Once upon a time, a long time ago, I got to do something amazing because of one lady and her family, but mostly because her Mum said ‘yes’.
It was actually 2014, so not that long ago, although I think it will always feel like yesterday and forever ago at the same time. In case you don’t know the story, four years ago I decided I wanted to do something to help people in Tacloban, the Philippines, after typhoon Yolanda. Ideally I wanted to stay with local people so I didn’t get a sanitised hotel experience and also so that I paid a person for my board and lodging rather than a company.
The lady who made it possible was a colleague from work whose family live in Tacloban. Her Mum was Mama Pat; the matriarch of a huge family who welcomed me into their home, their lives, their laughter and their stories. In Mama Pat’s position I would never have agreed to have some stranger staying – an English giant no less (a very rare species in Tacloban) – but Mama Pat was amazing.
Not only did I stay, but the first night Mama Pat and I had a strongly worded ‘discussion’ (mostly involving hands as neither of us understood the other) because despite being in her late 70s, she was adamant that she would sleep on a foldaway camp bed and I would have her double bed. I’m pleased to say I won that one :o)
So Mama Pat and I shared a bedroom while I was there. I was relieved to hear that she stopped being concerned about my visit when she realised that I would eat anything she put in front of me. (I’ll be completely honest though, Mama Pat: that day it was just us having lunch and I heaped the green stuff on my plate before asking what it was…that day I nearly failed in my quest to try everything. Finishing that plate of – in your words – ‘cow intestines’ took almost all the determination I possessed!)
Mama Pat and her family were so welcoming and lovely that they invited me back the next year for Mama Pat’s birthday. And I went. And this time I was allowed to sleep on the camp bed with no arguments. :o)
Today is Mama Pat’s funeral. I know one of her main concerns will be whether everyone attending has enough to eat. I’m sure her children and their partners and her grandchildren and friends will do her proud. She taught them her ways, after all. To all of you: I understand no words will help with the loss you feel right now. Please know though, that her love was felt right back here in the UK and I will never forget her. I don’t think there are many people who have that much of an impact in their lives.
Goodnight, Mama Pat. Xxx