The people of Cebu first learned about the devotion of one middle-aged woman named Nelma through the media. However, her spiritual gifts of loving life, practicing her faith, and helping others were always well-known in her community. Nelma's family looked up to her because she was dedicated to them and could be counted on during life's trials. For instance, when her younger cousin Vedafe was reflecting on the personal hardships she faced as a young woman attending college stated,
“Nelma always provided me hope and inspiration. She could always be found when I needed her most."
Nelma's message was always very simple, "We are family, and I'll always be here at your side whenever and wherever you need me.” I don’t think their relationship was unique because Nelma had similar relationships with just about everyone in her family.
Unfortunately, time passes and sometimes we forget what others have given us during our most dire times of need. However, sometimes people remember and return either in person or spirit to repay the debts owed. They offer us gratitude or show us in hidden ways things we never expected. We all know the Bible's words “Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by this some have entertained angles without knowing it.”
One such angle was an eighteen-year-old attractive Filipina who suddenly became sick and died as a result of diabetic complications just a couple of weeks before her high school graduation. An event that would be pivotal in the life of any young woman but this one was more concerned about leaving a message to her family and her Aunt Nelma. Like Nelma, Trina had a good heart and was known to be kind to her classmates and to love her family. She had similar dreams to other young woman her age but sadly, those dreams were cut short by the forces of time and circumstance. After her tragic death, her family questioned how and why it happened, became angry and distraught, and even questioned the existence of God and his motive for allowing such a thing to happen.
Possibly, Nelma’s pain and desire to provide comfort to the family led her search for the answers to their questions, drove her to attend the young girl's graduation in her stead, to receive a diploma she never would, and to get the certificate the family could bury with her. After the ceremony Nelma was surprised to find a letter stuffed in with the diploma simply waiting to be delivered. The letter stuffed in a beautifully decorated envelope dropped out and the message was simple, “I love you all and thanks for being here for me one last time Aunt Nelma.
Nelma cried as it was the last message she would ever receive from her niece. Then she looked more closely at the envelope, the four corners of the top and bottom were marked in a way that drew attention to them as well as the three corners of the flap. In the northeast corner, Trina had drawn a lamb, but Nelma had no idea what any of that meant. However, she was determined to find out because she loved her niece and wanted to uncover the rest of her last message. So, after she departed from the ceremony with a heavy heart, she went home to unravel the message.
What she discovered was that the white envelope and its message together were an emblem of Trina’s innocence, faith, and continued love for her family. The lamb she had drawn has always been a symbol of innocence and sacrifice. Innocence in the sense of her now being free from moral defect which was symbolic for her being newborn. It was also the sign of the ram which begins its protectory during the spring equinox-the time of year when life is renewed. The envelope itself consisted of two parts: a square and a triangle representing four, and three respectively, summing to seven.
Nelma found, the numeric symbolism of the number four deals with stability and invokes the grounded nature of all things. It represents solidity, calmness, and home. It signifies the need to get back to one's roots, getting centered, and indicated a need for persistence and endurance. These things Trina received from her family that always remained close to her heart. In addition, Nelma discovered a few other facts about why the number four was so important to Trina.
1) There are four cardinal virtues: temperance, fortitude, prudence, and justice.
2) There are four elements earth, fire, water, and air.
3) There are four points of the compass north, south, east, and west.
4) There are four phases of the moon new, half-moon waxing, full, half- moon waning.
5) There are four gospels: Mathew, Mark, Luke, and John.
6) Similar to the gift she received from her family, the number four was
associated with the earth and its completeness.
Nelma realized that this represented Trina's undying love for her family and her unending appreciation for all that the support and love they had given her. She then started to consider the meaning of the number three and realized it was the first geometric figure. That three lines are necessary to form a planar figure and three dimensions are required to form a solid content. The symbolism of the number three represents that which is solid, real, substantial, complete, and in its entirety. Geometrically, three is the triangle of which there are three kinds: the equilateral triangle where all three sides are equal, the isosceles triangle where two sides are equal, and a scalene triangle where no sides are equal. Nelma, wept as she began to understand that as Trina's condition worsened, she started to search for a safety line beyond her physical pain and Nelma, wanting to understand more she kept searching for answers until she discovered:
1) There are three symbolisms in grammar me, myself, and I.
2) There are three sums of human ability thought, word, and deed.
3) There are three divisions of time past, present, and future.
4) There are three attributes of God omniscience, omnipresence, and
5) There are three entities making up the Godhead: Father, Son, and Holy
Nelma now knew that just like the number four represented the family and the physical world, the number three represented the spiritual and God’s love that was often connected to the symbolism of the triangle. Each part of God making up the three points, father, son, and holy spirit. When adding up the three and the four the answer became seven and this represented the spiritual perfection Trina attained in God's presence. The Hebrew word seven she discovered was taken from the root word meaning full or complete. This she could clearly see from the first time a variant of this word is used in the Bible:
Thus, the heavens and the earth were finished and all the host of them and on the seventh day God ended his work which he had made, and he rested on the seventh day from all his work which he had made. God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it because he had rested from all the work which he created and made (genesis 2: 1-3).
Nelma was both relieved and happy because the number seven represented Trina's perfect completeness and rest taken from her work. It is from this same word that the Sabbath the day of rest comes. She truly believed that her niece had found a refuge from her pain and wanted nothing else in this world. Wanting to know more about why Trina used these numbers, she discovered that,
1) The number seven is said to be the number of perfection, security, and
2) That there are seven colors in a rainbow red, orange, yellow, green blue,
indigo, and violet.
3) There are seven days in a week.
4) That the liberal arts she studied were established in ancient Rome as
appropriate education and included: grammar, rhetoric, logic, arithmetic,
astronomy, music, and geometry.
5) That there were seven gifts of the Holy Spirit: wisdom, understanding,
counsel, fortitude, dialogue, piety, and fear of the Lord.
6) That the family's faith contained seven sacraments: baptism,
confirmation, eucharist, penance, anointing of the sick, holy orders, and
Nelma now knew that Trina's message was one of faith but why did the lamb have a position in the northeast corner? She had to find out, the lamb was in the northeast corner of the envelope because that was the place in which a cornerstone is traditionally laid, Trina was that cornerstone. The lamb was placed there because she wanted her family to know that from there, she would remain with her Lord according to the principles of her faith. Trina must have realized that the north is attributed to darkness, the east to light, and therefore the northeast corner is a place midway between darkness and light. The position each of us hold because of the sin of Adam and the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, it's a symbol of equilibrium corresponding with the point of the spring equinox when the night is equal to the day.
This was intended to point Trina's family further along their spiritual journey in the hopes of seeing them again someday in a perfect place, it now did for Nelma. With tears draining down her face she called out to her niece, "Trina I love and miss you" and from somewhere in heaven Trina smiled back. What Nelma understood was what the complete message meant, it was that she was no longer sad and in pain but rather, she went home to be with God and all of them could too.
I hope this story is true not only for Trina and Nelma but for all of us. We all have two choices, to believe our loved ones wait for us in a better place, or that death is the only thing that awaits us. Faith or reason, which do you choose?
Thank you for reading!
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