November I went back to the Philippines. He was telling me how he got bitten by a rat and ended up having to go to the doctor to get rabies shots ... all the while he is telling me he's smiling and his arms extended exuberantly, and somewhat flailing, as he tells his story and making sure I know which points need extra emphasis! He loves to tell stories.

My cousin Phillip was able to make it back to the Phillipines to see his dad. Within 24 hours of his arrival to the Philippines, Uncle Rey passed. My niece believes he was waiting for his kids. He was diagnosed with stage 4 cancer not long ago -- the cancer had spread throughout his body. I believe he knew his oldest son had arrived and it was okay to let go.

We will miss you Uncle Rey ... thank you for being a second dad to us when we first came to the States. Thank you for loving and giving so much of yourself to others ... and thank you for your stories, and for opening up your heart and your home to our family; and thank you for loving my mom and taking care of her after Papa died and even recently in the Philippines.

I just spoke to my mom ..... she misses you, Uncle Rey, and she said to me "He was the one that was always there for me.  My heart hurts so much." I told her, "Uncle Rey is now with Papa, and he is now with auntie Lita." She said ... "oh yes, he's now with your Papa."

Rest in peace Uncle Rey. You will remain in our hearts.

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