“Don’t let your heart be troubled, have faith in God and in Jesus.”
Father Tim Galos said these comforting words in a homily he delivered during the funeral mass for Mrs. Linda Ibarreta, former Filipino Star News columnist, on Feb. 25, 2017 at the St. Michael church in Sterling Heights.
The words were addressed particularly to Linda’s grieving husband Roman Ibarreta, daughter Lalai Ibaretta-Espinosa, sister Josefina Johnston, brother Jose Bruselas and grandchildren A.J. and Ela Espinosa.
The grief of her loved ones was dark and deep as death came like a thief in the night to Mrs. Ibaretta, 73 years old, former Master Teacher II at Iriga City (Camarines Sur) school division.
In the early morning of Feb. 17, she complained of breathing difficulty and was rushed to the Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit. Diagnosed to have suffered massive stroke, she was confined in the intensive care unit for four days. She passed away on Feb. 21. Her death was so sudden that it was very difficult for her family to accept it.
My wife Beth and I have known Linda and her husband Roman for the last seven years, and in that span of time, we had been close friends. We met them for the first time at a party of a friend, Arnel Nablo, in Farmington Hills in November 2009. My wife and I had just immigrated in Michigan. Linda and Roman had also immigrated here a few weeks earlier.
As I was new here, I missed the drinking sessions with my friends in the Philippines who were mostly my “kumpadre” (godfathers). This could be the reason I inadvertently called Roman “kumpadre” while we were enjoying a bottle of red wine. Since then we have called each other “Pare” even though Roman and I were not actually “kumpadre.”
As she was a teacher, Linda was well respected for teaching is the noblest profession, especially in the Philippines.
She and I had the same hobby – reading detective novels. She was a big fan of James Patterson, and I was a voracious reader of Michael Connelley’s Harry Bosch series of detective thrillers. Every now and then, we would exchange books.
At one gathering, she mentioned that she used to write term papers and articles for some co-teachers in Camarines Sur. This prompted me to ask her to write articles for the Filipino Star News. She accepted my offer, thus her column “Bits and Pieces” came about.
Her articles delved mostly on religious matters. She was fond of quoting verses and psalms in the Bible as well as nuggets of wisdom by famous authors. At times, she expressed her sentiments about the hardship of living in the U.S. and her being separated from her children and grandchildren in Bicol. How she wished she could hug her grandkids during the holidays or when she was deeply homesick.
She realized that we are just travelers on this earth and that our journey will end in the kingdom of God. In one of her column pieces, she quoted a line in St. Francis of Assisi’s prayer which says, “It is in dying that we are born to eternal life.”
Yes, indeed, our mundane life is temporary and the time we live on this earth is just as short as a blink in the eyes of the Almighty. William Shakespeare described life as a brief candle. He said, “Out, out brief candle, life is but a walking shadow that struts and frets its hour upon the stage and then is heard no more.”
Life in tierra pirma is short, but what makes us hopeful for a life after death is our strong faith in the words of God as spoken through the prophets.
Death is Life
Quoting the Bible, Father Tim Galos said that God has prepared for us dwelling places in heaven. So if we have faith in God, we nurture hope for an everlasting life.
Death is sometimes a relief because it is a way to end excruciating pain caused by sickness. But death also means permanent absence by those who pass away ahead of us. If a loved one goes on a long travel, there is hope he/she will come back to our home. In death, there’s no coming back.
Linda is not coming back, and she is sorely missed by Pareng Roman, her siblings, children and grandchildren for she had been at the center of their lives.
Farewell, Linda, farewell! I hope we will meet again somewhere in the infinity of time.