Consuelo Almonte- Shaffer: Defying monumental cessation of her fragmented past

Allowing the bitter-sweet fragments of the past to flow back freely inevitably creates either abysmal or ecstatic reminiscences. Regardless how profound and significant the recollections may be, there’ll constantly be recurring intense pain left in its afterthought or leaving a quaint smile on one’s lips while eyes are blinded with tears.

I opted to focus on Consuelo Almonte-Shaffer’s prolific musings and mounting recollections of her colorful past than concentrate on her varied achievements, which have been widely covered and published. Connie’s personal anecdotes, noteworthy experiences, and the numerous fragments of her not-so-distant past are far more interesting.

The quiet atmosphere in Connie’s room was instantaneously broken by our usual tete-a-tete as we tried to pick up the pieces from where we left.  Innately bubbly and gregarious, being in confinement was a hell of a curse for her.

“My whole life, if to be vividly written, would be a full capacity of hilarious, heartwarming, and sentimental anecdotes,”  Connie admits with a grin.

On meeting her to-be husband:

“It was really odd how we met… of all places, in a doctor’s divorce party in November 1977 in Morris Hills. Unescorted, I was introduced to Mark H. Shaffer, a dashing General Science pedagogue. And that opened opportunities for us to better know each other, and how far a Catholic and a Jew would go.”

On marriage

“Although I once had a tumultuous relationship that bore me a daughter and Mark had had several affairs, my mom refused to visit us until we were officially married. After a couple of years that we’re together, I was caught by surprise when Mark unexpectedly proposed a wedding…and Mom agreed to come. Only the three of us were before a judge. Pictures were taken for keepsake. We had lunch and the traditional breaking of the glass, such momentous event captured on cam. All the excitement and enthusiasm suddenly perished when the camera was empty…I forgot to load the film due to tension and exhilaration. But the good thing was Mark concurred on being married before a priest and in return, I said ‘I do’ before a rabbi.”

On practicing their respective religion

“Our having different religions was never an issue… he takes me to church every Sunday before attending his own religious service. It was always my magnificent obsession to convert Mark to Catholicism but it that might be the root cause of our marital dispute. Until one Sunday I saw Mark enter the church after dropping me off.  I felt more elated than surprised. I thanked him later for his gratifying action and to my amazement from what he replied: ‘No I just used the washroom… I could no longer hold it!’ And I almost fainted.”

On premonitions

“We came home after two weeks of being out-of-town…when I heard Mark convincing his best friend Ivan and girl friend to have dinner with us to the extent of saying ‘it might be his last’ just to persuade Ivan. We didn’t have much stock in the freezer but Mark insisted that spaghetti, bread, and wine would be okay. Dinner went well and when it was time for bed, Mark begged off to stay while watching his favorite TV show. I woke up the following day only to find him asleep on the couch. Once awoke, he requested to have lunch in the formal dining room which we seldom use.”

On Mark’s final moments

“That Monday afternoon Mark was scheduled for his medical check-up which he previously cancelled to give way and attend to my own medical appointment. The usual procedure I was expecting turned out to be one complicated process since Mark, after his dialysis, suffered from complications and passed away at 3:00 a.m. of July 25, 2017.  Hell seemed to break loose and I felt heaven’s weight on me upon receiving the news. Amid the quandary I suddenly remember of his persuasive invitation to Ivan to spend dinner with us…we all failed to decipher the truest essence of Mark’s final words.”

The real Maria Consuelo Almonte-Shaffer

Connie’s diplomatic career as an Assistant to the Press Minister of the Pakistan Mission to the United Nations for two scores and three had more than firmly encompassed her being self-reliant and strong-willed. A quintessential exponent of a true-blooded Virgo (born September 4) Connie possesses an analytical mind and a virtuously respectable understanding of human nature.

She straightforwardly calls a spade a spade… her opinions without sugar coats and false praises and doesn’t allow her emotions directly affect her opinions and decisions. “I just cannot stand to ignore faults. Call me judgmental but my honest opinion is what might straighten thwarted ideas,” she stressed with conviction.

“Actually, I enjoyed every bit of my past with minor regrets, foremost of which was that I never had the chance to make Mark feel how much I loved him and truly appreciate everything he did for me,” Connie candidly confessed teary-eyed and sounding genuinely remorseful.

In celebration of Mark’s life and legacy, Connie launched the Mark H. Shaffer Endowed Fund purposely for the continued research and study on nephrology and related diseases at the Lenox Hill Hospital Division of Nephrology.

Her ultimate dream: to establish the Philippine Community Center Services for the Aging (PCCSA) and build a dormitory-style facility for seniors where they can socialize and function normally while enjoying the last phase of their lives. “Remember, turning old and grey is one huge privilege others are deprived of,” declared the feisty octogenarian.

Sadly, Connie, herself, is currently in bad shape following a massive depression attack from Mark’s untimely passing and from a fall she suffered just recently but life has to go on, although the irony of life continues to impact our comfort zone. And with that, she said, “The gift of life is something we should always be grateful. After performing our duties to God, our brethren, and the community, we enjoy living a well-rewarded life.”

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