To you who mourn at Christmas | Inquirer Business

To you who mourn at Christmas

/ 02:10 AM December 21, 2023

On Dec. 7, 2023, Jumela “Jume” Sarmiento, 53, my friend, colleague and student, died suddenly during a conference in Matsue. Photos of her last days, posing with mathematicians amid the beauty of her beloved Japan, are bittersweet.

In our linear algebra class, Jume was quiet and diligent. She joined our faculty, and after defending her dissertation on design theory at Kyushu University, her confidence and leadership skills grew.

Attaining the rank of associate professor, she also became Ateneo admission and aid director and Math Association of the Philippines president.


Jume cared for our scholars. As a recruiter, I brainstormed ways with her to attract more. When my son decided to study abroad, she took the news in stride (at least, he did not choose another local school!). Jume also brooked no nonsense, so I asked her for help on administrative processes for sensitive department matters. I reciprocated when she sought counsel on the emotional health of students and faculty.


One time, after learning that some students blamed teachers for one thing or another, Jume warned, “Ingat ka, lalo na the students you see are troubled. Protect yourself ha.” I was touched. I miss you, Jume.

On Dec. 9, my son and I gave my husband Smith a humorous birthday card, featuring our favorite character in Brooklyn Nine-Nine, Captain Holt, who delivered droll punchlines with gravitas. On Dec. 10, my husband was shaken by the news that his former boss, Mario Miranda, 65, president and chief executive of BPI Asset Management and Trust Corp., suddenly died. A management engineering major from Ateneo, Mario started at BPI as a management trainee and worked his way to senior positions.

My husband appreciates his kindness and mentorship, and marvels at how Mario would recount the history of BPI, how it grew to what it is today. He also remembers Mario as a raconteur, brimming with stories of his travels. On Dec. 11, our son informed us that Captain Holt—Andre Braugher, 61—suddenly died. We were stunned.

My childhood Christmases were merry, as my mother hosted parties for relatives and friends. Christmases without her were gloomy. Parties stopped in the face of my father’s grief. Gradually, I started hosting small holiday gatherings for friends, including Jume. But when my dad passed away, I had to escape abroad, seeking solace in lakes and mountains.

Christmas is the happiest time of the year, the song goes, but for those in grief, merrymaking can be excruciating. There is no right or wrong way to mourn, I tell students in grief, allow yourselves to mourn even while others rejoice. Exempt yourselves from exhausting tasks such as giving gifts or playing games, and instead take part in comforting rituals, such as lighting the wreath or feasting on Noche Buena.

If you are up to it, do things in memory of departed loved ones, such as giving to causes they supported. For Christmas itself is a paradox. Etymologically, Christ’s Mass denotes remembrance of the Eucharist, Christ’s offering of Himself, rather than a celebration of His birth (the date of which the Bible does not say). Indeed, the “M” in Christmas stands for Madness, says our Office for Mission and Identity.


“The Trinity looking down on Earth, seeing the chaos, and deciding to send the Son into our midst … the God of madness … loves us enough … to be with us … [and He] can break our expectations to respond to our deepest desire and give us something even better … We can be certain that we have been loved, that we are loved and that we will always be loved … whoever we are and whatever we have been through, God can handle it. There is nothing in us and nothing in this world that the Lord’s mad love will not seek, accept, behold and transform.”

So join us—you who mourn this Yuletide—as we remember Jume, Mario and all we hold dear. We embrace you in grief, faith, love. A blessed Christmas to all.

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Queena N. Lee-Chua is with the board of directors of Ateneo’s Family Business Center. Get her book “All in the Family Business” at Lazada or Shopee, or the ebook at Amazon, Google Play, Apple iBooks. Contact the author at [email protected].

TAGS: All in the Family, christmas

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