A Time to Remember

Last I spoke to Mai was December of last year 2021. I greeted her on Christmas day and she managed to respond two days later. She said she just had two surgeries due to complications with her intestine. Just before Christmas she was able to come home after being in the hospital for 35 days. She said she was feeling better although the wound still hurt. I really felt bad for her and could only imagine the struggle she had been going through at that point. My fervent wish, as I told her, was that she gets well soon and for her to take the rest that she needs to recover.

She had been going through a lot. She was diagnosed with ovarian cancer which was already in stage 4 near the end of 2020. The surgeries and chemotherapies that ensued left hear weak physically. But when I got to talk to her some months after that, she was unfazed. She had already decided to fight her sickness and was doing so in the most courageous way. Of course, I wasnt witness to all the anguish and sorrow she told me she couldnt help but feel on the first few months after the diagnosis. But by the time we met, its apparent she got over that phase.

Chemotherapy sessions werent fun but she made progress. I remember her telling me about tumor markers and how hers got so much better from what it used to be. And although she lost much of her hair, she felt good and could even do chores after her helper left. I recall being really grateful hearing these pieces of good news. She had no illusion that her illness will ever be cured but she was determined to keep it at bay for as long as possible.

Mai and I first met at work in Intel in Cavite. Although we went to the same university, we didnt really know each other until we were both working as Process and Equipment Engineers. She graduated from the University of the Philippines in Diliman ahead of me and was already in Intel for a year when I joined in 2003. Since that time, Ive known not only her great work ethic as a colleague but also her sincerity and loyalty as a friend. We were both just starting a career that time. I was lucky enough to be in the same group doing the same Die Attach module as her.

By the time Intel closed its operations in Cavite in 2009, she had already left to work in Singapore. Ive recently reread our email exchanges around that time. It was mostly about how our lives had changed. She was starting out anew in a foreign country together with her husband Chie. And I was then about to have a daughter but soon to lose a job. We clearly felt the challenges were ahead of us but she seemed to be undaunted and felt for sure that better days were coming.

That was one of the traits I admired about her. We may talk and complain about the difficulties but she had no qualms about doing the work to take on the challenges that came her way.

When I finally moved to Singapore at the end of 2016, Mai had already switched her career from engineering to financial services. Although she was a good engineer, she was even better as a financial advisor. From our discussions, I could immediately sense her passion to this new line of work. She was excellent not only with her technical knowledge but more so with her empathy to her clients. She was not the usual insurance agent. She went out of her way to ensure her best effort and care were extended to all clients, even the difficult ones.

After her cancer diagnosis, she offered many of her clients (which already included me) a newly released insurance plan that covers cancer. This new product unfortunately didnt cover her case due to a 90-day grace period. So, she personally experienced having to spend hard-earned money on critical illness expenses. And she just wanted better for everyone else she could reach out to. Even at a time of personal difficulty, she still exhibited extraordinary care and compassion to others.

She fought a good fight. No doubt about it. She was a passionate person. A great mother to her two kids. A loving wife to her husband. A thoughtful daughter to her mom and dad. A generous, responsible and kind person overall to her siblings, relatives, friends and co-workers. I was fortunate to have been her friend. Her passing was a great loss to me and to everyone who knew and loved her.

She will be missed greatly.

Goodbye, Mai!

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