Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Life Goes On!

Sunday, December 24, 2006. I would have delivered my baby this day. This was supposed to be the due date of that oh-so-wanted-and-much-prayed-for baby that I lost last May. Those who know me well knew how badly I took my loss. I still ache for my little one and for all the might-have-beens had that precious life not been taken away from me.

I will never know if that baby that I had so briefly was going to be a boy or a girl. Had a baby girl been born to me, I planned to name her Maria after our Blessed Mother. Her nickname would have been Maia.

The ache has dulled over the months and I believed that I was largely over this painful chapter of my life. But I realized that I have not moved on when I constantly found myself casting longing glances towards the SUMC nursery as I climbed up and down the stairs during my father’s hospitalization there.

One time, I chanced upon the nursery while the curtains were drawn open. I hurried over intending to enjoy the sweet sight of innocent infants, but burst into tears instead, as it occurred to me that my baby would have looked just like them.

It was doubly painful as I thought that I should have been eagerly anticipating the coming of a new life this December instead of dreading an impending death.

This lingering pain perplexes my husband and I guess all my friends as well. I suppose that only women who have infertility problems and who also long for babies with the same intensity as I have can empathize with me. To the rest, I may seem like a nutcase. Sometimes I question my sanity. I have friends who’ve also had miscarriages but have moved on while I’m stuck in this emotional no man’s land and I see no end in sight.

But I draw comfort from the assurance given me by the Compassionate Friends. They are a group of mothers who’ve also lost their own children and who now offer friendship and support to newly bereaved parents. They give the assurance that we will move on, eventually. Though the pain will remain, the heart won’t bleed as much as time goes on.

Through this group, I met a friend named Arlene. She lost her precious Daniel a few days after he was born. I found kindred spirits in the person of Arlene and other mothers like her. With them, I found complete understanding, never bewilderment.

A few days ago, Arlene emailed me with news that lighted up my bleak Christmas. She is pregnant! I cannot find the words to express how happy I am for her.

Yes, I am happy for all of us. So you see, I am not ending this article today with a sad note after all. Instead, I am ending this with a shout of joy, a celebration of the life that goes on and on!

A cycle has been completed. I should have been awaiting life but instead found death towards the end of 2006. I thought that was that! But no! God came in and told me not to despair. This year will still end happily for me, for I shall again be awaiting the coming of a new life – my friend Arlene’s baby. Life does go on. God is great!

Sunday, December 17, 2006

A Chance for Goodbyes

This was written by my friend Muffet Dolar-Villegas in her column in the Negros Chronicle. Ma'am Muff has breast cancer and she is fighting it with the most powerful weapon that could ever be had in one's arsenal - her formidable faith in God.

I decided to post her article here because I was inspired and comforted by her story of the water beetle. Whoever may be reading this now, may you be inspired as well.

Ma'am Muff is a very beautiful person. May God continually touch her with His healing hands that she may continue to touch others with her kindness and inspiration.

A Chance for Goodbyes
by Muffet Dolar-Villegas (Blue_bell57@yahoo.com)

When I opened my email, I learned that my friend Olga lost her dad recently because of cancer. I cannot find the right words to say to tell her how much I feel for her. I lost my father three years ago because of cancer. I know how it feels to see your love one suffer and eventually die. Olga Lucia Uy is a columnist with the Metropost. Like most of us, she loves her dad and she admired his courage in facing his life sentence, when he was told that he had cancer.

She praises God that He had released her father from pain and unspeakable agony, and a chance to say goodbye . Once more death comes and we grapple for answers to some questions, why did he die so soon? Why should we die?

Yet in one instance, the issue of death was witnessed by Cecil de Mille in one of his searching moments. One day, he was on board a canoe gliding slowly on the river. His attention was caught by a small water beetle climbing the wooden vessel so slowly and gingerly. When it reached the top, it just died. But he was mesmerized when out of the parched and ugly dead water beetle came out a beautiful dragonfly with all the colors of a rainbow. The dragonfly flew as fast as it could, mingling with the colors of the wind.

