It's been over ten years since we were at IBM, but I still remember those days at work and off work. Marie was educated abroad, so she spoke with this distinct American twang. But rather than turning us off with any airs it was quite the other way around -- it was we who kidded her about it, and she took all the ribbing good-naturedly.
One story forever engraved in my mind, although I wasn't actually there. Marie and some officemates were playing a parlor game and the word they were looking for was maple syrup. And Marie kept saying "Aunt Jemimah! Aunt Jemimah!" pronouncing it "Je-MY-muh" as was proper. And everyone looked at her and wondered, what is she talking about? Until someone said, "Ah, Aunt Je-MEE-mah!"
Another story: she was driving along EDSA when a truck bumped into her car. She was all right, thank goodness, but there was a problem: she had switched plates on her car to skip coding. Regardless that it was the truck driver's fault, all the liability was hers. She called Jeff and he immediately came to her rescue. Story was (as I heard it) he smoothly slipped a P500 into the cop's hand, and that got her off. Not that I'm condoning the act, but it was sweet. Small wonder they got married a few years later.
My very last memory of her: her despedida party at their house in Quezon City. Just a quiet night with friends. I remember she gave us these commemorative coin tokens as her parting gift. I'm sorry I didn't agree to play the harmonica that night.
Fast forward a few years later: people grow apart, yes, but then there's Facebook. I knew she had cancer, but it was good to see her messages from time to time. Despite the battle, she and Jeff managed to bring up two lovely daughters. So you say hello, drop a note every now and then, and hope for the best.
This morning, despite my resolution to keep away from Facebook, I took a peek, and there was the message from a friend.
Hi IBM Friends, For those who do not know yet, Marie Paynor Sia passed away last Friday, July 10, 2009....
The shock gives way to sadness and regret. Regret for messages never sent and harmonicas never played. Ah, life.
I dropped by her Facebook page for one last look. So strange to see all those messages from friends addressed to her, despite knowing she'll never read them; and yet so right nonetheless, one last chance to say goodbye, to tell her how much she will be missed.
And though it feels strange it also feels right, so I also say my own goodbye.
Farewell, Marie. We will miss you very much.