Farewell to the Girl with the Smiley Heart

“Hi, my dearest friend. Will undergo my 3rd open heart surgery tomorrow 7 am here, 8 pm there on Tuesday feb 5. Please pray for me, para maka-bakasyon pa ako d’yan at makapag-starbucks tayo.” (Please pray for me, so that I can still go on a vacation there and we can meet up at Starbucks“Love you and miss you my dear!”

My friend Betchico

One of my dearest, best friends, Beth Garachico-Shockey, who lived a colorful, somewhat tumultuous, but fulfilling life. Image Copyright © Jerry Shockey

That was her last message for me. She is coming home for good. But we’ll never meet up at Starbucks and I’ll never have the chance to see her ever again. She with the beauty queen looks and a wonderful smile.

It was a shock the other day to find out that one of my best friends, Beth, has finally left us, never to return. I felt so bad that I never even got to see her last year for the last time when she went home here. Her health did not permit her.

Beth was one of the first people I met at my first job. She was a student then and I was a new graduate applying for a job at her tertiary school. Our first encounter was when I took the psychological test prior to employment. A volunteer student at the Guidance Counseling Office, it was her who handed me the questionnaires and timed my exam. I thought she was very skinny then. I got acquainted with her next at the President’s Office, where I already worked under the Planning Office after some months. That was after she had graduated (turned out she was just one, two years younger, according to her, unless she was pulling my leg for years). Not sure now if she was under the Human Resources Department or there were just some stuff for another department that she had to work on at the office. The last job that I remember her holding at the school was at the Student Affairs Office.

Beth enjoying at the beach

Cool inside and out. Image Copyright © Jerry Shockey

Beth (Betchay to many, Betchico to me) and I became friends. It was when she transferred to our boarding house and became our roommate that we became very close. I came to know why she was skinny and why she had a long scar at the center of her chest. Beth had had a heart ailment since she was a kid that required operation several times already. She always had to watch what she ate ever since she could remember or it could be detrimental to her health.

I came to know about her life more as she was not much of the secretive type. There was a time when I joined a writing-for-film workshop and I asked to be allowed to use her life story. Anonymously, of course. She agreed to an interview. What I found was someone’s real-life story that was full of twists and turns. No one would’ve believed they could have happened to just one person, but they did. So I understood more how such a frail, skinny girl could grow as tough as nails.

Oh, she was tough. Very kind, very nice, very thoughtful, but tough as tough could be when the situation called for it. She would never shout in anger, but she had a way with words that could really hit home. Not that she was mean. But don’t push her to the limit or you’d better be sure you could back up whatever you said with credible arguments. Besides, it could never hit home unless you, yourself, feared it was true in the first place.

I once arrived at the boarding house and she told me of the argument she had at the stairs earlier with our very aggressive, aspiring lawyer-roommate. Lately, this roommate was becoming meaner and meaner, for some reason, to the whole room, especially to Beth. I don’t remember the exact reason for the argument, just that the girl was raising her voice again. Meanwhile, Beth kept calm and smiling. After a while, she laughed mockingly!

She told the other, “Ha, ha. Like you’re going to be a lawyer.”

The girl was taken aback, asking, “What? You don’t think I can be a lawyer?”

“You? NO.”

Bull’s eye! This proved to be a very sore spot for the law student. The girl went up the stairs and into our room looking just about ready to cry. That was Beth’s Psychology background working. She knew how to hit the mark.

After hearing that, I told her, “Wow, you’re scary! If ever you’ll get mad at me, tell me already, okay? So I won’t have to go through that!” Imagine hearing that from someone like me whose temper at the time was much more notorious (then, alright?).

She never did get mad at me and I never tried to test her patience. We would’ve lost our friendship, just like her friendship with someone who shouted at her. He got mad over something so petty and gave her the F-word. That ONE time and she never talked to him ever again, no matter how much he apologized.

Regardless of our opinion on that, that proved one thing: you never walked on Beth and got away from it smiling.

If anything, she could be the most loyal of friends. She became my champion. She told people who assumed I was probably a difficult roommate, “Not true. That’s just because you don’t know the real Gi.” And it’s true, they didn’t. Beth was one of the few who sincerely took the time to get to know me. She was easily my number 1 fan! She loved my stories and believed so much in me and my writing.

In later years, there were wrong decisions made by her. There were times she left without saying goodbye, perhaps to find herself, and I had to tell her when we got together, “Do you know how worried you’ve made me? We didn’t know where you were or how to contact you to, at least, know you’re okay, knowing your heart condition. Don’t do that ever again. You’ll give me a heart attack!” Well, she was human, and she got over everything by sheer courage.

Beth's First Place trophy

Beth bagged First Place in the 2011 International Speech Contest (District 38 Area 4) with her speech about her “smiley” scar and what it meant to her. I wish I could share with you what she wrote, but sigh, I have no copy and have never read it as well…Image Copyright © Jerry Shockey

She could be quite persevering. She never stopped until she finally got her Master’s Degree last year. She went back home for that. I thought she abandoned that dream long ago. If that wasn’t achievement enough, she became a part of the Toastmasters International in the States. Beth won in her speeches especially about the scar that looked like a smiley on her chest. Later on, Beth was hailed President of the Mainland FAA Toastmasters Club.

I truly admired her for being her. So proud to be her friend!

More than a year ago, she told me she wanted to create a foundation for underprivileged kids in the Philippines with the same heart condition as hers. We shared a common dream, somehow, and I had a bit of background, having worked for a child-welfare NGO before. I have yet to find our exchanges that mentioned the name she planned to give it. Naturally, she wanted me to be a part of it. I told her how hard building a foundation was going to be, especially the requirements. She still considered it nonetheless. Unfortunately, it was one achievement she could not have.

