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Archive for December, 2013

To my nephews (sons) Scotty and Dasi:

I always promised your Mom that if anything ever happened, I would care for you. The problem is I’ve never given this Mom thing daily practice. While I learn, here are some lessons to remember:

Little things (most important first)

Your Mom was (is) the personification of love and faith. She wanted us all to understand and experience the rapture of God’s love. I look around me and often find it difficult to believe. Your Mom never had that problem: “make it through another day,” she would say, “you will see…” Sometimes days turn into years. She taught me to look for little signs along the way. A baby’s smile. Stories from those who have experienced miracles. A flower. People helping people or risking their lives to save someone/something for no good reason. “You’ll never see these things if you don’t look. That’s why the Bible says ‘seek and ye shall find’.” Here is a video of what love looks like through my eyes (by the way, no graffitti – you need to respect property that is not yours; use a canvas or cardboard) . Here is a video of what love looks like through your Mom’s eyes (she loved images like these – make plans to find such places and take your own pictures).

Make time for the little things. Your Mom would say, “Cecilia, on those VERY special days (she’d consider them miracles and bless God for witnessing) that you actually go to your Church, why don’t you ever invite me?” I would laugh and say, “because I don’t plan. On those rare occasions that the Spirit moves me to go to mass, I just find one and go.” I should have planned! I always thought there would be more time.

Work hard, even when you are too tired to go on. Play and relax as well. God willing you find work that you love so you enjoy work as much as you do play. There is no need for stress or anguish in this world. Get the maximum education there is but don’t loose your common sense. Somethings once lost are lost forever. Even complex things have a simple purpose (e.g. your brain keeps you alive).

Stand your ground and be proud of who you are but NEVER put others down even when they are stepping on you. Cream just floats its way to the top, dissolves, and makes everything yummy (plus is very slippery if stepped on). Be like cream!

What I learned about death from your aunts and uncles: “We like to say that those who have passed are lost. The reality is we know exactly where they are. We get confused because we feel them in our hearts and picture them in our minds but cannot hear them with our ears or see them with our eyes. Yes we miss them but we should rejoice for the pleasure to have known them and been with them.” Always remember that you are the delight of your parents and that when we see you, we see them. ¬†Your presence in this world keeps your Mom alive for us.

Big things (most difficult second)

ONE: Talk to us when things are bothering you or don’t make sense. You may not like or agree with what we have to say and, yes there may be other better ways but always remember, compared to us, you are young. If we don’t know everything, you certainly don’t either. We have seen a lot in this world and are here to protect you, as best we can, from what is bad so that you can spend your lives enjoying what is good. There is no need to repeat our mistakes so when we tell you you are making a mistake, listen!

TWO: Speaking of bad, there are people in this world (from all incomes, colors, places, professions, even “faiths”) who are right proper Devil worshippers. They look like everyone else, they may even be beguiling and seem sweet or appear in need of help (some even beg for help asking you to give them strength and show them the way). You will recognize them because they speak intolerance and negativity (they will even have facts that are valid, but misconstrued, and reasoning that passes logical tests but fails ethical ones). They will never leave room for other arguments and will even calmly and patiently take time to dissuade you so they can teach you something better. Evil’s best disguise is to look more seductive than or just like good but something will always be off and they will tell you something is off with you. You will see the glimmer of pride in their eye when they feel superior to someone else. Some are boastful others appear meek but they thrive on fear and distrust (ill intentions). Dysfunction is logical to them and always someone else’s problem (while professing or promising to help you get rid of it). They avoid putting their real beliefs in writing or displaying them publicly. They talk of drama instead of going to the theatre and supporting the arts. When they see kindness they call it weakness. When they hear the truth, they mock it. In Africa we say they act like hyenas and jackals (remember the scenes from the movie Lion King). However, this is an insult to hyenas and jackals. The animal brain functions on instinct. The human brain can distinguish the subtleties between good and evil and makes choices. When such people attack you, first, come to us immediately. Trust your aunt who has tried to fight such people alone – the military does not send lone soldiers to fight wars and such people (even when they first appear individually) never travel alone. Second, if we are not there or can’t get to you immediately, know that we will get there. Third, don’t defend yourself using their beliefs, words or tactics. The battle with them is a long war not a short skirmish. If you let their ways creep into your life, you’ll win the battle but lose the war. Take it from a Catholic (we’ve taught a lot of Holy wars).

THREE: Help your father! He works very hard to give you every opportunity. He gets tired and frustrated just like you do. He misses your Mom even more than you do. She was his soulmate, best friend, guide and source of happiness. Keep this blessing alive by helping him the way she would help him. It is you who carry her blood in your veins not us. We are here to remind you, love you and support you. Make sure everything that you do is something that would have put a smile on her face. You know the one I mean.

