Steve Schertzer

I am my mother's keeper

Living my mother’s legacy in a world of good and evil.


"... it did not really matter what we expected from life, but rather what life expected from us."
Viktor E. Frankl.

"He who has a why to live for can bear with almost any how."
Friedrich Nietzsche.

photo: My Mom and I. This picture was taken just a few weeks before her death

As I stood in front of my mother's grave there was a slight breeze. It was a beautiful day, just one day before the official first day of spring. The snow and ice had melted from the month before, and as my father stood beside me, I was getting ready to read my mother a poem. My father and I regularly went to see my mother, usually on my way to my sister Rena's house. My father's dog, Poochie, remained in the car seemingly oblivious to the fact that this was to be the last time I was to read a poem at my mother's grave for a while. I was to leave for Thailand the following day. A week after that I was to start teaching again. I couldn't wait to start teaching again. In some ways it felt like a new beginning. In some ways, it was. It was a bitter-sweet moment standing in front of my mother's grave that Saturday afternoon in March. The poem that I read to my mother that early spring day was titled "You Were There", by author unknown. I downloaded it, like I downloaded all of the poems that I read to my mother, from www.mothers.net.

You Were There

You were there when we took our first steps
and went unsteadily across the floor.
You pushed and prodded: encouraged and guided
until our steps took us out the door...

You worry now "Are they ok?"
Is there more you could have done?
As we walk the paths of our unknown
you wonder "Where have my children gone?"

Where we are, is where you have led us
with your special love you showed us a way
to believe in ourselves and the decisions we make
taking on the challenge of life day-to-day.

And where we go you can be sure
in spirit you shall never be alone.
For where you are is what matters most to us,
because to us that will always be home...

Author Unknown.

As I finished reading trying to hold back the tears which inevitably followed each time I read, my father put his arm around my shoulder and said, "That was beautiful. And appropriate seeing that you are leaving tomorrow." I nodded as if agreeing with him. We then got back in his car, and with Poochie, made the 40 minute drive to my sister's house.

Photo: My Dad and Poochie

I had come home six months earlier. Six months of liking my wounds. Six months of trying to come to terms with what happened and why. Six months of desperately trying to keep my sanity. About a year ago I had hit bottom. It was eight months after my mother's death. I had just finished my third consecutive one-year contract with EPIK in Korea. It was time to move on. Besides, I felt stifled as a teacher in the Korean public schools. I was to take a holiday in Cebu, the Philippines to see my girlfriend, and then decide what my next move would be. Only this girlfriend, or who I thought was my girlfriend, didn't show up. She wouldn't take my calls either. So I spent the next three weeks in the Philippines before moving on to Thailand. This "girlfriend" did contact my sister Rhonda while I was in Thailand, even chatting with her on Yahoo Messenger. Rhonda wanted me to get back together with her, but the damage was done. I was not interested any longer.

Before moving on to Thailand, however, I went to see an ex-girlfriend. Yes, there are two ex-girlfriends in this story; ex-girlfriend number one and ex-girlfriend number two. Since evil has many names, we'll call ex-girlfriend number one Mila and ex-girlfriend number two Luzviminda. Those who have read my blog entries over the years may remember Mila. Yes the same Mila from the June 2008 blog. The same Mila who continually lied to me; the same Mila who took my money and ran like a thief in the night; the same Mila who disrespected my family; the same Mila who ignored me for three months; the same Mila who engaged me in a sperm war; the same Mila who got pregnant and never told me until three months later while I was back in Montreal watching my mother die. I asked her for the due date. She gave it to me. It was 37 weeks after the first time we had sex.

Now, I may not know much about the female reproductive system, but what third world quack tells a pregnant woman that she's going to give birth a lot closer to eight months than nine? At the risk of stating the obvious, someone got to her three weeks before I did. The same Mila who emailed me in a panic just one day after finding out that she was pregnant. It turned out that her brother was murdered; shot in the head. Please send money to help pay for his funeral. (And NO, I didn't send money.) My family was appalled and horrified at what was happening. (Her brother, I found out later, really was murdered and his murder caused Mila to miscarry.) And last, but certainly not least, this was the same Mila who admitted that she cheated on me while I was at home watching my mother die.

So I had to see Mila. If Luzviminda didn't want to see me again, I had to confront the recent past. I needed an explanation. I needed a sincere apology. And I needed to forgive her. I had to forgive Mila in order to move forward. I had to forgive her: For me and for my mother.

One of my first pieces for ajarn.com was written in late 2004. I was home during that summer, and while visiting my mother in her nursing home, I came to realize that life was passing me by. I was 45 years old at the time and seeing my mother in a wheelchair, ravaged by Multiple Sclerosis, made me realize how precarious and precious life was. I also came to realize that if I didn't grab life by the balls, I may never get the chance to prove myself. So I took the chance. That summer I bought a one-way ticket to Bangkok. I had nothing and no one waiting for me. With my mother in mind, I left for Thailand. This is part of what I wrote a few months later:

Why I came to Thailand: Let's consider the real reasons
1st December 2004.