The dried remains of the water beetle fell, and all the other water beetles gathered and dispersed immediately, seeing that it was dead.

Most of us view death as morbid, but on the contrary, if we are ready to meet our Creator, there is rejoicing and celebration on the other side. This poignant story tells us of an amazing Creator. As Christians, we believe that there is eternal life after death to those who have a personal relationship with Christ. A life that is more beautiful and stable than that of a dragonfly.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Flawed Man ... Great Father!

A little boy was asked what forgiveness is …
He gave a beautiful answer:
It is the fragrance that flowers give when they are crushed.

Reflections ... in these trying times!
(Final Part)

We were encouraged to talk to Daddy as he lay dying, told that he could still hear us. The sense of hearing is supposed to be the last to leave. We were also told to make our peace with him, as the dying could linger on with still unresolved issues waiting for closure.

I’ve been told countless times that I was a good daughter. In my heart, I knew that I was not. I failed Daddy in so many ways.

I hadn’t asked for forgiveness while he was still conscious. Finally, I leaned over to him and whispered how much I loved him and how sorry I was for everything. Daddy breathed his last a few seconds after that.

I would like to believe that I was forgiven then, but my heart still lies heavy.

* * *

The passing of a loved one filled us with sorrow but it was also a time for rejoicing. We praised the Lord for His goodness and mercy. Watching him struggle with every breath pained us more than letting him go. We were grateful to God for releasing him from his final agony.

* * *

Tears would fall from his eyes every time I would whisper my promise to him that I’d do what I could to help my sisters. Every mention of his three younger daughters would make Daddy cry. Only then did I start believing that we could still talk to them as they lay dying.

* * *

Daddy told me that he was not afraid to die. I believed him. But he became terrified when he learned that it was going to happen so soon. He pleaded for God to give him more time.

As fluid was being drained from his lung, he sobbed as he felt his breathing becoming easier.
He cried out that he wanted his last days to be merry ... that he did not want to die suffering that way, and not so soon …

Don’t we all cry for the same?

* * *

I, too, am not afraid of death. But if I could plead with God, I’d asked to be given just enough time to see my only child though as she grows, to be there for her as her heart gets broken for the first time, and guide her as she learns to her stand with her own two feet. When she doesn’t need Mama anymore, I can go.

* * *

There seems to be a quota as to how much fun we could have. Consume that quota early on and we’d start paying for the excesses. Take them in moderation and we might just be able to continue enjoying them through our old age.

Cigarettes, alcohol, fatty foods, sweets … the list can go on and on. The rule stays the same.

* * *

Daddy had a soul mate. Her name is Merle. They never exchanged marriage vows. But watching how she sacrificed for him, took care of his every need, made him feel loved until his last moment … was a humbling experience for me and a lesson on the true meaning of love and devotion … in sickness and in health

I'll be eternally grateful to her, for in her sturdy arms, Daddy was really and truly loved.

* * *

I was overwhelmed by the outpouring of love and support coming from our beloved relatives and my dear friends. Thank you so much.

To Alex and Irma, for your kindness and generosity, my thanks. To Ma’am Muff Villegas who offered me her friendship and showered me with encouragement and support, I am blessed having found you. To Nicel Avellana, thank you for your prayers. Pau, thank you!

* * *

Tradition dictates that we should not speak ill of the dead … that we should speak of them only in glowing terms.

I chose not to. I talked of Daddy as he really was: an imperfect man. He was just like every one of us, as flawed as every human could ever be.

As a father, he also had his shortcomings. Again, he was just like every other father out there.

For who could ever truly claim to be perfect anyway?

Having said that, I now say that I loved Daddy anyway. We may have had bitter moments together as I lashed at him for his weakness against his vices. But I loved him unconditionally. And he loved us in return.

