Thursday, January 20, 2022


By Lily Hikam
I count myself extremely lucky to be blessed with not just one or two, but three mothers. My biological mother or Mami, my mother-in-law Ibu, and my Namboru Renta.
Namboru Renta came into my life when I was just one scared, confused 15 year old in a new country with almost no one to turn to. Her brother, Uda Toman (Toman Hutabarat), who is a friend of my father, had called her up and said a friend of his had a daughter who would like to go to school in America. And just from one phone call and a brief visit to her house in New York, she took me in and raised me for the next two years until I graduated high school in Cambridge, Massachusetts, USA, and continued raising me until I got my BSc (Pennsylvania State University, PSU), MS, and Ph.D. (both at the University of California at Irvine, UCI).
Namboru is not just a 'foster' mother to me. She’s my role model. I remembered one afternoon in my 11th grade sitting at her office doing Calculus homework while waiting for Namboru to finish with work so we could go home together. Then Namboru told me some good news about a drug she was developing with her team had a breakthrough, in which that drug helped a hemophilia patient not to have to worry so much about internal bleeding and that the patient can now live a relatively normal life. I remembered how happy she was that her work helped people live a better life, and I remembered how at that moment I wanted to be just like her: I want to dedicate myself to biomedical research so I can help cure and treat diseases to make the world just a bit better to live in, and have fun doing it.
One of Namboru Renta’s greatest virtue is her supportiveness. She was the first person who encouraged me to pursue biological science as a field of study and the person who got me my first internship gig where I discover my life-long love affair with molecular biology and stem cells. She was also the first person who met my then-boyfriend & current husband Zakiy and saw how good he could be for me and was very supportive of our relationship from the beginning.
Namboru Renta lived her life to the fullest. She loved life, she loved a good joke (even though at times it might be morbid or raunchy) and good food and drinks. The way she showed her love and affection is by treating us to good food, so much so that she refined our palate and elevated our taste. When we, her children, went to live on our own and tried to buy the same brand or type of food she used to buy us at home, we would be shocked by the price and in awe at how much she would be willing to spend on us to make us happy.
Namboru always said she wanted to be like her Papi, Ompung Doly. Stories of his kindheartedness and patience were something that she always shared with us. One story that always stuck with me was the story of how Ompung used to always have hungry students at home, and feeding them, much to the annoyance of Ompung Boru. Ompung Doly’s generosity was so huge and touched so many lives that when he passed away it took almost one week of people paying their respects at the funeral home before the family could fly him back to Medan for the funeral. If it wasn’t a pandemic, I have no doubt that there will be as many people paying their respects to Namboru.
The last words Namboru ever said to me was “Don’t cry”. But I’m sorry, Namboru, that’s one order I can’t obey for now, because now I have to live in a world that doesn’t have you in it, and my world is less bright now because I have lost you. I can never hear your voice saying “Halo, Inang!” nor can I ever hear your laughter ever again or sing Batak songs loudly and off-key. But I will try to be less sad as time goes by because it’s what you would have wanted. You would have wanted us to remember the good times and celebrate your life. You’re probably happier now because you get to be with Spike, Fluffy, Jaime, Parish, Chloe, and Krissy again. I know how much you’ve missed them and how you’ve longed to see them again.
Goodbye and Rest in Peace, Namboru.😪💐❤️


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