Multiple Sclerosis is a hideous and insidious disease. It robs you of just about everything. It robs you of your ability to walk, to run, to leap with joy. It robs you of your ability to cook dinner for your children and grandchildren, those very same wonderful meals she used to loving prepare 15 years earlier. It robs you of the ability to get yourself out of bed in the morning and pee without someone watching over you. But most of all, this disease-any disease-can rob you of your dignity. Every shred of dignity you thought you had, and took years of your life to build.

Multiple Sclerosis may have robbed my mother of the ability to do many things. But there's one thing it can never rob her of: Her will. Her willingness to see and watch her children and grandchildren continue to grow, and live the lives that we were meant to live, is her legacy. And what a legacy to leave! Her willingness to go on, in spite of everything, in spite of all the indignities she has suffered, is her legacy: A legacy that has been passed down to her children and her children's children so that we may be free and have the courage to leave legacies of our own.

I remember my grandfather's funeral several years ago. In my eulogy to him, I looked out at his four children, one of which was my father. I looked out at his grandchildren-my sisters and my cousins. I thanked my grandfather for leaving a legacy-these wonderful legacies of successful descendants, who will take his torch and move forward. What I didn't realize at the time was that you don't have to die in order to leave a legacy. Watching your children and grandchildren grow, live, love and learn-actively participating in this living legacy-is arguably life's greatest gift.

People continue to ask me why I came to Bangkok. My students ask. My fellow teachers ask. Some of my employers ask. I've even been asked at job interviews. My answers were ordinary and, quite frankly, boring: To teach English, to travel, to see the world, and to meet many different people. This is all true. But it's only part of the story: A very small part.

Now here's the REAL reason why I came to Thailand. I came here to live life the way it ought to be lived; I came here not to find myself, but to BE myself; I came here to live the story of MY life, not anyone else's; I came here to do what matters most; I came here not because I expect more from life, but because life expects more from me; I came here not to change people, but to have them change me.

But most of all, I came here to leave a legacy. My grandparents passed the legacy torch to my parents, and they, in turn, passed it down to me. This legacy is an awesome responsibility. Contained within this legacy is the responsibility to make my parents and family proud; to not let them down.

Five and a half years later, I wouldn't change a word.

One day in May 2009 I met Mila for breakfast. We ate and talked. I really didn't want to be there, but I had to. She admitted everything: The lies, the cheating, and the deception. She apologized. I forgave her. Was it a sincere apology? Who knows? It sure looked that way. But I heard the words I needed to hear. Then I left for Thailand. I had moved on. I had put all of this crap behind me. Or so I thought.

I stand in front of my mother's grave on a cold winter afternoon, my father standing next to me, Poochie waiting in the car. Snow and ice cover the ground, my heart heavy with sadness and regret. I look down at my mother's name: Eleanor Schertzer. I kiss my hand and gently touch the letters. I silently apologize to her for my poor judgment, for choosing women clearly not worthy of her and how she raised me. Then I read my mother this message from www.mothers.net

A Mother's Love

A mother's love! What can compare with it! Of all things on earth, it comes nearest to divine love in heaven.
A mother's love means a life's devotion - and sometimes a life's sacrifice - with but one thought, one hope and one feeling that her children will grow up healthy and strong, free from evil habits and able to provide for them. Her sole wish is that they may do their part like men and women, avoid dangers and pitfalls, and when dark hours come, trust in Providence to give them strength, patience and courage to bear up bravely.

Happy is the mother when her heart's wish is answered, and happy are sons and daughters when they can feel that they have contributed to her noble purpose, and in some measure, repaid her unceasing, unwavering love and devotion.
Anonymous

I get into my father's car, Poochie wagging his tail, as my father begins to drive to Rena's house. I think about the dangers and pitfalls that I didn't avoid while living and working overseas, and I wonder, what will I learn from them?

I am in Thailand having flown there from the Philippines. I was to look for a teaching position. I put the recent past behind me. At least I thought I had. After all, I had forgiven Mila, and as for Luzviminda, well, that was over too. I wanted to forgive her as well, but I wasn't sure for what. For ignoring me when I needed her understanding? For proving to me that she was just another typical Filipina hell bent on finding a foreigner who will rescue her from squalor? I had met her family just a few months before. I had spent a week with them living in their house. I fell in love with Luzviminda's family. Her mother reminded me of mine: Kind, loving, and so dedicated to the well-being of her husband and children that you could see it in the air. I deeply respected her father. He was also dedicated and hard-working. They would have made wonderful in-laws. I still had no idea what I was to forgive Luzviminda for. I asked her in an email, but she never responded.

I tried to look for a teaching position while in Thailand from May to August 2009, but my heart just wasn't into it. I couldn't concentrate. I couldn't focus. I had lost my energy, my drive to succeed. I barely functioned at all. I stayed in my hotel and watched the news. I did go out to eat and drink. There were nights when I drank and drank and drank. I tried to forget, but the more I tried to forget the more I remembered.

Mila cheating on me while I was at home watching my mother die. It's one thing to have a girlfriend cheat on you. It's another thing to watch your mother die. Now put them together. I would rather have had all my money taken from me by any selfish, self-centered, and self-absorbed Filipina than to go through this. I could always go back to work and make the money back. I would rather have had both of my legs chopped off. I could always get fake legs. But there was nothing, absolutely nothing that could compare to this agony in my soul. And then there was Luzviminda ignoring my cries for help and understanding. It would be 10 months before she wrote back expressing any sympathy at all over the loss of my mother, and that was only because I got her family involved by sending them messages on their Facebook page.