Flawed as he was, he redeemed himself by being a great father to us. He was the kind of father who would do anything for his family.

Even as he lay gasping for breath in his hospital bed, he still talked about going to Bacolod and Cebu to earn money for his young family.

I remember him telling me, after he was told of his cancer, that just because he had that tumor did not mean that he would stop selling his Noritake chinawares ... that he would go on trying to provide for his family while he still could.

Flawed man, great father. For loving us with all your heart … Thank you, Daddy.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Thank you, Daddy!

I wrote the article below in the morning of December 7, 2006. Daddy passed away at 7:25 pm the same day.

When he breathed his last, we thanked the Lord for releasing him from his final agony. Seeing him suffer that way brought us more pain.

Just as we begged God to finally take Daddy home with Him, we urged our beloved Father to move on as our final act of love for him.

Praise God for His mercy!

Reflections ... in these trying times! (First Part)

When I first started, I wanted this column to be light and cheery, easy reading for a leisurely Sunday. I believe I managed that most of the time.

Considering recent events in my family however, I cannot write that way, at least, for the moment. When one’s spirit is down and out, it is difficult to get off the ground, particularly when no one else is there to give that needed boost.

For today, I’d like to share some thoughts I’ve been having lately...

To tell or not to tell …?

This is the big question that inevitably confronts every relative of somebody who’s been diagnosed with a deadly illness. With the Big C rearing its ugly face almost everywhere we turn our heads to, more and more people are being forced to meet this dilemma head-on. So how do we decide?

When I learned that my Dad has lung cancer, I gently probed his readiness for the truth. His “so be it” summed up what seemingly was his attitude towards that possibility. Thus, despite my earlier trepidation that when faced with the truth, Daddy is the type who would just curl up and die before his time, I told him about his tumor without however elaborating about it’s advanced stage. I thought that it was his right to know, so should he want to, he could start putting his affairs into order, and most importantly, make his peace with God.

Daddy took it well at first and seeing him that way buoyed up my spirits! Here’s my FATHER, I proudly announced. His body may have been battered but the man inside remained whole and strong.

I was wrong! When the full import of his condition finally hit him, he wilted right before my eyes and from that day on, I’ve had nothing but fleeting glimpses of the man that he used to be.

Daddy became terrified when he was told in no uncertain terms what was happening, was going to happen and how he would be losing his life in the process. That day, he really started dying on us.

I am now regretting my decision to let him know the truth. But with so many considerations that had to be made then, I made the decision that I thought was best for him. Foremost in my mind was his need to prepare himself spiritually before he meets our Maker. Did I do right? I honestly don’t know.

So, should we tell or not tell?

I think it depends on the person concerned. There are those who knew right on that they couldn’t handle the truth, and we’d know this from their attitude towards death in general.

Then there are those people who think and believe they could. Of these, some would prove themselves right! But most, I believe, would fall short of their own estimation of themselves. Most would crumble upon staring death at its face.

For some people, a life-threatening illness is a challenge that arouses the fighter within. Present them with the truth and they will switch into fighting mode, summon up all their energies, and then lean on God for that much-needed strength.

But others, I think, would rather not know or are better off not knowing. The mind is all-powerful and what goes on up there affects everything in the body. Once the mind gives up, the body will soon follow. Convince it that there is still hope, and maybe, the body would have held up longer.

I’m not a doctor but I believe that Daddy’s psychological mind frame sped up his deterioration. Had we withheld the full truth and made him believe that there is still some hope, maybe, just maybe, he’d still be talking, laughing and praying with us. But just as I initially feared, he curled right up and now gazes at us with those lifeless eyes. Right now, not even his beloved Abby could rouse him up from his own private hell.

What have I done? I should have trusted my instinct when it told me Daddy couldn’t handle the truth. How could I have bungled this way? How I wish I could tell him how sorry I am but I’m too scared.