Thanking God for my Family Through Loving my Sister

This is the draft of the sharing I gave at the SFC Regional Conference in Batangas City, Philippines last 4–6 September 2015.

I’m Mai Dones and I’m here to share a story that continues to unfold silently and had begun more than 25 years ago. God has blessed me with two wonderful parents, and with them came the extra package of 4 siblings: Kuya Chint, Ate Mae, my younger sister, Nans, and my younger brother, Mac.

I grew up sharing many things with them: from food to room, from stuff to stories. There were times when I would play this trick question in my head: a boat is stuck at sea; it can only carry 4 people. Which of your siblings would you not save? If I pick kuya, I’d have no more free ride to work, pick ate and no one will feed the dogs, pick Nannie and I’ll have to say bye to a free Disneyland pass/no more free makeup. And Mac? If I let him go, I’d have no one left to annoy. :)

Kidding aside, I cannot imagine life without my siblings. I would not trade any of them for the world. To each of them I owe a huge part of my life; each of them teaches me important life lessons. I have to say that the first of my siblings to do so is my ate Mae.

Ate is my moral compass, in her memory is a collection of stories that could be tagged as pre-Mai, dating back to seven years before I was born. When Mama was pregnant with me, Kuya had hoped he’d have a brother, so much that he had dubbed me: Eduard Anthony (taking after his and Papa’s name) while inside my mom’s tummy and 6 months before I was born. Ate was there, too — she validated the details. She told me that they never let us hear or be spoken to in baby talk, and that’s probably why my younger siblings and I learnt faster and spoke better sooner. She told me that kids who say bad words will have their tongue cut off. By who? I did not dare ask. I was 5 at the time. She told me about needs and wants long before I encountered them in Economics; shared with me things she learnt in school like the English translation of Noli me Tangere, which I enthusiastically shared to my classmates in grade 2, and which they did not appreciate, by the way. I go to Ate for validation and guidance. Until today, whenever I feel confused, I go to her to remind me of what’s truly important.

Don’t get me wrong. We don’t have everything figured out. We don’t laugh at the same jokes. I can speak 70 words a minute, while she would prefer to speak only 15 (wpm). You can’t ask her to dance in public or elsewhere, while I can — in a crowd of 5. And you can’t make me wear anything ruffled, while she, she’s not very particular when it comes to such. Fashion is like way down there in her hierarchy of needs. Not that she doesn’t care at all, but she cares less about it. J She has no fear of dogs and the dark and math, while I do and…well, let’s just say my brain has an auto hibernate function triggered upon the sight of a number. She’s a financial adviser and, only recently, a real estate broker, while I am a writer-ish. :) She’s 7 years my senior but we’ve been very close for as long as I can remember. We used to be the same size until we realized that I took after my mom’s body type while she after papa or that when it comes to food, I prefer quality and she usually opts for quantity. J

Ate and I would sometimes stay up till the wee hours of the morning just catching up and sharing about our dreams and our recent discoveries. I carry with me everything she tells me. Her reminder on needs and wants has guided me in my spending. She also helped increase my financial literacy and encouraged me to tithe more regularly. She also reminds me to always give more to family; especially to our parents who are now both retired from work but not from service. I cannot doubt her words for there were many things she did for me: helped pay for my tuition in college when she was able, and even shouldered my registration fee in conferences — with shirt and transpo. She would share to me stories about saints — she’s recently been a devotee and an evangelist of the Divine Mercy — and would always remind me to pray and ask God to help me search my heart when I need to decide on important matters.

I know that I have been this confident and secure because God has used my ate to be my designated, irrevocable, lifelong friend. I know that next to God and my parents, I will always have my siblings to run to. Now that I’m at the workplace, I’m still reminded of what Ate’s told me when we were younger: to not utter bad words or anything that can hurt other’s feelings. If I have a problem or am feeling stuck, I can always go to ate for some advice and a listening ear. I know that she would not turn her back from me and would agree to stay up late just to listen and share some thoughts until we have nothing left to talk about.

When my lola died in 1997, it dawned on me that we are not going to live forever. I used to calculate a human being’s average life span and compare it with the ages of the people I love. I cannot imagine living without the people you love. But I guess, the bigger grace is this: to be able to realize that God sends you people to love you and teach you how to love them back, and grow that love to share with others. I have come to believe that being a sibling is also a vocation — it is a path to heaven. And I thank God for an ate who guides me and helps me prepare for heaven. My prayer is that I, too, may become a path for them. Through our imperfect love for one another, and by God’s perfect grace, we shall continue to strive and live in love and deep joy from this life to the next. :’)

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