I took sleeping pills on occasion so I wouldn't have to wake up in total darkness. The darkness just before the dawn was always the toughest part of any day. Sometimes the sleeping pills helped. Many other times they didn't. The darkness enveloped me in terror and extreme melancholy. It felt like a huge weight, driving me deeper and deeper into the bed's box spring, pinning me like a wrestler night after night.

Then I hit bottom. I can't remember exactly when it was, but it was sometime in June 2009, not long after my 50th birthday. I was lying in bed. I was drunk and probably smelled bad. I remember lying there in the fetal position. Tears started dropping out of my eyes. I may have been whimpering, although I don't remember making any sound. I sat up in bed and in total darkness picked up the picture of me and my mother which I kept on the nightstand; the very same picture I had taken just weeks before her death and now keep in my room. I picked up that picture and began talking to my dead mother. I apologized to her. I told her that I had really screwed up. I asked for her forgiveness. Then I lied down again, my legs going back into the fetal position. I closed my eyes and tried to sleep. And that's when I saw it.

With my eyes closed I saw a small light from the corner of the room. I slowly opened my eyes as the light became larger and brighter. And that's when I saw her: My mother. Not my mother of the last 20 years, but my mother of 40 years ago. She filled the room with light as she came to me. Her light bathed me with comfort and solace. She did not speak. She didn't have to. I did not speak. I couldn't.

I don't know how long my mother was there for me that night. Probably not for long: Just enough to let me know that everything would be all right, and that I will be just fine. In fact, she let me know that I will be more than fine. She forgave me like she always did. But she wanted me to forgive myself. She knew that that would take time. Then my mother left as quickly as she appeared. It was at that precise moment when I knew that I would be all right. It would take another seven or eight months, six of which would be spent at home with family, but thanks to my mother's love from beyond this earth, I would be all right.

I'm standing at my mother's grave. It was a cool late summer day in September; just days after arriving home from Thailand. From www.mothers.net, I read my mother this poem:

Mother

They were lovely all the mothers
of the days of long ago.
With their gentle, quiet faces
and their hair as white as snow.

They were middle-aged at forty;
at fifty donned lace caps
And at sixty clung to shoulder shawls
and loved their little naps.

But I love the modern mother,
who can share in all our joys.
And who understands the problems
of her growing girls and boys.

She may boast that she's older,
but her heart is twenty-three...
My glorious bright-eyed mother
who is keeping young with me.

Author Unknown

Photo: My glorious wide-eyed mother (in 1978) who is keeping young with me

On the way to Rena's house that day my father told me something about my mother that I didn't know. She chose to be cremated because she was scared, actually terrified, of having her soul transferred into another person upon her death. Even though cremation is supposedly against Jewish law, my mother did not want her "diseased" soul to enter another person. We obeyed my mother's wishes and had her cremated.

She had a tough life, my mother. Those last 20 years could not have been easy: Sitting in a wheelchair, having to be driven to a shopping mall whenever she wanted to get her hair done. Even in wheelchairs women still want to look pretty; especially when they are in wheelchairs. Those last three or four years must have been torture for my mother. Not being able to consume solid food; having your meat and vegetables mashed and grinded down to a fine powder; having to be taken to the bathroom whenever nature called. But somehow through all that, my mother was able to keep at least some dignity.
During the last year or so of her life, my mother almost completely lost the ability to clear her throat. If some phlegm or excess saliva builds up in our esophagus, we simply make that awful but necessary throat-clearing sound and we can breathe and speak properly again. That's something we take for granted. But my mother lost that ability towards the end of her life, and I was scared to death whenever I saw her that summer that she was going to choke on her own spit.

During that summer in July and August 2008, my father, my sisters Rhonda and Rena, and I would meet every Monday evening at my mother's nursing home. Rena would often be the last to arrive, and for good reason. After finishing a day's work, she would stop at Tim Horton's Coffee Shop and buy, for my mother, an iced-cappuccino in a transparent plastic cup. My mother cherished those iced-cappuccinos. After her dinner of mashed and grinded down something-or-other, we would all go back to her room to watch my mother lovingly drink her coffee. My mother taught me many things: Be nice to people, don't burn bridges. I didn't always listen. But one lesson I have taken with me to this day: Take the time to enjoy a good cup of coffee. That's a lesson in patience. If it weren't for the wheelchair and the depressing hospital-like surroundings, I might have thought, just for one brief moment, that I was a teenager again back home in the suburbs of Montreal; my glorious bright-eyed mother who is keeping young with me, and is enjoying her weekly iced-cappuccino.

Photo: My twin sisters Rena and Rhonda and my mother and I.

In late August 2008 I went back to my middle-school in Busan South Korea to finish my third one-year contract with EPIK. That last Monday evening, moments after my mother finished her iced-cappuccino, I kissed her goodbye for what was to be the last time. I knelt down next to her and, in her ear whispered, "I love you." Those were the last words I said to her. Then my father and I went home. One week later, on September 1, 2008, my mother died peacefully in her sleep.

