Before I Forget

Christmas without Mary

I kneel in prayer, try to hold back the tears, and ask God to grant her eternal rest

Charlie and Mary Agatep as a young couple: 'We always came home for Christmas, no matter what'

We were holding hands watching TV that Sunday evening, November 4, and my wife, Mary, was having a good laugh. I was glad she could relax, knowing how hard she worked the whole day in her garden at the Manila Seedling Bank Greenhouse No. 3.

After the show, I gingerly massaged her neck and shoulders until I sensed she was dozing to sleep. Then I led her gently to bed, put off the TV and crept quietly to her side.

I wrapped my arms around her as usual, and before I knew it, I must have fallen asleep. Until she woke me up at 2 a.m., teased my face softly with her fingers and kept whispering, “Dad, I love you very much”.

Watching TV in the evenings and reviewing what happened during the day was the simple pattern in our home life before God took Mary away on November 5. We never had a housemaid. I would cook for her and serve her dinner in bed. She would remind me that I had not taken her out in a long time, but that was because I knew she was happier at home with me and would rather save her energy for gardening than attend social functions.

As a PR consultant, I often got invited to cocktail parties, but I always managed to stay only a few minutes, quickly sip a glass of juice and sneak out to be with Mary for dinner. I would call before going home to tell her I wasn’t going to cook, and to ask what food she wanted me to take home instead. Then we would watch TV and have dinner in bed together.

Now that Christmas is near, we are missing her a lot. Christmas has always been a joyful event for the family. We would wait till midnight of Christmas eve when the children had gone to sleep. Then Mary would place our gifts at the foot of the Christmas tree.

Even when the children had grown up, we would still find their empty socks by the tree, with their names on, and we would fill these with nuts, candies and things. After Christmas lunch, we would gather around the tree and open our gifts. I would take pictures and catch every expression on their faces. Ah, what happy reunions these have been.

Each time I pass by the spot where she fell, I remember vividly how my son Norman and I found her lifeless body

I hope that Christmas without Mary will continue to be joyful. At the moment I am not sure. For each time I pass by the spot where she fell, I remember vividly how my son Norman and I found her lifeless body. I kneel in prayer, try to hold back the tears, and ask God to grant her eternal rest in heaven.

I can’t help crying when I am with the children. We are all deeply hurt by the thought that our office messenger, whom we trusted and favored with material things, could be so cruel to attack a fragile and defenseless woman and leave her to die in a pool of her own blood.

Despite the tragedy, I yearn to have happy memories of Mary. We always came home for Christmas, no matter what. One early December, in Hamburg, Germany, we got on a train to catch a plane in Frankfurt. I found out later it was the wrong train. We got off in a village called Fulda and waited two hours in freezing weather to get the right train. I thought Mary would be furious but she took it all in stride, held me close to her and just laughed. We reached home in time for Christmas.

In the next December, we traced the life of Jesus in Jerusalem, toured Israel for two weeks, and visited as many nurseries and gardens. Then on impulse we took a bus, crossed the Sinai desert to Cairo, and flew to Luxor to see the Valley of the Kings and the tomb of King Tut.

Later, a visit to the Cairo museum capped our stay in Egypt. Mary kept wondering how cultured the Egyptians were even some 2,500 years before Christ. “Dad, thank you for bringing me here,” she said as she kissed me, and I was glad.

As Christmas approaches, we still receive letters of sympathy. Here’s one from Nonong and Mel Cudiamat in California. “To dear Charlie and children. There are no words that can describe our shock and grief over Mary’s death. We were so close to her. No more trips to Japan and other parts of the world with her, the intimate greetings, her pleasantness and warmth. Please fill the gap and reach us. We want to be close to you as if she were still with us. She worked so hard to give her all for you. She was selfless and kind to all of you, as though you were her own life.”

Christmas without Mary is not going to happen. In spirit she will be with us and the children.

Read more:

Almost Christmas

I want my Christmas—now!

We try to heal—life goes on

How we pulled off a (physical) Christmas reunion

About author


He is the chairman and CEO of Grupo Agatep, Inc., an integrated marketing communication agency. He was staff correspondent of United Press International (UPI) and professor of PR and Journalism, Faculty of Philosophy and Letters at the University of Santo Tomas.

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