Note: It’s best to play the song while reading. 🙂
Twelve-year old me woke up to see my father, with bloodshot eyes, clutching his Nokia phone. As it is in our family, we learned to speak without words. I did not like where this was going. I got up as he handed over the phone.
I see a text from a doctor in the Philippines, and then my mother’s name. Then the words “…passed away.” Are you kidding me?! With a confused expression, I looked up at him as he tried so hard to avoid my gaze. Was this real? It can’t be true. No. No, it can’t be!
I squinted my eyes and read it again. And again. And again. No. This isn’t true.
I ran out of our flat apartment in Bahrain towards the stairs to the rooftop. It’s not true! It’s not real! I heard myself screaming in my head as my legs carried me from one floor to another. No! I do not, will not, accept this! I felt rage. I felt hatred.
I felt… my life crumbling before my eyes.
Tears started to stream down my face as I reached the highest floor where the rooftop was. I sprung myself unto one of the walls. With blurry eyes, I looked at the streets below and the skies above.
Lights. Cars. Houses. Buildings. Stars. Sky. Are any of these things real?
There was no sound except for my baffled cries to the air.
“How could you do this to me?! It’s been two years since I last saw you!” She left for the Philippines, leaving me in Bahrain, to have her kidney operation. “You said you were going to get better!” I spoke in between sobs. “You said you’re going to come back for me!”
“You said…”, my voice got weaker with every word. “Who’s going to help me with prom? Who will teach me about boys?” I knew she had kidney cancer for years by now, but I was a kid. I believed it was something that would just go away.
“What about my debut? My graduation? My wedding?” I sniffed, seeing my hopes for the future flash before my eyes… without her.
Suddenly it all turned to darkness.
“Why are you doing this to me…?”
I buried my head in my arms. “Mama…”
I don’t know how long I was in that position, but when I looked up I saw something.
Out of the dark blue, purplish early morning sky, two things stood out.
From my right side, there was a lone white cloud going towards me. On the left, a white bird was flying towards the cloud.
The bird flew right through the cloud as it went on its way.
I breathed a sigh of relief.
Out of nowhere, I felt comfort.
It was as if something or someone was telling me, Everything is going to be okay.
I felt at peace.
“You taught me the courage of stars
before you left.
How light carries on endlessly,
even after death.
With shortness of breath, you explained the infinite.
How rare and beautiful it is to even exist.
I couldn’t help but ask
For you to say it all again.
I tried to write it down
But I could never find a pen.
I’d give anything to hear
You say it one more time,
That the universe was made
Just to be seen by my eyes.”
“Hi Ma,” I said, sitting on the grass by her place in the Garden of Peace. I just graduated from college, and I wanted to share so many things with her. I managed a weak smile. “I’m sorry…”
Throughout my teenage years, I convinced myself that she wasn’t really gone. That day in 2003, I went to school as usual. I told myself that she was just in another country. I avoided people who talked to me about my loss. I hated the word “Condolence” even if I knew they meant it in a comforting way. Some of my friends never even knew I lost her.
I had to go back to the Philippines soon after, and she wasn’t there. I had to face the reality of it, but I did not do so for quite some time. I blocked out my memories of her for so many years. My own sister would ask me something about her, and I would genuinely respond “I don’t know.”
As I got older, I learned more about what happened. She was supposed to have a kidney transplant. However, she chose not to do it because the kidney that was needed should come from one of her children. Realizing her sacrifice, I slowly remembered her.
I remembered how she taught me to read and write, how she spanked me when I said a curse word for the first time. I remembered how I hugged her from behind while she washed our clothes. I remembered how she held my hand as we searched the streets in the middle of the night when one of my teenage sisters ran away.
She had a gentle soul, a quiet presence. She did her best to care for all of her 9 children while her husband worked overseas.
She also took care of herself and always looked presentable. I remembered her red lipstick, and the scent of powder she put on before going to bed.
She loved to sew. She taught me how to sew clothes for my barbie dolls. When I was younger, we would stay in our bedroom as she made curtains and pillows until I fell asleep in her arms at night.
She also loved to sing. She always sang “When I was a little girl, I asked my mother what shall I be…”
She treasured every moment, keeping pictures in scrapbooks.
She loved her family and valued her friends. She would always take the time to visit her loved ones, no matter how far they were. To this day, anyone who speaks of her has only fond memories to tell.
She believed in God, and she spent years of her life serving Him.
Only when she was getting older and sicker did she think for herself. She decided to join my father in Bahrain, and I was the only one young enough at the time that she could bring along.
The memories started to come back to me as I began to accept what happened.
I looked at the tombstone with her name written on it. “I forgive you for leaving me, Mama.” I said softly. “I hope you forgive me too.”
I stood up and looked at the trees around the serene garden. “I know you’re still looking after me.”
“I will make you proud.”
“With shortness of breath, I’ll explain the infinite
How rare and beautiful it truly is that we exist.”
Hi everyone! I got kinda emotional writing this one, can you tell? 🙂 It’s quite a long post, but there’s just so much to share.
Well, it’s All Saints’ Day season and people here in Philippines are visiting their loved ones who have passed away. Times like these, the feeling of missing my mother is magnified. I just wanted to write down a little bit about how I went through the experience of losing her.
The part about the cloud and bird is actually true. I’m not sure if I was hallucinating or what, though I’d like to believe it was a sign from the heavens.
If you are going through a loss in your life, please hold on tight and keep moving forward. Things will get better, I promise.
If you have similar stories, please do write about them (only if you want to). I’d love to read about it.