“Mahal niya po ang trabaho niya [she loved her job],” Jun, a crying husband, told me over the phone as he watched her lay in ICU, unsure of the outcome of tests and progress after she suffered a major stroke. I could not help but be overcome with sadness that someone we so love was going, and on to “cross the bridge,” as our partner Jeannie said.
Lorna Casupanan served us very well for over 10 years. We have known her since 2000, a strict restaurant supervisor, who grew to be a most lovable loyal employee and friend. She is the epitome of discipline, as well as a good trainor as most of her wards will tell you. She trained our licensees and our employees, our chefs and supervisors.
She is a model today’s employees and youth should emulate. Have you ever heard an employee refuse a raise? That was Lorna. She always wanted the company to be well on its way to profitability before asking for any salary adjustment. Have you heard of an employee who comes to work even after her house was razed by fire and she did not know where to start again? That was Lorna. It happened to her two Christmases ago, but she bounced back as resilient as the bamboo.
She is ever personable, always remembering customers by name, their favorites and their orders, and even knowing their family concerns. I guess she really loved her work. To her, it was a commitment. It was a promise to deliver.
I can only think of the late Interior Secretary Jesse Robredo who set a good example and then suddenly disappearing into the night. Lorna may be a simple lady, a store manager and not a public servant. Yet, she also set a good example especially for today’s employees and the younger recruits she came across as we hired more people for our store expansion. Like Secretary Robredo, she also left us in a huff. But with a life lived well, marked with respect and admiration even by our very own families and friends.
I remember friends donating blankets and clothes when we told them Lorna lost her house to a fire. Even our writer friend Tina Dumlao came over with a bag of blankets.
Customers dropped off clothes and other donations. That is how she affected people.
When we learned of Lorna’s condition, we all prayed and told friends to pray with us.
For the past two days, as she lay there, friends waited with bated breath if she would come back and be the same resilient Lorna we know.
Alas, it probably is her way of leaving a good memory. That we remember her last words, and her smile. I spoke with her last on the phone on Holy Wednesday and told her to close the store early if the crowds were already thinning at the mall. Ever the positive thinker, she answered: “Ma’am, I think we will just wait it out as people are still coming in.”
I heaved a sigh. That was our Lorna. We really left a lot of decisions to her. She knew her job well. She knew the customers. She knew the business.
Oh, Lorna, may you guide us as you move to your happy place. We will watch over your two loves— Jun and Kyle, Lorna’s son and only 10 years old. And we will forever remember your ways and we can only hope that your ways and values have rubbed off on your peers and staff.
It is not yet late to discover your Lorna. They may be the next employee you will hire. And while their time here on Earth may be short, they would have lived a very meaningful life—of having touched both their peers’ and their employers’ lives.
We will miss you, Lorna. But like the resilient you, we will bounce back and remember you with very good memories. And we will treasure the good values you have imparted to us and our cast and crew.
Lorna left us two days after she suffered a major stroke, and on Earth Day, April 22. What a girl. Even in death, she connected to our very business.
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Chit Juan is a founder and owner of ECHOStore sustainable lifestyle, ECHOmarket sustainable farms and ECHOcafe in Serendra , Podium and Centris QC malls. She also is President of the Women’s Business Council of the Philippines and President of the Philippine Coffee Board Inc., two non-profits close to her heart. She often speaks to corporates and NGOs on social entrepreneurship, women empowerment, and coffee. You can follow her on twitter.com/chitjuan or find her on facebook:Pacita “Chit” Juan. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.