MY MOST UNFORGETTABLE UNCLE

by Ederlinda Musngi

I will never forget this person in my life who has been a beautiful part of my childhood memories.

Sometime in the early dawn of November 1997, my mother woke me up and broke the news in whisper, “The finding was terminal cancer, we were just waiting.” I cried to death. It cannot be. How come it happened? Two months ago I saw my uncle sweeping their backyard. Just like ordinary days, he would do the normal chores around the house so as not to make himself a burden to his family despite the difficulty and pain he often felt at his back when he is fatigued. But time passed by too swiftly, it wiped away his presence. The impermanence of life always prevails and it has always been evident around us.

He stood with shoulders slightly slanted and in a lanky state as a bamboo tree. He was nearly six feet tall with a thin body built that looks unsteady when he walked. His wearisome shoulder used in carrying cavans of rice since childhood has been made more obvious in the way he limped. Nevertheless, he climbed up trees with confidence and with a speed like a cat running after its prey.

In the middle of the crowd he can easily be recognized because of his posture which tend to lean toward the left side of his body. He has brown complexion, the real color of a man natural in every farmer who works everyday under the sun cultivating rice fields for as long as there is a streak of light. His chiseled nose and medium sized eyes and his glossy white teeth are features made more attractive when he smiled. His fine and shiny hair stretched around his head is suitable to his delightfully oval-shaped face, which is pleasing to see. His grinning smile gives comfort and assurance to the heart of a person who loses hope.

He is a man of few words, a man of courage and encouragement. He is very reasonable and understanding toward his neighbor. He is a very patient fellow, full of love, reasons and understanding. Many come to him for advise and give him gifts. He is sensitive enough to know what to say to a person who is in need and weary.

I remember when I was a little kid, I used to play active games and sports, and often go home bruised and wounded. My mother would scare me that from that wound would come out different kinds of creatures. I would cry and go to my uncle. He would calm me and tell me to stop crying. With voice full of confidence, he would utter, “Don’t worry, that’s just a simple wound, after a couple of days that would be gone.” My heart would then be calm, the fear was vanished.

Even before he died, he exerted all his efforts with hope and confidence that he would soon be able to walk and work again. His enduring spirit and hope counted to make things bearable and gave us life after his death. My uncle was a wonderful person; his memory will remain in me and will be passed to all the generations next to me. To describe him as “The greatest uncle in the whole world”, is an understatement.

And this uncle of mine taught me the greatest lesson that, “Life is short and full of miseries. What we can offer to those who travel the way with us are hope and encouragement along with kindness and love, which will help and last until forever.”

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OMENG (1998-2006)

by Ederlinda Musngi/Written in 2006

I may be weird to say, but this dog has always been one of my inspirations in life. She has also been with me in good and bad times for nearly 8 years now. She was nothing but a blessing to me.

OMENG

In 1999, the year when my Uncle and Grandma passed away and we were in the time of mourning, God gave us a wonderful blessing, Omeng.

Omeng was one of my cousin’s newly born puppies. She has been ours by accident. Because we had no dog at that time, we asked our cousin to give us one after her dog gave birth. In our hometown, it has been customary to give away a dog to those who ask for it. Dogs in our town are valued. They are of big help to drive away burglars. The dog’s barking is some kind of advance information that somebody is arriving.

All the puppies were given away except the glossy, fine, velvet black furred pup, Omeng, which in some details, we do not know who really owns. My uncle and my cousin’s only sister both liked the puppy and there was a squabble over who would own. After all the other puppies had been given away and Omeng was alone, my cousin’s family were most of the time disturbed because of her cries especially during night time. She would lament over and over with high pitch sounds that were ear damaging. They had had enough on Omeng and hastily, they decided to give her up to us after a couple of days.

We were so excited to have her. As a puppy, Omeng was very playful, charming and loving – qualities that make her so lovable and attractive to us and to those who see her. To the present, the brown dots that move above her strange and shallow brown eyes are like a pair of sunglasses to her face and her big fat belly coated with shiny black hairy hide was a size of a pig ready for slaughter. When summed up, she looks like an awful and repulsive wolf spotting a prey and threatening to jump over to the impression of our visitors. We sometimes call her lazy or piggy.

Though she is just an ordinary dog, she is teachable and intelligent. When my father sleeps during siesta time underneath the mango tree, few steps from our house, she would follow and sleep next to him. She has this habit of always sleeping underneath our dining table or stairs, and would just rise to eat or when there are visitors, to display her appalling appearance and threatening look. As soon as the visitors get accommodated, she would simply sit beside us as if listening to the conversation, then eventually fall asleep again to our lap as her pillow. She was taught by my father to behave in single pointing of index finger together with a censuring sound of hmmmmm….

