No sad songs for her
One of my favorite poems, one that I memorized immediately after second reading, was the one written by Christina Georgina Rosetti in the 1890s. Its first stanza goes:
“When I am dead, my dearest
Sing no sad songs for me,
Plant thou no roses at my feet
Nor shady cypress tree.
Be the green grass above me
With showers and dewdrops wet,
And if thou wilt, remember,
And if thou wilt, forget.”
The words are so appropriate for my dear childhood friend and schoolmate whose friendship I enjoyed for all those years, despite separations that took her to other places and even other countries during her lifetime.
Loreto Lopez Gonzaga passed away last Saturday in the way she must have wished for: suddenly, after losing consciousness at her home, in her own room, and dying shortly after. We knew she had been sick several times, and seriously at that, but she had that strong will that often made her defy doctors’ orders, but always recovered. And, after her release from the hospital, and the intensive care unit at that, she would shock her family by sneaking out and going driving to as far as Salvador Benedicto town or Dumaguete City. She was one woman who liked to do things her way.
The pampered only child of landed parents, Francisco Lopez and the former Carolina de la Paz, there was nothing her doting parents could deny her. She was the one with the biggest allowance among us at school, and I can still recall how the two of us would feast on the ice drops sold by the caritons near LCC so much that once, the Principal, Sor Ana, called us and asked if we were wearing lipstick since our mouths were so red. And she was the one always paying, because she said she gets all the change from her mother’s wallet before leaving for school!
But she had so many admirers, and one of them was already a college student, so her mother got alarmed and, despite the fact that their house was just a block away from La Consolacion College, she enrolled her as an intern who could not go out unless her parents come for her. The naughty girl was enterprising, and (I acknowledge in shame) made me her courier for her letters to her friend that I would pass on to my neighbor at Rosario who was also studying at the then Occidental Negros Institute, now University of Negros Occidental. Letters from her friend were then sent through Eva L, my neighbor, and through me, they got to Loreto!
Those were the days, but this was soon discovered by her mother who then transferred her, again as an intern, to the Holy Ghost College in Manila. And this effectively ended what she always referred to as her “first love”. Later she returned to LCC where she graduated. Which is why, until very recently, we would have reunions at her house, or at somebody’s residence. We had the most fun, and the best preparations, especially when we go to her hacienda home in Sagay.
Loreto lived live to the fullest, and had so many friends and relatives who doted on her because of her thoughtfulness and generosity. Everytime she travelled, we always got pasalubongs from her. A few years ago, during the birthday of Bing, I noticed that Pompeyo Querubin was there, and remembering their ill-fated love of student days, I brought him over to Loreto, telling him, “She has just returned from a world tour”. Pompeyo, said “Oh, if I had known I would have joined you”. And Loreto, with her quick wit, sassily told him, “If you had come, I might be pregnant when we return!” shocking even Pompey, the lawyer.
After that, the two seemed to have resumed their friendship, and were always talking to each other and communicating, but, according to her, only as friends. But she never denied it when we tease her that “First love never dies”. She had been happily married to the late Ric Gonzaga and they had eight goodlooking and talented children: Rickie, Georgie, Susie, Benjie (+), Norie, Elsie Millie, and Carrie, who so well understood their mother that they staged a going away party the night before her burial that could have been planned by Loreto herself.
Her daughters and daughters-in-law staged a fashion show at the Acropolis wearing some of her fabulous gowns and danced her favorite numbers, that were very much applauded by their relatives and friends. A very touching moment was when her favorite dance partner took the urn bearing her cremated remains, and danced with it in his arms, as if he were dancing again with her. And the music and dancing went on until 4 a.m.! How Loreto must have enjoyed that! And so did her loved ones who had come from all over the country and even from abroad, to pay their last respects to this singular woman!*
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