It’s not easy to be the messenger of doom. There’ll be rock on one side, and hard places on the other, sharp pins all over.
Most will just go with the standard “It is with great sadness/sorrow/grief…” and go on from there, as formal as possible.
Those news fell onto me as generic, distant.
So I never use it in my writing, especially not for my Ma Sarah Dunning.
Two months ago when she told me she had lung cancer, we knew it’s coming. I knew that one day in a not so distant future, I will be writing about her passing. We came into terms, then, as an active and faithful Catholics, that no matter how bad things seems to be, God knows best.
Yet since the day I learned from my Pa, to the day of her memorial service at the end of the same month, whenever I sat in front of the computer, nothing comes out but tears and emotions.
Ma Sarah and I exchanged messages and emails rarely. We have half of the whole world between us; time difference and everything that comes with it. She came to find Whiskers’ Syndicate three or four years ago – maybe more, since time seems to run double speed in my life – on a date I can no longer remember. I just remembered that it flowed like a river. I feel as if she is my mother, likewise, she felt as if I was her daughter. The many sameness in our view toward animal welfare, the angers we share toward the injustice, the questions we have of God’s apparent ignorance. Fighting for animal welfare is not as simple as moving mountains.
My admiration is to her strength to keep standing at the front line to fight for the animal welfare, even at the dusk of her age. Her ultimate resolution in her faith that our Father in heaven endowed toward us the dominion (not domination) among other creatures that should be respected instead of abused, much less taken for granted. Her sheer and unwavering conviction that all creatures deserve kindness, grace and love with which God had created humans.
My growing bond with Ma Sarah is from her cards. Every Easter, and every Christmas, on my birthday: cramming as much as she can in the small space between the prints, and I would do the same. Her well wishes, her words of wisdom, her encouragements. The strength she sent all the way to a daughter far away across the ocean who fights a lonely battle of saving animals in a land that never respected their God beyond the source of riches and power. It has been lonelier since her passing, and I will surely miss her card when my birthday comes next October 25th.
In the days prior to her memorial service, I was given a link for the event should I decided to watch online, due to the space and health restrictions that sweeps the world. In such a graceful way Pa reminded me that Ma’s was a life well lived, and that her memorial should be a celebration instead of sorrow.
I was notified that instead of flowers, Ma Sarah would love if her family and friends would give to two of her most beloved charities, Whiskers’ Syndicate being one of them. Just when I thought I reached the edges of this sea of grief, I was drowned in the ocean of humility. In her death, Ma Sarah did not go further. She is even closer. She did not leave, she stays near. She made sure that even after she moves to the other plain the cats will not be bereft of a benefactor they would never get in their own country.
Even when I can no longer see her, touch her, read her words, listen to her, Ma Sarah made sure that this lonely fight shall not be lost. That subtle nudge that the baton is now in my hand, and that like her, I should continue to give my all in our fight for animal rights.
This morning when I finally typed her name the first time after her passing, I know that Ma’s legacy is not mansions, titles, merits, awards. Ma Sarah’s legacy is the people who inherit her spirit in the liberty, egality and fraternity of all creatures. Ma’s legacy is the bond that connected everyone she left behind into a union of faith, of love, of kindness, of hope, and mutual passion in carrying the flame she always keep burning in her heart:
That all creatures are created with the same love, and therefore should live with the same love.
My beloved Ma Sarah Dunning, and two of the cats she sponsored at The Whiskers’ Syndicate: Rufus (lost one ear) and Timmy White