She also wanted to write her life story, encouraged by her Toastmasters friends. They suggested for Beth to write a book. “About my life experiences,” she explained, “about how blessed I am that I’m still here.” It was supposed to be in English, though, so who best to ask for help? Me, “Ba-gie” (pronounced buh-ji, one of her then-new terms of endearment for me). I was so looking forward to that.  Sadly, it was simply not meant to be.

Those dreams left undone, I do not believe that Betchico really actually left unfulfilled. She went away happy. In one private message consoling me about my father’s death, she said that she, too, had been already waiting for “that” time to come since she was a kid. It just wasn’t her time yet. I think that we can be consoled by the fact that Beth was ready to meet her Maker.

Let me share one more (partly translated) quote from her:

“Before, I could not appreciate the reason for my going through so many pains and struggles in life…but now, I’m thankful I went through all those things and I am not afraid to go through more…I’ve learned a lot, I’ve met so many people, I’ve met my soulmate, and I’ve met friends like you…”

Beth, I lost another loved one in you, but I know I gained another angel. Thank you so much for your friendship. Rest in peace, Betchico. I will always remember you with fond memories. You’ll continue to be an inspiration to all of us whom you’ve touched with your smiley heart. We’ll see you there 😀

Beth and her achievements

She was featured as one of the Women of Atlantic City in the July/August 2011 edition of the Atlantic County Woman publication. Of course, copyright is theirs

Lovely Beth

Beautiful Beth had one of the loveliest hearts. Image Copyright©Jerry Shockey

19 thoughts on “Farewell to the Girl with the Smiley Heart

  1. This is the most touching story I’ve ever read.
    I’ve talked to her husband and I can feel the loved he has for Beth. The way he told their STORY, speaks his heart too.

    You’re a great bestfriend to her. ❤️

    Be strong to Mr. Shockey and the rest of the family.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you so much for reading and the appreciation. I think she was an even greater bestfriend to me than I was to her, but thank you. I am really glad she found “THE ONE” — in the end, I know she was happy and fulfilled.


  2. J.Gi, what a beautiful tribute to your good friend, Beth. Your account of friendship is inspirational that true friends will always be remembeted. Your memories are forever. Thank you for sharing this. Christine


    • And thank you for appreciating. I reblogged it because I wanted people to know about her, too. As for the foundation, I found out yesterday that her husband is going through with creating an orphanage. It’s wonderful to know that she leaves a beautiful legacy.


  3. Thank you for your beautiful tribute to my dear wife. I was blessed and honored to have been married to my smiley faced soul mate. I cry every day thinking of how much happiness and laughter we shared. My tears flow now as i type. She was as you said, so kind, so considerate and strong. She smiled when her pain was extreme. She and I had begun our plan to help the children in the Philippines. This plan will continue with me. I will be bringing Beth’s remains back to San Jose Occidental Mindoro. Beth had asked me years ago that if she passed,could she be buried next to her mom. Of course I said yes and so it will be. Please see the FAA Technical New. Beth is on the front cover this week. She touched us all and her legacy will continue with me and so many others. Thank you My dear Beth. I look forward to someday holding you in my arms once again when my days are finished here. Until then, watch over me. Missing you always.
    Love, Hubby

    Liked by 1 person

    • You’re very welcome, Jerry, although no need for thank-yous. I’m the one who’s thankful for having met her who became one of my best-est friends. We will always miss her, but we know she is already in the best place she can ever be…


    • You’re very welcome, Jerry, although no need for thank-yous. I’m the one who’s thankful for having met her who became one of my best-est friends. We will always miss her, but we know she is already in the best place she can ever be…


    • She was beautiful Jerry, thank u for sharing this site with me…U are in my prayers…its beautiful to hear and read the love u guys shared…-Mireya 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      • Hi, Mireya. Sorry for the late approval of your comment. I just have not been WordPress-ing (he he) lately that I missed this (and I often get spam anyway…16 I deleted just now). I think we are all very lucky to have met her 🙂


  4. Dear Gi, thank you so much for doing this to Beth. She would surely be happy reading this message of yours. You touched her heart and she really appreciate what you have done to her. I am sending my heartfelt sympathy to her husband Jerry, that in this time of grief and pain, may God comfort him, and make him whole again. Thank you Jerry for loving Beth with all her life!
    Thank you Gi, May God Bless You and keep you in his love!
    I miss you Gi and Beth. Beth misses you a lot! She misses us!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Wow, it’s been a loooooong time! I had to search FB for you as I was not sure about your last name. It didn’t even occur to me before to ask about your last name. I didn’t know you were in contact with Beth. Well, that was really good. I hope you and your family are doing well there.

      That said, I certainly think that this all here that I’ve said aren’t enough to capture what Beth was. But I was only basing on my experiences with her. I had to do it before I forget to do so or become too overwhelmed. I cried a bit at the office’s ladies’ room when I learned, then went through the whole day. I cried a bit when I was writing this, but that’s it. I guess because I know she’s happy there where she is now. I do miss her. Now there are three people who come to my mind everyday because I miss them and will never see again until I, too, pass away. I can’t even really get myself to write about my parents because it takes a lifetime of memories to go through and it is only now that grief is really catching up with me…

      Thanks for this message, Ate. I’m sure Beth appreciates it, too 🙂


  5. Thank you for telling your story about Beth. People she met were all touched by her kindness and radiant personality. She will live forever in our hearts. I have never find such person in the midst of pain but still, she thought of how she can help others. She lived her life to the fullest. I love her and miss her so much…

    Liked by 1 person

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