I have been told that parents should be mindful of naming their children for they will become what their name means.
Anna Kharis, my fourth sibling, came to our family when I was twelve years old. It was always a momentous celebration every time my parents announced a pregnancy. Anna's arrival was more memorable for me because it was the same year when my father lost his well-paying job. It worried my expectant mother who gave birth to private hospitals to her first three children.
It worried me, too, that the moment I heard the news, I secretly went to my parent's room to check and count the remaining cash inside my father's wallet. I thought back then, we could only survive for a month or two.
It was a year of utmost uncertainty for our family because since then, my father never had another source of income. When it came to the day that our new sister would be named, our parent's friend, tita Dinah suggest naming her "Kharis", a variation of Charis which came from the Greek Word Karis meaning "grace, kindness, and life".
We all agreed that GRACE was a timely message our family needed at that time. My mother added Anna to her name, derived from Greek meaning, " grace, favor, and beautiful". So we were all expectant of the arrival of our sibling carrying "double grace".
On November 2, she was born inside a crowded public hospital. According to my mother, it was her most traumatic birth story where she got infections due to unsanitary procedures done to her. But despite all those birth challenges, Anna Kharis came into this world via normal delivery as a healthy baby, weighing 8.8 kilos. She was our biggest baby! She has been a survivor since birth.
Kharis was our source of daily joy as we transitioned from prosperity to poverty. Just by looking at her smile or giggle made us happy even when it meant we skipped a few meals in a day. Because of her presence, we didn't feel the impact of living in want. When we see her, we remember our family receives double grace.
As a child, our grandma trained her to sell banana cue (a popular Filipino snack) to our neighbors. She would walk in the village calling neighbors to buy from her. They would go outside their houses and buy her snacks because they found her cute and adorable. This training helped build her confidence growing up.
Years rapidly passed by. Our "double grace" became a teenager who developed grit and confidence early in life. She entered college at the age of 15 with no assurance of finishing it. Since I was the only one with income at that time, I had to budget my meager salary to give her and our youngest sister their daily school allowance (aside from giving financial support to our parents). However, what I could share was not enough, so Kharis looked for opportunities to support herself while studying.
With her height of 5 feet and 9 inches, she did some part-time modeling. It was not easy for her to juggle her studies and her work schedules, but she managed them well. She finally finished college at 19 years old.
During her graduation day, I was her "parent" who accompanied her to her commencement ceremony. While we were marching together as "parent and daughter", I tried so hard to hold back my tears as my thoughts wondered how we survived that financial ordeal. I was so proud of my sister-daughter!
In Filipino homes, it is common for adult children to stay with their parents as long as they are single. There are numerous cases when even married children stay with their parents. As soon as she got a job, Kharis left home and rent a place on her own. She took two to three jobs in order to survive. As much as she can, she kept her problems to herself.
Since we are distance apart, she, together with my sisters, made a chat group that we called SIZZUMS (slang for sisters). It is through that space where we update once another and share our personal pains. I'm the eldest, with 8, 12, and 18 years ahead to three of my sister respectively. We learn to communicate with each other (and even tolerate each other's quirkiness.haha.). We also try to heal together from past traumatic events in life.
I'm grateful that I'm blessed with biological sisters who choose to build our relationship stronger despite painful choices in the past that wounded us deeply. I'm grateful that we share an unbreakable bond. When the world becomes tougher, we turned to each other for love and support. Again, we see this as grace upon grace.
Today, Kharis turns 25 years old. She now works as a virtual assistant and a part-time model. She has grown into an independent, generous, and caring member of the family. She and our other sister Kaycee are now supporting our youngest sister's college education. I see GRACE at work once again.
Dear Sizzum Kharis,
I am proud of you! Thank you for bringing a different flavor to our family. Stay authentic. Reach for your dreams. Soar, if you must! Life is tough, but you are tougher. Stay strong. Keep on going because you have no idea who you are inspiring. I love you, dear sister-daughter!