Three Sisters

October 26, 2009

Last Friday, I went to Taste of India in Seattle. It’s my favorite place to eat when I’m in town.

As I was leaving, I noticed three women, holding hands, heads bowed, praying fervently. I was moved by the public display of such devotion.

Go say hello, my voice whispered. Nah, don’t bother them, the other cynical voice insisted. I waited. Go. Don’t go.

Finally, I decided to follow my original impulse and walked over to the table, with no idea what I’d say and feeling a bit ridiculous, intrusive

“Were you praying,” I ask.

“Yes,” they answer in unison.

“It made my heart happy to see you praying in public.”

They tell me they were praying for their mother, Nellie, who died Oct. 17, at 83. Three of her daughters, Nina, Leny and Carolynda, had gathered at their mom’s favorite restaurant to share a meal and memories of their beloved mother.

People will say she had a good, long life. We wanted it to be longer, Carolynda says, and her sisters bow their heads and nod in agreement.

I tell them I am so sorry for their loss and they invite me to join them.

Their family is from Rizal, Taytay in the Philippines. Rizal is close to Batangas, where I had my surgery in 2003. We share stories over cups of chai. We keep talking right through their lunch.

All three women work at local universities. Nina teaches at the University of Washington, where Carolynda also works. Leny works at Seattle University. When I tell them about Isis Initiative, Inc. and Leah’s story, they say their mother must have sent me.

They tell me that their mother wanted to offer a scholarship to Filipina girls, but with nepotism prevalent in the culture, she was concerned the money might not make it to a young woman who needed it. Leah had expressed the same concerns when she suggested we give our scholarships directly to the students we select and not to the colleges.

The sisters tell me they would like to know more about my nonprofit and tell me they liked to help. I tell Nina I would be happy to come and speak in her. I thank them for sharing their lunch and their stories with me. And then they thank me.

“You’re an angel on earth.”

How wonderful and mysterious life is. And how particularly beautiful and surprising it can be when I follow the first voice–the heartful voice–that speaks to me.

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