Every Christmas I listened to my mother tell us this story. I always wondered how she found the courage to live through it. It was not a happy story. It did not elicit any feel-good emotions. It was a Christmas story about strength and courage that brought on giving and sharing.
My mother, Lourdes “Lulu” Reyes Besa grew up without a father most of her life. She and her brothers were raised by a widowed mother. They went through the painful ravages of World War II. They suffered through the ordeal of seeing a loved one go through the Bataan Death March from Corregidor to Capas, Tarlac. As a family, they went through months of not knowing whether her brother, Willie had survived the death march or whether he was in any of the concentration camps known for their harsh, inhumane conditions.
Most people would have lost all hope at this point. But my mom did not. From childhood, she knew how to muster the strength to be a survivor at anything life hurled at her. Even better, she learned how to turn the darkest hour into the moment with the most brilliant light shining through with her faith, family and unwavering optimism. My mother was my hero. Through all her pain and hardships, she was awarded the Medal of Freedom by the United States in 1947, for her valiant World War II efforts to aid American and Filipino POWs (Prisoners of War). She received the Ozanam Award from the Ateneo University (then Ateneo de Manila), an award to honor Christians “for their distinguished charitable service to their fellowmen.”
My mother’s story began on Christmas Eve when she was five. Her story takes on a remarkable turn of events at Christmas Eve once again, this time as a young woman.
My mom passed away years ago. And though I miss her, I revisit this story to draw strength from it. It never fails to lift me up and help me through the saddest days. Read “Lulu’s Fifty-Peso Christmas Gift” on Positively Filipino. It has timeless lessons about life, sharing and giving. Even if it’s not the holidays anymore, come back and read it again like I often do. It’s a story that has taught me about the most important things in life.
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