I have wanted to write this for eight or nine months now, but every time I've tried, I felt paralyzed; and, quite frankly, scared. Scared of my feelings towards certain people; and scared, not of their reactions, but of mine. I have never been any good at hiding my emotions, and I am not going to pretend to feel anything less than revolted and disgusted by the behavior of Mila and Luzviminda. Although they have played a major role in this story, they cannot be allowed to determine how I continue to remember my mother.

It would be easy, so easy, to look at Mila and Luzviminda as little more than third-world savages; uncouth, uncivilized, and lacking all compassion for everyone but themselves and their own immediate loved ones. But I won't and I can't. After all, I have spent time with them; I have shared meals with them; I have met many of their family members. And I loved them. I have made love with them. (Not at the same time.) And I had thought that maybe there was a future with either of them. No, they are not third-world savages. We do, however, live in world of good and evil. And I do believe that these two women are evil. Yes there are evil women everywhere. This I know. And looking back it was my fault. I chose them. That is why I had asked my mother for her forgiveness. That is why it is taking me so long to forgive myself.

There is no country on earth that can boast that their women are without fault. There is no reason, no reason at all, that these two Filipinas should have done what they did. There is no reason to cheat on your boyfriend while his mother lay dying, regardless of the relationship status. There is no reason why I should have waited 10 months to receive an email from an ex-girlfriend expressing her condolences over the death of my mother; again, regardless of the relationship status. After all, we all have a mother. We all came from someone. If there is one thing in this world that has the power and potential to unite us, one thing that transcends the limitations of geography, society, language, culture, race, and religion, one thing that allows us to see our common humanity, it is this:

WE ALL HAVE A MOTHER.
If these two Filipinas cannot understand that, if many women of the Philippines or Thailand or any other of the women in Southeast Asia choose not to allow that obvious fact, principle, and value to be the guiding force of their behavior and their actions, then we are all dead.

It occurred to me recently that I was not only mourning my mother's death. In some ways I am also mourning the death of compassion, the death of hope, the death of love, and the death of humanity.

WE ALL HAVE A MOTHER.

Mila and Luzviminda did say that they loved me. They did say that they wanted to spend the rest of their life with me. But how could you claim to love someone and then choose not to share in his darkest hour? How can you love someone and choose not to share his deep sorrow and anguish over the death of his mother? How can you dare say the word "love" and then pour salt into a hugely sensitive open wound? How can you say "I love you", then not be there for him when he needed you the most?

We cannot consider ourselves human until we choose with responsibility to share in another person's sorrow. It's easy to share with someone only the good times. But the true test of character is the ability to put aside, even temporarily, one's own selfish pursuits so that we can share in the pain and suffering of others. That is how compassion and empathy is learned.
I didn't do my research before I got involved with these two Filipinas. For if I had, if I had googled the word "Filipina", I would have been inundated with seedy and pornographic Websites. Everything from Webcam girls to Internet Cyber brides would have been on display. After all, the Philippines is a country that for decades has pimped its own citizens for cheap labor to 200 different countries. Filipinas are notorious worldwide for selling themselves to foreign men far older than themselves. Luzviminda did tell me that she wanted her husband to be from Canada. Did she want me to think it was because she likes hockey? Or that she couldn't wait to learn French in Montreal, and build a snowman in December complete with a corncob pipe and a button nose?

I knew things would change for me once I got through this. Somehow I knew that once I had stopped crying and feeling sorry for myself, things would change. Everything that I thought was solid would now be liquid, and everything that I thought was liquid would now be solid. I don't put my trust or faith in people anymore. Not that I did before in abundance. My trust and faith is in principles and long held values, not in people. Principles and values such as love and respect for family, hard work, responsibility, sacrifice, service to the community, commitment to your job. I judge people only by their actions. Words may mean things to others, but unless they are backed up with concrete action which moves humanity forward, they mean nothing to me.

Luzviminda was angry at me recently because I had called her evil. She even deleted me from her Facebook page. Part of my response when I sent her a message on her Facebook page was simply this:
"You misunderstood, Luz. This is not about you. It's about what life expects of you. This is not about me. It's about what life expects of me. It's about what life expects from all of us. And what life expects from all of us is this: That when one of us suffers, we all suffer: That when one of us is in pain, we are all in pain. We are expected, from life, to empathize with each other. We are expected, from life, (or God; what you call God, I call life), to become a guiding light for another when that other is in darkness. Do you have any idea what that really means?

That's why I call you evil; because in my one year of darkness after the loss of my mother, you did not turn on the light that would have eased my pain and sorrow. And you could have easily done that. It was what life, and God, expected you to do. I would have done that for you in a second. If would not have mattered to me the status of our relationship. If you were in pain over the loss of a loved one, I would have turned on the light to ease your darkness.

"That would have been my obligation and what life, and God, would have expected of me."
What disappoints me even more is the fact that Luzviminda is an elementary school teacher, and, because of that, she should know better. She, like me and so many other teachers, has the enormous responsibility of teaching the next generation to respect themselves and to respect others. That means teaching our students to recognize and acknowledge the pain and suffering of others. But in order to do that, we must first learn how to develop those traits in ourselves.