FOUR: Don’t pray like I do. “Dear Lord, those with a lot of accumulated knowledge often lack common sense. For an all knowing, all powerful being, you don’t have any common sense. When I asked you to save Hildah, common sense would have told you I meant keep her here with us happy, healthy, wealthy (you sometimes forget we need money). Don’t talk to me about your wisdom when you can’t show me common sense and don’t tell me about mysteries I can’t understand because if you really were smart you could explain things in ways that I CAN understand!” Your mother was very afraid that God will send me a personalized lightening bolt someday so that I gain instant enlightenment, literally! In case she’s right, pray her way. “Dear Lord, I know you are all powerful for you sent your son Jesus as a sign of LOVE. [Sidenote: not everyone belives in Jesus or God and you must respect that. However, just about everyone in this world has heard of this crazy preacher who was willing to die for his beliefs and forgive his tormentors. There is even a book about it and several movies.] You blessed me with two sons and you know I love them more than my own life. You know full well that I did not want to leave them but I will not question your wisdom. I will trust that this is the best decision for me, for them, for my husband, for my family and for my friends. Please protect them at all times, especially when they are not listening or aware they are in danger. Please instill in them your strength and all powerful wisdom so that they can make this world a better place for everyone. Let them bring your kingdom of peace, love and happiness to this earth, one person at a time. Let those who know them believe, protect and help them for we are all your children and must see ourselves in each other. AMEN (meaning: thy will be done).”

To the World:

When Hildah was alive, she was always near her sons. They may not have a biological mother but they still have a mother in me their aunt. Let no one say I cannot be reached or be found. Even if something were to happen to me, I have written this so that what is expected of them is clear. If anyone tries to harm them or cause them trouble, you now know the face that will come after you.

I need to deal with a challenge they have faced up front. My nephews would get frustrated by people who put them down for being African. When their mother was alive, she would face such people on their behalf and stun them with the grace of her presence. I am not as tactful or peaceful. I also don’t want anyone questioning them when they share what I tell them so I am writing it here for ALL to see. Despite negative images, stereotypes and propaganda, THIS, is Africa (click to see video). We are clans not because we are primitive and backwards but because we know the importance of keeping track of family (not just immediate but 12 to 18 removed along with their spouses and their children). If you have chosen to forget or lose your connections you may laugh at our dependence on oral history but the human mind, especially as a collective, is a better supercomputer than any invention and holds more details than any written or visual record. Scott and Dasi Nanji belong to the Mobit and Nanji clans from Cameroon (West Africa). They are also answered for in the East and I hereby formally request for the Karachuonyo and Nyakach clans (Kenya) to accept and welcome them and grant them safe keeping.

[Note to family: yes, they tell the truth when they say “Aunty Cecilia says not to send money.” In case you haven’t heard me directly, we are not billionaires living at the Ritz and there is plenty of money to be made back home plus a better lifestyle. They are still children and will decide how to handle these issues when they are grown men and settled. Right now their priority is their school fees and then it will be establishing their careers. Like me, Hildah came to the US after high school; we’ve been here so long it is what we know and we have responsibilities to the kind Americans who were shocked we would venture so far from family and have welcomed us into theirs. They have asked that we stay and show success here. For these boys, America is home. It is where they were born and raised. Different from what we are used to, yes. On the bright side who would have ever thought the first black US President would have Kenyan blood and serve two terms! What other country has a Constitution that protects such things? As for the country people (for non-Africans, “country people” does not denote rural; it means the people who share a land/area/region and culture as their own): The ones in Connecticut taught me as much US history and culture as they could in 4 years. The ones in Pittsburgh taught me we value the same things as people. The ones in Colorado showed me their natural landscapes and asked if I found them as pleasing as ours, to which I readily replied yes. The ones in California have taught me, “don’t talk like us, talk like yourself. We love learning from other people. Oh, and here are some fresh vegetables you might actually like.” I actually look for veggies now, can you believe! I have yet to live South but, when I visit, they eat and talk like we do! These are a special people and there is a lot to learn and share. Hildah lived in Pittsburgh but traveled all over to see friends and family plus places on a map. She asked that her body not be taken home and burried in Pittsburgh so her sons could visit on Mother’s Day. This request has been honored. My wishes for burial when I die – no screaming because I am most singularly unanimous in my decision. I don’t want headaches over my dead body; it will have served its purpose by that point. Burn my body (cremation) and spread the ashes in as many locations as you think my body should be. This way I will achieve in death what is impossible in life – to be physically present in multiple places at once. Hildah was going to make sure you all did this even if she didn’t agree with cremation. Now I’ll just have to hear you gasp for my own self.]

On the Puerto Rican side, talk about Catholics and Holy miracles (caray! Pues, nunca es lo que uno espera hacer sino lo que Dios mande). I have two sons and I need help from Mamaseses and Papaseses! We’re like white rice (found everywhere in the world) so please help me look after these boys and call me if they misbehave. Ya tu sabes

The final song played to celebrate Hildah’s life before the burial: My God is good, I will lift him higher! Followed by two Christian words known and spoke in all languages: Hallelujah, Hossana! (apologies for poor image and bad sound in the video) .

Hilda Memory

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