May 5, 2016
Dear Hyde Park Family,
My mother’s name is Teresita deVega, but most everyone calls her “Tessie.” She and my dad have been married for over forty-four years, and have three charming, handsome, and distinguished sons.
Mom was born into a large family, with five brothers and two sisters. They grew up in the seaside town of Calapan, on the northern coast of Mindoro, the Philippines’ seventh largest island. My mother’s family was well known in the region, since her father owned a large shipping business that distributed numerous products all throughout Mindoro.
They also had a home in the tiny barrio of Silonay, a secluded village of a few hundred families accessible only by a half-mile long foot bridge. Cars and roadways were non-existent (and still are), and houses were clustered together around communal courtyards and water wells. Living necessities, such as groceries, clothing and household goods, were purchased outside the barrio and carried across the bridge by foot or bicycle into the village. (Imagine living on Davis Islands and having to carry your groceries by hand across the bridge from the mainland.)
By the time she was twenty, she had earned her college degree in marketing from Far Eastern University in Manila, and soon afterwards met my father. (They met at a funeral, of all places. I’ve always wondered what my dad used as a pick-up line. “Hey…um…come here often?”) They began a courtship that soon blossomed into a romance.
With my father determined to raise a family in the United States, in order to give his future children the best chance at the best possible life, he left for America in 1968 to find work, promising to return someday for my mother in order for them to get married. For several long months, with just a few dollars in his pocket, my dad crisscrossed the country, from San Diego to Key West, looking for employment, finally earning a job as a chemical engineer in St. Petersburg. Because of limited funds, my parents could not afford long-distance telephone calls between the U.S. and the Philippines, and mail delivery was quite unreliable. So for four long years, as my dad earned U.S. citizenship and established his new life here, they could not communicate a single time.
Yet, they waited for each other. And true to his word, when my father became a U.S. citizen, he went back to the Philippines for my mother, and they were married at the Garden Crest Presbyterian Church in St. Petersburg, Florida, on January, 1972. A year later, they gave birth to an astonishingly adorable firstborn son.
(I told you to quit laughing.)
Today, they still live in St. Petersburg, in the same city where my brothers were born, in the very same house where I grew up. She’s many steps slower now, saddled by a painfully debilitating back problem that requires regular pain management injections. She’s not really able to ride with my dad across the bridge or sit in the sanctuary to watch me preach on Sunday mornings. But on special occasions, she comes to visit me and the girls at the house.
So, I am profoundly grateful to have the ability again to go over and see her regularly. And this Sunday will be the first Mother’s Day in eight years that I’ll be able to drive over after church and have lunch with her.
It’s not to say that our relationship is perfect, since neither of us are. In fact, no human relationship is. It’s entirely possible that you enter this Mother’s Day with no small portion of ambivalence, if not downright heartache and headache, as you consider the strained nature of your relationship with your mother or your memory of her.
But do you know what? That’s okay. Because we can remember that the Christian faith is nothing else if not incarnational. That means that the love and grace of God is not relegated to the conceptual or ephemeral, but can be revealed in the most ordinary material, the regular stuff of life. Holiness can be found in the mundane. The imperfect can be a conduit for the perfect. And even our toughest relationships can be contexts to see God at work, in the way we play, laugh, fight, forgive and learn to love.
However you choose to observe Mother’s Day this Sunday, look for the sacred in the simple. Learn through listening. Cherish your relationships. And find God’s grace in your midst.
Grace and Peace,
The Rev. Magrey deVega
Senior Pastor, Hyde Park Untied Methodist