I thought we had more time, Marianne. I thought I could hold you in my arms for a few more days, listen to your last wishes and dreams for your family, comfort you in your pain. I thought by holding you close I would remind you of our love. As much love as you showered all of us.
And that is what describes best the Marianne I knew. She had such a fierce love for her young family, an encompassing love for her extended family, a joyous love for her cousins and friends, and a generous love for everyone else who was lucky enough to have known her.
She was also quite headstrong, this little one. When she was young (we had her until she was 3), she insisted on wearing only pink or red, and Hello Kitty was her big favorite. We had to cut off all the labels in her clothes as they made her itch – label on, clothing off, no discussion. A year after she was taken from us, I came home from work one late night and there she was in our living room sitting with her sister Margaret and cousins Jay and Joel, chatting with them as if she had never left at all. Her nanny told us that Yan (that’s what we called her before she became the grownup Mez) badgered her for days to take her “back home”. And from the moment she found her way back, her dad had no option but to allow us to pick her up for regular week-end visits.
And we made most of those week-ends. For Marianne loved travel and adventure. I packed the girls in my car, nanny in tow, and we drove everywhere. If any of you are familiar with the Philippines, back in the days when traffic was not a problem and the air was clean, you could drive a couple of hours away from Manila and you would be in a town different from others, in dialect and culture. A few time, we just stayed home and read, for she loved books, and learned to read early.
Wherever we went, Marianne would be the chatterbox, full of curiosity and endless questions. She had such a hunger for learning, and the brain capacity to understand most anything, even at a young age. Then she would smile with those eyes that brightened up any room, the purest smile, the one that came from the heart. And when she switched that on, everyone was charmed.
But then we lost her again. For 16 years.
I came to Australia for an assignment in 2007, and ABC helped me find Marianne again. A storm had hit Newcastle, but that sunshine of a little girl was back in my life, and now a young woman with the wonderful young man Brendan in her life. And what a celebration for my family when they came to visit us in California. When she had Addie, and then Connor, I saw how much of Marianne they had in her - the occasional stubbornness, the smarts, the charm, and the huge capacity to love. And they have Brendan and all of us to love them back and take care of them. For Marianne, and for themselves.
I thought we had a little more time, Marianne. On our first visit, you had little strength left but you managed to put hand on lips as we walked in the door, and we knew it was a kiss. You even raised your hand to gesture 5 when I asked how many days the kids were back in school. That stubbornness came through - you told us you were still in the conversation. On our second visit, your body was in repose, but your hand was warm as I held it. I knew you were listening. And those 2 days were, after all, more than enough. Somehow I managed to distantly hold you in my arms and let you know how much I loved you.
Fair winds in your journey back to the stars, my darling daughter. Fair winds.