Someone called me the other day asking me to define “high apple pie in the sky hopes.” When I explained that I lifted it from a Frank Sinatra song, he was amused.
Actually the expression is “pie in the sky,” and among its definitions are: a preposterously optimistic goal, or something good that is unlikely to happen. It originated as something spiritual, but last Sunday I used it in reference to picking someone for the 2016 elections.
He pursued. “Doesn’t anyone inspire you?”
At this age and stage of my life, I have learned not to put anyone on a pedestal. I couldn’t bear another fall.
So I went back to my dictionary. What is “to inspire”?
It means to fill with an animating, quickening or exalting influence; to enliven, to hearten, to enkindle, to motivate, or to cause a feeling or thought.
My prayer is to find a God-fearing leader, one who loves our country, is selfless, who speaks the truth, is motivated by honesty, not greed; is accountable, transparent; one who is fearless but fair, firm but compassionate.
Is this a “pie in the sky”?
Let me tell you who inspires me. And, no, they are not running for office.
Her skin is toasted from working under the sun. I first met her when she was a little girl, tagging along with her mother Emy, who had a deformed back and was pitifully hunched over from birth.
Emy tended our family plot in a memorial park. When she passed, Josie stopped going to school and took over.
Today Josie and her husband Tony have five children. Their eldest is in college. The youngest is a good-looking 10-year-old boy in fifth grade.
I see Josie twice a year when she comes to collect her fee, in June to make enrollment, and just before Christmas.
We chat. She shares her joys and sorrows with me, asks for advice. Once, she had huge problems and needed a small loan but would not take a handout. She paid back every single centavo.
I ask if she gets tired and what keeps her going. She tells me she has too much to do to feel tired, that she has dreams for her children and the thought of their future stops her from sitting still. Her eyes light up when she talks about them. Her life is not easy. But there is no trace of bitterness in her voice. She does not complain.
She happily trims the grass at the edge of the tombs, washes and brushes the markers, noting where the cement is worn or wasted, patches up whatever she can. She even reminds me of birthdays and anniversaries.
Josie always thanks me for our chats. It should be the other way around. She has no idea how much I learn from our times together.
I have known her since she was a child. A race-car accident almost four decades ago left her a paraplegic. Anyone else would have given up. Not Ruby.
Today she runs a successful global business that employs thousands of people. She is all about helping and lightening the load of her less fortunate countrymen.
Ruby wears her physical disability like a badge of honor and has not allowed it to stop her from living a full life and of becoming the exceptional human being God created her to be. Her strength lies in her deep faith.
Wheelchair notwithstanding, Ruby is running her race.
She was my classmate. For the past year or so, we have watched her slowly withdraw into the fog of Alzheimer’s. But, rain or shine, when there is a reunion, she shows up.
She has survived untold tragedies in her life and, today, with the onset of dementia, that’s all she remembers, all she can talk about, over and over again.
During a recent gathering of our class, she was recognized, a little late in the day, I must admit. She was our mover and shaker. We are together because of her dedication. But we never thanked her.
At our alma mater’s recent 100th anniversary bash, Nenita should have received an award with the other alumnae who were so honored that day. But she missed it on a technicality: She was not a member of the academe.
Never mind that she was the heart and soul behind the school’s alumnae paper, and that for the past couple of decades she has defied the dangers of New Bilibid Prison and dared visit inmates in sickbay, cook for them, feed them and talk to them about God.
Mary, her constant companion and caregiver, tells us they love her there and consider her a living saint.
Pity. She would have loved standing on that stage and taking a bow.
After our tribute last week, she asked for the microphone. We held our breath. But she was lucid, grateful for our accolades and humble about her accomplishments. We cheered her on, and she became emotional.
She went back to the stories about her 11 brothers and sisters, how she lost them all, that she has nothing and no one. She told us again and again. We listened. It was her day!
Suddenly she stopped and said, “Thank you all very much.” There was hearty applause.
When she sat down she was smiling. There were tears in her eyes. Then she looked away and gazed peacefully at the garden, once more lost in the mist that for one brief moment had lifted and allowed her light to shine.