When we think of genealogy, I believe most of us think of it in a ‘far off’ way. Even when our genealogy includes putting our grandparents or parents ‘Died on’ date in that space in the software or on the sheet of paper, somehow we always think of the past. And even when we miss our Grannys and Grandpas (sadly, both my grandfathers died when I was an infant), I think there’s a nostalgia that goes along with it that somehow makes it OK.
Of course, anyone who goes back beyond even the mid 20th Century has seen plenty of death in their tree. It’s a simple fact to us, that there’ll be a date on that line, and that the date will make sense. But every once in a while, there’ll be one that tugs at your heart. The mom and baby that died the same day, or the siblings that die within days of one another due to illness. This was a fact that pre-20th Century parents dealt with on a regular basis: children and young people die.
But, in the late 20th Century, and certainly in the 21st Century, especially in the developed world, fewer and fewer children die. We’re so blessed to live in a country that, for the most part, is a safe place for us to live. Modern medicine, sanitation, clean water and safe sources of food have increased our life expectancy significantly.
Then there’s the day that you can never quite get right in your head. The day that changes how you look at life, and love, and the way you fit in the world. For me, that day was September 10, 2006. It was a Sunday, and my parents were over because we were going to take them out to celebrate their wedding anniversary, September 11th. The phone rang, my sister-in-law’s phone number showed on the caller ID, and because my husband was busy, I picked it up. I can still hear her voice in my head, incomprehensible words through screams and cries, “Krystine’s dead.”
I could write pages and pages about the minute details of that day; for as crummy a memory as I have, the details of that day are crystal clear. I won’t do that, or at least I’ll try not to. But I do want to share some things with you, if you’ll indulge me.
Krystine Summer Lorenzana Cabalfin was my niece. She was the daughter of Edgar and Crisel Lorenzana, my husband’s oldest brother and his sister-in-law. She was a precocious little girl, and a vibrant young woman. She was the quintessential ‘social butterfly’ with an incredible array of friends and a very tight knit, though far strewn, family. At her funeral, when discussing who she was, with the priest who would provide her eulogy, I described her as the family’s Social Director. She would’ve taken that title willingly. Most importantly, I considered Krystine not only my niece, she was a confidant and friend.
Krystine was married to Jose Cabalfin in January, 2001. Christopher Joel Cabalfin was born May 4, 2001, and his little brother Matthew Ryan followed December 21, 2002. The role of ‘Mom’ took a while for Krystine to manage; she was challenged with lots of what I called “loving interference” from the older women in the family. But when her daughter Emilyn was born, November 9, 2005, Krystine had finally grown into her role as mother, wife, student, friend, and Ate (a Filipino word).
I like to tell the story of the last time I saw Krystine, because I find a lot of comfort in it. We were celebrating her older brother’s birthday; Edgar Jr, who we all call Jay-R, was celebrating his 29th birthday on September 2nd so we all got together at my in-laws. Krystine was there with her family, and as the youngest, she was ‘working’ the party, preparing food, filling dishes, running errands, etc. all while trying to fulfill her role as the Social Director, Mom and Friend. It wasn’t going well…LOL. I came into the little kitchen and asked if I could help her wash the dirty dishes and she happily accepted. As we stood at the sink, shoulder to shoulder in the cramped space, she began to share with me how she was feeling about some of the things going on in her life, and as I normally did, I tried to make her feel she had the strength to handle it all. Because I knew she did. We were interrupted and she was called away, and hours later, as the party was winding down, Cas and I prepared to leave. I found Krystine, gave her a big hug and as she squeezed me tightly I said, "I love you, Tin" and she replied, "I love you too, Auntie Laura. Those are the last words she said to me. I treasure them like the gift they are, and I can smile, even with a sad heart when I think of her, because we shared that moment.
Krystine died the morning of September 10, 2006. She died when her heart stopped beating while she was sleeping. There were many questions regarding her death because of her age and the fact that many in her family were/are in the healthcare profession. And none of us were prepared to lose her so soon, to put that date in that space in the software. As I copied her funeral card, I was surprised at it’s simplicity. Because Tin was everything but simple. She was a shining light, a mother, a wife, a daughter, an Ate…and she was my friend.