What makes us evil is not just that we slept with someone else, or ignored another, or abused someone, or even killed someone. What makes us evil is that we can do these things and not lose a moment's peace. What makes Mila evil is that she can have sex with another man while my mother lay dying AND not even lose any sleep that night. What makes Luzviminda evil is that she can ignore me for 10 months while I mourn my deceased mother AND have pictures taken of her while she stands there laughing and eating chicken. It's not just the act that makes us evil, but what we choose to do afterwards; without the slightest concern or regret for what we have done. It would be like killing someone in their home, and then calmly picking up the phone to order a pizza, then eating the pizza as the body goes cold, then going to the bathroom for a good poop before taking a shower and cleaning up all the blood. Once the body "disappears", the killer then goes home, takes off his shoes, turns on the evening news, and has a great night's sleep. Now that's evil. Both Mila and Luzviminda call themselves Christian, but obviously they and their fellow countrymen have a very long way to go before they can truly claim to be anything like Jesus.

I began this blog with a quote by Viktor Frankl. It is one of my favorite quotes and something I try to live by. To paraphrase, it's not what you expect from life that matters, it's what life expects from you. Frankl was a psychoanalyst and a holocaust survivor. To put his quote into perspective, while in a concentration camp during World War Two, Frankl met a number of fellow prisoners who were suicidal. He talked many of them out of killing themselves by saying those very important words. To put Frankl's words onto context, here is the paragraph from which the quote was taken.

"What was really needed was a fundamental change in our attitude toward life. We had to learn ourselves and, furthermore, we had to teach the despairing men, that it did not really matter what we expected from life, but rather what life expected from us. We needed to stop asking about the meaning of life, and instead to think of ourselves as those who are being questioned by life ---- daily and hourly. Our answer must consist, not in talk and meditation, but in right action and in right conduct. Life ultimately means taking the responsibility to find the right answers to its problems and to fulfill the tasks which it constantly sets for each individual." ("Man's Search for Meaning", Viktor E. Frankl, Pocket Books, New York, New York. 1985. p. 98.)
I have forgiven Mila and Luzviminda for their wrongdoing; I forgave them for my mother, and to free myself and to help myself move forward. I also wished them luck in their own future, but hold out little hope that any self-centered Filipina of this generation will heed the words of Viktor Frankl.

I have come a long way in the last year and a very long way in the last two years. I almost lost everything. By everything, I mean my soul. I almost lost my soul. And I know I can never go back there. I can never put myself in a position where my very soul is at stake. The searing pain I felt last year over the circumstances of my mother's death is not as searing as it once was. It remains a dull ache and it's something I will never get over.

While at home a few months ago I wrote a blog for www.ajarn.com. It took the form of a letter titled "The Promise of Tomorrow: Making the Classroom a Sacred Place." In it I outlined my teaching philosophy, quoted from a book by Greg Mortenson titled "Stones into Schools", and talked about a few of my teacher heroes. I promised what I had always promised and have tried to live by for so many years: To do the best for my students; to go the extra mile as a teacher to help my students succeed; to make a positive difference in their lives; and to leave a lasting legacy for years to come.

I received this comment from John Penny, the Director of Studies at Mahathai Suksa School in Khon Kaen Thailand:
"Steve, will you join my team...please...! I love what you wrote and the sentiments/no, commitments you express in this blog epitomize everything I desire of teachers in my team and everything I aspire to. Reading contributions like this (and meeting some fine people at Thai TESOL last week) give me hope for the future."

Now this rarely happens to me; in fact, only twice since I began writing these blogs in 2004 have I received an opportunity to apply for a teaching position. So I wrote to John and asked him to tell me more about the school and the city of Khon Kaen. And that started a relationship that has brought me here today. Leaving a lasting legacy for Thai students is something that is important for John as well. I think it was these two comments in separate emails from John that touched me most and gave me hope.

"I came here because the kids deserve the best that we can give them, and the parents pay money that some can ill afford so their kids can have this opportunity. We have to do better and I am determined to do so!"

"If you come here I would like to think it will be with a view to a two or three year stint...so that you get to see your own legacy."

That's what I'm talking about: Going out of our way so that we can see the students succeed, because if they don't succeed, we don't succeed. A legacy: Now there's a word that's often thrown around. But how many of us are actually here to leave a positive and lasting legacy for our students?

In December 2004 I wrote about coming to Bangkok to live out my mother's legacy. That hasn't changed. In fact, my desire to teach to my students the lessons that my mother taught me--- hard work, love of life, maintaining dignity against all odds, taking responsibility for one's actions, sacrifice, service, commitment to a cause larger than yourself, and perseverance in the face of adversity--- is stronger than ever.

My mother may be gone from this world, but she lives on. She lives on in my heart and in my soul. She leaves her fingerprint on whatever I do. She is there for me when I need her, like that night in a Thailand hotel room where she lit up the night so that I could see a way out of my deep melancholy and spiritual morass. Thank you so much mom.

Friedrich Nietzsche said "He who has a why to live for can bear with almost any how." My why to live for is simply this: My mother and my students. There is a deep and lasting connection there and one as powerful as anyone can imagine. Living your mother's legacy is an awesome responsibility, but a responsibility that I welcome everyday with an open heart. It is my mission and my passion. I have been given a great opportunity to make a wonderful and positive difference in the lives of my students. I have also been granted an opportunity to live my mother's legacy. I will put them together as I walk into the classroom each and every day. After all, that is what life expects of me. And that is what my mother would have wanted.