When we are eating, she would just stand by and wait to be given even a little piece of food. Sometimes she would sit to the nearest chair available and would just wait. She wouldn’t seize a food if she see something unless it is put into her mouth, she would take it gently.

At night, she would exert all efforts to get in and sleep with us. She can’t fight it when she feels sleepy but wait till she hears my father yelling and pretending angry in calling her, she would come gently and shyly with a head that almost touches the ground. The reason why my father is so proud of her is because no matter what this dog is doing, be it feeding her pups or sleeping she would get up and come right away when called. Each time we go home, she welcomes us with a face full of excitement and playful gesture, that seems to say, she missed us and is so glad to see us again.

Our treatment to Omeng is much like a family member, we talk to her like we do to a person. When we want her to refine her manners, we would tell her so and to our surprise after a couple of days, she would do as she was told. She is a blessing to us. Some people after finding out her traits, feel envious and they too, want to raise a dog like her.

Tragedy happened two years ago when she got involved in an accident twice. The first one happened a couple of days after she had just given birth. She went to our neighbor’s house and when she was chased her breast got hooked in the barbed wire fence. She lost liters of blood and almost died that time. She never wanted to eat. Had she not been treated by my father’s friend who is a veterinarian, she could have been long gone. The second tragedy was when she unconsciously chased our neighbor’s dog out of our fence. She was badly hit by an oncoming speeding automobile. If she wasn’t fat, she wouldn’t roll away to roadside and escaped being entirely rolled over. She was nearly crippled after the accident but tried her best to recover. After a few months, she got back to normal state but unfortunately, had a miscarriage.


As I stare at this creature, I learned that dogs are loyal and obedient to their masters no matter what happens. They are always there to protect and make sure that nothing would ever touch their masters. Chided and hurt sometimes but they are forgiving without questions. They are loving without strings attached. And to me, those should be the characters found in a life of true Christian.

Today, Omeng gave birth a week ago to two puppies – male and female. The male resembles the first dog given to us which died a month ago, and the female exactly looks like Omeng, the dog everybody loves.

Dear Mother… Now I have only the memory

A young Indonesian woman, emigrating to America, discovers a powerful source of strength in the world she left behind.

Mother, I remember the day I left you in Jakarta to emigrate to the United States. We were hugging sadly in your room while the taxi waited to take my husband, my son and me to the airport. My heart was broken by the thought that I might never see you again. On the plane, I could hear your voice: “Do not worry about what you have left behind; look forward and be a strong woman. Good luck and God bless you!”

I mailed postcards to you at every stopover. I sent you my first long, long letter from Los Angeles, telling you how excited we were to be in our new country, about the new experiences, about everything from the hot dogs, hamburgers and French friends to the garbage disposal and vacuum cleaner.

Mother, I did not tell you how I cried when I could not find a job. Everybody turned me down because I did not have experience and I do not speak English very well. I told you that I was not working only after I decided to go to business school instead. Yet I was strong as you wanted me to be. I finished school and got my first job. I told you about that and you wrote me that you were so happy.

With two persons working, things went a lot better. We paid back the money our church sponsors gave us when we first came here. They never asked for the money back, but we come from a proud family and we want to keep that pride.

I remember the first time we were able to rent a nice home with our own furniture. I was so thrilled. I sat alone at night on the front porch thinking of you. How I missed you, how I wished I could share my joy at that moment with you. Tears rolled down my cheeks.

Mother, I was so proud to be able to invite you here after seven years. I remember how shocked I was when I met you at the airport. You looked different, so old and confused. I remember how we tried to show you everything in your three-month visit, from the electric garage-door opener to a drive-in car wash; from a garage sale to Disneyland.

I remember the day you told me how Father died two months after I left Indonesia, and how you prayed to God to let you see me one more time: you said you could die in peace then. I saw you fighting back the tears when we took you to the airport. I know why – you did not want me to cry. But I was not sad. I was thinking about how I would visit you in a year or two.

Mother, I got pregnant right after you left, so I was not able to visit you that year. After that, every time you wrote you mentioned getting older and not feeling well but not to worry; everything would be okay. When I received your last letter I knew something was wrong. It was very short. You were probably so sick you had to force yourself to write even that.

There are still so many things I want to share with you – how we enjoyed the harvest of snow peas from our garden, how our baby girl is just starting to speak in sentences. But before I had a chance to write, you left us.

Mother, it hurts whenever I go to our mailbox, knowing there will be no more letters from you. Even though I am a mother, I still need a mother for myself. I feel lost; there is nobody to replace you in my heart. Now I have only the memory of you, my wise and perfect mother. I hope I will be like you. I love you.
Reader’s Digest/© 1981 by ELLEN HO Los Angeles Times (October 21, 1981) Los Angeles, CA.