Aunt Celine, from my father’s side of the family, passed away on Saturday (Mar 25). She was 92 and had been suffering from dementia. Loss of sleep and memory, occasional confusion about her whereabouts and, ultimately, the inability to walk, speak or even swallow compromised her quality of life miserably. She is in a better place today, where the final closeness to God of a lifelong believer compensates her for the afflictions of earthly life.

However, when relatives cite these sensibilities, the unspoken assumption is that it is better for an elderly to pass away than to continue to endure the vicious tribulations of life. That is not my intention. Aunt Celine is so much a part of my life that I cannot let her go blithely into the great unknown without losing a part of myself. The love which she and her husband, uncle Boniface, showered on me when I was a child is embedded deeply in my heart, which itself is growing old. To even think of them makes me a child again. No child wants the playfulness of childhood to end. But it must. Where it ends, memories begin.

Celine B. Pereira (aka Celine David) was born in St. Andrews, in the southern Indian state of Kerala, on August 28, 1930. She grew up by the beautiful shores of the Arabian Sea and came to Singapore by ship to be with her husband in 1954, bearing the most precious of parcels, a six-month-old son named Martin. Judy would follow.

So would I, in a manner of speaking. Although I was not their offspring, the couple adopted me in everything but name. They taught me the meaning of belonging to an extended family. A family extends as far as the heart can beat and the eyes can see. Aunt Celine’s kindly eyes would brighten up whenever I entered the realm of her doting sight, and I would behave just as I did with my parents: secure in the instinctive knowledge that I would be wanted, loved and spoiled, not for any reason other than that I was their own.

I am still a part of the extended Pereira family. Uncle Boniface predeceased Aunt Celine: Now, they will have a chance to love each other again. Cousin Judy, more a sister than a cousin, embodies the values of blood ties. Aunt Celine’s legacy lives on in my own sense of the extended family.

I could not stop the tears when I heard that she was no more. Then, I looked around myself. There, in the pathways of my life she stood. She had not stopped looking at me and loving me.

I must keep walking. Why else did she spoil me into being myself?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You May Also Like