So my responsibility to you mom, what life expects of me, is that I remember you. I will remember you with fondness and a deep unwavering love. I will remember you as you were in the last weeks of your life, and I will remember you as you were when you stood in the kitchen of our house loving preparing a meal for your children. I will remember you reading me stories when I was small, and I will remember you scolding me when I deserved it when I was not so small. But most of all mom, I will honor you. I will honor you by taking you with me to school every day. I will honor you by sharing with my students the values and lessons in life that you lovingly and patiently taught me. I will honor you mom by being your living legacy. You live on in me.

Photo: My mother on the far left before she became my mother.  She is standing next to her sisters.




Comments

First of all I feel very sorry for your loss, losing a loved one is always very difficult.

The comment I would like to make is not meant to be cruel towards you but I would like to talk about the experience you had with your two girlfriends. You didn't state their ages but if one was of child bearing age then I am guessing she was quite a bit younger than your 45 years that you were at that time.

As sad as it may be, the truth is most third world young beautiful girls who are 'attracted' to/interested in dating old(er), often overweight, plain looking 'farang' men are probably after what is inside their wallets rather than what is inside their hearts. Thailand is full of stunning young thai girls married to fat, ugly men old enough to be their grandfathers and it makes me feel sad for both parties involved. I always presummed though that the men were aware of why these girls were attracted to them and not under any illustion of 'true love' . Maybe a fondness but not true love.

Now I don't know your situation and I'm not saying that this was the case with you. But for example, if I was a 60 year old man and in my own country young, beautiful, girls didn't look twice at me, but on landing in Thailand I was suddenly surrounded by young beauties, would I think that on the plane over I had suddenly gotten much more attractive, or would I be realistic and know it was more to do with the contents of my wallet?

And another question would be why would a 60 year old man want a relationship with a 20 or 30 year old? It must be for one thing and one thing only. Its very sad because these young girls sacifise being in a true love relationship in order to support their families. And the men also lose the chance of a real true love relationship for the opportunity to have sex with a young hot beauty every night. Surely its like a contract, one gives the other what they want in order to recieve what they want in return.

Maybe this is a cynical view and i'm sure there are cases of younger/older realtionships that are true and not based on money but I fear these are few and far between.

I hope you can find someone that is true and when you do if you haven't already, they will be there for you in these dark hours as any true partner should be.

Please dont view my comments as being negative towards you and your situation I just wanted to comment on what I have found to be true in Thailand and Asia.

By Sammy, South Thailand (12th March 2013)

I grealy appreciate your honesty and openness... be reminded that both the negative and the positive we have encountered and will still be encountering in this land of the living teach us a lesson and will prepare us for a graver challenge in the future .

Keep the faith in your heart burning with love ,

cassie

By cassie, philippines (19th February 2011)

Thank you for sharing this steve. I am sure your Mother is looking down on you from heavens and smiling.

By J.J, B.K (20th May 2010)

Keep religion away from the classroom.

Keep your personal life away from the classroom - sorry to burst your bubble, but hardly any students/colleagues are interested in the lives of your family.

Keep your love-life away from the classroom. You're there to teach, not to try to invoke sympathy for yourself.

By Change, Sumway (17th May 2010)

Hi guys,
I haven't posted the last two comments sent to me because the comments section for this particular blog has descended into petty name-calling.

If you have a comment to make about the blog itself, then fine. If it's to carry on an on-line conversation with another comment-writer, then sorry - it won't be posted.

By philip, (13th May 2010)

Chem and A Fan are not the same. This is Chem or Chemalyn and A Fan was someone who replied to my complaint in here about this website that approved blog containing defamation again us Filipinas! Please review the comments below! or for your convenience, here's A FAN reply:

Chem

Well, seems like blasting the Thais for racism and other faults is pretty standard fare in some other blogs, so don’t feel singled out .

Maybe it would be nice to see a few bloggers who are “non-farang” writing to present a wider view of education in Thailand.

Want to volunteer?

By A Fan, SEA on 2010-05-11

And by the way, I'm not a blogger here. A FAN, has invited me to volunteer to write in here. Sadly, my grammar is poor and I'm not qualified. May 10,2010 was my first time to read blogs in this website. Anyway, I would be interested to read your blog for the first time today.

By Chemalyn O.Zambrano, Bangkok,Thailand (13th May 2010)

Chem/A Fan (or whatever name you choose to go under),

It's good that you have finally come out of the closet and had the guts to put your name to something and thus take responsibility for it.

Now, down to business. I take it you are referring to my blog in that little reference, "Well, seems like blasting the Thais for racism and other faults is pretty standard fare in some other blogs, so don’t feel singled out."

However, it was not my intention to criticise ALL Thais for racism only those who have a limited understanding of what constitutes a good teacher.

I suggest you read my blog again and figure it out for yourself. I only hope that if you do intend to come on board here as a blogger, that your writing skills are better than your reading skills, which seem pretty limited to say the least.

Tom

By Tom Tuohy, Riyadh (12th May 2010)

Calm down, girls. That's only Schertzer's F*****G opinion. We can still walk on the street with chin up. See how moderators in this website sympathized him now. Better shut up, sisters, and go back to your classrooms. We don't have enough time for this crap story! It's just a blog from a disturbed mind anyway...(giggles)

By Marivic A, Pattaya, Thailand (11th May 2010)

I think ajarn.com needs a Filipino blogger. It's a fine idea. Send me an e-mail if you fancy taking up the challenge to philip at ajarn dot com.

A couple of years ago, I started a section of the ajarn site aimed specifically at Filipino teachers but sadly it was something of a disaster. Plenty of articles were submitted but the quality of the English was often so poor that I was spending literally hours proof-reading and editing. Secondly, far too many of the articles were 'over-patriotic' and were simply paragraph after paragraph about little more than waving the national flag. I'm sorry if those points ruffle a few feathers but they are the facts nonetheless.

If there is a Filipino or Filipina out there who would like to write a regular blog for ajarn.com and has confidence in their writing ability, then we would love to have you on board.

By philip, (11th May 2010)

A Fan,

Thanks! I can volunteer. I'll be writing blogs in here soon.

Cheers!
Chem

By Chemalyn O.Zambrano, Bangkok, Thailand (11th May 2010)

Mr. Schertzer! the moderators of this site Ajarn.com have approved your latest blog and posted it here with open arms but with insensitive hearts.

But all of you have no idea how you have destroyed our credibility here as teachers in whole Thailand and other countries!

Do you have any single idea what Filipinas have gone through as workers in all foreign countries?

You don't know what we have risked and heartaches/homesick we've suffered away from our close-bonded families just to "work hard" away from homes, and earned through sweat with pride and dignity!

How dare you wrote "... After all, the Philippines is a country that for decades has pimped its own citizens for cheap labor to 200 different countries. Filipinas are notorious worldwide for selling themselves to foreign men far older than themselves"

Your limited mind can only manage to say, "For if I had, if I had googled the word “Filipina”, I would have been inundated with seedy and pornographic Websites. Everything from Webcam girls to Internet Cyber brides would have been on display.

Poor you! Why not broaden your research and you'll find how Filipinas risk their lives in some countries working as housemaids and not prostitutes. Some work as caregivers and nurses, cleaning the most gruesome wastes of their patients. And most of us here in BKK work as hard-working, dedicated teachers in spite of receiving low salary compare to you as white teacher! But we all never mind them at all because want to earn with pride and dignity and show to the world that Filipinas are not whore as you've pointed out.

What an irresponsible teacher/blogger you are!

Your blogs have only shown the true ugly color you are. I think that explains why your "two" Filipinas ex-Gfs you've branded as evils and cheater have abandoned or ignored you.

By the way, why 2 girlfriends? (unluckily, not able to read your 2008 love-life blogs) Who was really cheating in your relationships? (...just confused of your complicated story)

By Liza Bacho, Bangkok, Thailand (11th May 2010)

Chem

Well, seems like blasting the Thais for racism and other faults is pretty standard fare in some other blogs, so don't feel singled out :).

Maybe it would be nice to see a few bloggers who are "non-farang" writing to present a wider view of education in Thailand.

Want to volunteer?

By A Fan, SEA (11th May 2010)

Holy cow, just when I thought Steve had hit rock bottom with the Filipina tearjerker some two years back he produces this piece. In all honesty, I only managed to read two thirds of it, but this has got to be either the most pathetic or the silliest piece ever written on this site. Get a grip mate.

By John Smith, Bangkok (11th May 2010)

Qouted from Mr. Steve Schertzer writing in this blog : For if I had, if I had googled the word "Filipina", I would have been inundated with seedy and pornographic Websites. Everything from Webcam girls to Internet Cyber brides would have been on display. After all, the Philippines is a country that for decades has pimped its own citizens for cheap labor to 200 different countries. Filipinas are notorious worldwide for selling themselves to foreign men far older than themselves

“third-world savages; uncouth, uncivilized, and lacking all compassion for everyone but themselves and their own immediate loved ones.“

I'm from Philippines, Mr. Schertzer, a Filipina who teach her in Bangkok dignity and honesty. How come you could have judged "Filipinas are notorious worldwide for selling themselves to foreign men far older than themselves" Do you have any proof that all Filipinas are like what you have described?

You had two bad experiences with Mila and Luzviminda. Now come to think of this: What kind of person you are to hate all Filipinas and my country just because two people from there cheated and ignore you while you were mourning back to your country! What have the rest of Filipinas like me done to you to insult, degrade or defame our personalities, credibilities and dignity here in this website?

You were not really writing here, Mr.Schertzer to share your memories with your mom and your mission to make a difference to Thai students' lives. You were writing here to proclaim your hatred to us Filipinas, and insult my country in general.

Time to reflect, Mr. Schertzer. What could a teacher influence towards his students when he is full of hatred?

I felt so sorry for a teacher like you who have wrote that you have forgiven your two ex-GFs and yet still filled with anger, hatred or grudge against other people as quoted above. I think it's about time to reflecting deeper about life than just submitting a totally long write-ups here.

I like you favorite quote from Victor Frankl's book: "What was really needed was a fundamental change in our attitude toward life. We had to learn ourselves and, furthermore, we had to teach the despairing men, that it did not really matter what we expected from life, but rather what life expected from us.

Your life, Steve, expects you to forgive and forget and vibrate love, peace and not hatred to everyone.

I have forgiven you for degrading us Filipinas. Hope you can forgive yourself too.

By Myrna Salazar, Chiangmai, Thailand (10th May 2010)

By the way, I wondered how this website could tolerate defamation against particular country/or people aired by a blogger. I won't blame Steve. But I aimed my question to those who run this site who supposed to approve only blogs that are constructive. It does not mean that Steve is your regular blogger here he can submit and you print anything he wanted to say. I am not affected with his judgmental blog because I know myself well as a Filipina. But I felt pity to your poor Ethics here as this is supposed to be a website for teachers.

By Chemalyn O. Zambrano, Bangkok, Thailand (10th May 2010)

Today is my first time to visit and read blogs in this website. Steve's blog caught my attention and filled with compassion about what had happened to his mom and his broken-heart in the past. I felt empathy for him as I also experienced broken heart and missing my mom back in the Philippine who I chatted once a week in yahoo.

Yeah, I am a "Filipina" who is qouted in here by Steve with different names as if all Filipinas are really as evil as he described.

I'm sure if some Filipinos would able to read this blog they would certainly be upset or rant in here (hope my friend Laurice won't read this blog...)

One think I like calmly say, make a real FORGIVENESS Steve to those people who have hurt and cheated you. There is no forgiveness in recalling the bad past and still expressing negative feelings towards those who have sinned against you.

And by the way, I am also a teacher here in BKK. I am earning only 14,500 baht/ mo. through sweat. I have a Romanian boyfriend. I am saving money now to buy round trip tickets for Romania on Sept 2010 to visit him and buy him Timex as a present for our first year anniversary. Hope you can see now that not all Filipinas are sucking money from Farang.

Anyway, I enjoyed reading your blog, Steve. Hope you're moving on completely now. One thing I like to share: Learn to enjoy life each "present" moment and simply be the watcher in every situation you're encountering each day. It's our negative judgment and the way we interpret the situations that affect or hurt us most. Life is blessed with love, joy and peace in every single moment. Dwell on them and you'll see that evil can't hurt and destroy your valuable life.

Cheers,
Chem

By Chemalyn O. Zambrano, Bangkok, Thailand (10th May 2010)

I find nothing pompous or pretentious about Steve's writing: he is a man courageous enought to bear his heart and a glimpse of his heart in another article led me to ask him to work with me.

A teacher is first of all a human being, and part of being human is experiencing pain and disappointment. More than a few people wash up on Thailand's shores because of pain and disappointment, quite a few become teachers without resolving it. The best teachers are not technicians, they are real human beings who engage with their students as real people: even if the roles are prescribed.

What strikes me about this article is not Steve's understandable anger and disappointment in love, but the inspiration of his mother that helped him move on and want to make a contribution, rather than simply demand his living from the world.

Thanks God for mothers like Steve's mother, and thank God for a teacher like Steve who is not too macho to talk about her.

By John Penney, Khon Kaen (8th May 2010)

WOW Steve, intense as always.

By A Fan, SEA (6th May 2010)

Hi Saul. Point taken.
I think that you have to keep in mind that Steve is first and foremost a teacher and I suppose his blog (and monthly articles before that) reflect the life of a teacher trying to make his way in the world. I don't think just because it's ajarn.com, every blog entry should be about lesson planning and warm-up activities. That would soon wear thin. I always feel for example that Phil Roeland's more popular articles have been the travel-related and more humorous ones. And when I set out to write updates for Ajarn World, I try to keep away from classroom topics completely. I think that if you have half a dozen or so bloggers, then it's nice to have a range of topics (as long as we don't stray too far off tangent)
But you have raised a fair point. I don't deny that. Perhaps Steve will get back on to TEFL related anecdotes soon.

By philip, (4th May 2010)

I realize that Ajarn.com is always looking for content from readers but I don't think this should mean you accept anything you are given.

Anytime I have read Mr Schertzer's blog entries they have always struck me as pompous and pretentious. However, this latest entry astounded me, not only was it pompous and pretentious, it was full of Hallmark card style sentimentality and a series of quite frankly hateful and racist comments.

For example,

"After all, the Philippines is a country that for decades has pimped its own citizens for cheap labor to 200 different countries."

"third-world savages; uncouth, uncivilized, and lacking all compassion for everyone but themselves and their own immediate loved ones."

"What makes Mila evil is that she can have sex with another man while my mother lay dying AND not even lose any sleep that night. What makes Luzviminda evil is that she can ignore me for 10 months while I mourn my deceased mother AND have pictures taken of her while she stands there laughing and eating chicken."

"Both Mila and Luzviminda call themselves Christian, but obviously they and their fellow countrymen have a very long way to go before they can truly claim to be anything like Jesus."

Quite what his bad love life has to do with a teaching website I do not know.

This is just hateful ranting. He can write what he wants of course but its relevance to this website is a mystery to me.

From looking through the resumes on your site I would be very interested to know what many of the Filipino teachers who use this website think of his comments about them and their country.

I usually don't respond to things I read on the internet but I was just astonished about the content of this article.

By Saul Brown, Bangkok (4th May 2010)

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