I want to tell a story that has been kept in my heart for exactly 2 years today.
To tell you honestly, 2 years is never enough before I can finally put into strings of words this story that is very close to my heart. See, I was living my life as normal as any 23 year old adult at that time would be, enjoying the fruits of my hard work in college.
Then, this cancer story started.
This story is not about me, though majority of this series will include stories, opinions and feelings I felt, as a writer. This is a real story about cancer, about faith, about hope, about love. This story speaks of needles, IV bags, blood, appetite, puking and giving up. This story reveals Christ.
I will tell you a story about Nora.
She is my mother.
March 27, 2015, about 7:30 a.m.
I am rushing alternately through the 3 rooms in our house this morning. It is almost the close of the busy season for auditors like me, so I am really flying through my closet to find a dress decent enough to wear during the day. I came home so late, almost dawn already, due to overtime. Still, I have to report early today.
I am doing my quick makeup in the pink room. Facing the square mirror affixed onto our large wooden closet, I am applying light lipstick and smiling shyly to myself in the reflection.
“Ang ganda mo talaga, Telen (You are really beautiful, Telen).”
I looked at my mother, who is with me in the pink room. I have almost forgotten about her presence because of my busyness. She is looking so pale today. Her bald head is resting lightly on her soft pillows, her skinny body cushioned by a pink, heavy blanket. She is lying on her left side, her hands kept beneath her head, like a sleeping baby. Beside her bed, a red table containing her medicines, a glass of water and a banana stood. Just slightly above her pillow, a tiny, leathered New Testament and Our Daily Bread book were stuck.
She is watching me.
In my mind, I have no time for chitchat with her. I do not want to be late again so I quickly answered her.
“Syempre naman (Of course),” I said, smiling to her.
Once done, I picked up my laptop bag and hung it over my right shoulder. I bid her goodbye and planted a kiss on her cheek. I said that I will try to go home early today.
March 27, 2015, about 1:40 p.m.
I am sitting at my office desk, crunching numbers in my laptop. I am not feeling well. My mind seems to be drifting but I do not exactly know why. I also have this terrible pain in my abdomen due to dysmenorrhea. My head aches painfully.
I stood up and fetched a glass of water.
I am really not feeling well, I said to myself. But I cannot go home now. My tasks are already piling up.
I decided to shift my working location. I picked up my laptop, some papers and a pen and headed towards our office couch to rest for a while there while working. At least, I can sit comfortably in that area, I thought to myself.
I have not even spent a good 15 minutes in this couch when one of my team members came to me.
“Ma’am Kat, please check your phone now.”
I realized that I forgot to bring along me my mobile phone and left it in my desk. But I was not to be disturbed so I politely said to her that I will check it in a while.
But Gail, my officemate, won’t budge a bit. She stood there looking at me, her eyes begging me to heed her. What is it about? I asked her.
“It was not my intention, but a text message popped up your phone and I chanced to read what was in it. Please, please, read it now.”
My heart suddenly leaped and I have forgotten about my pain. There must be something wrong, I mumbled as I walked back to my table.
Checking my inbox, I saw many text messages from my sister. She has been flooding me with short text messages. But the earliest one shook me that I have let my cellphone slipped my grasp.
“Ate, si Mama hindi na humihinga (Ate, Mama is not breathing anymore).”
I was not expecting it. My knees suddenly felt wobbly, my strength left me. With my shaking hands, I called my sister.
“Anong nangyari? (What happened?)”
There is loud crying on the other end. Many loud voices kept coming.
“Ate, nandito kami sa ospital. Tina-try nila i-revive si Mama (Ate, we are in the hospital. They are trying to revive Mama).”
“Bakit, anong nangyari? (Why, what happened?” But my sister did not seem to hear me as the events unfold on the other end of the line. I can hear them crying. I can hear a hospital equipment clanking. I can hear a heart rate monitor beeping loudly.
Then I heard an unfamiliar voice, loud and clear, through the phone call left open by my sister.
“I am sorry po, wala na po siya (I am sorry, she is gone).”
I hung up my phone and sank in my seat, sobbing.
March 27, 2015, about 2:15 p.m.
I am riding a taxi now, accompanied by my 2 friends in the office. I am going home. I am going to see Mama.
I am seating on the passenger seat and my tears won’t stop its flow. I am sobbing so hard. I cannot breathe. My chest wants to explode in pain and desperation. I keep texting my sister that she beg the doctors to try again.
I said that I will keep praying.
If only I could teleport right now to where they are, I would have done it. Coming from Manila and travelling to Rizal at this time of the day means beating the heavy traffic. I felt so helpless. I cannot breathe. I cannot move. I cannot think. The cars in front me are getting blurred.
I opened my bag and reached out for my journal. This is the journal where I kept most of my prayers, thoughts, revelations and promises from the Lord. I flipped furiously through its ink-spattered pages, looking for some entries in particular.
I was speaking to God in the depths of my heart. I was rehearsing in my mind all the good that He has done. I was reminding myself of His miracles. Lord, You said that You will heal her, I told God. Lord, please save Momsi. I cannot do this. I do not know how to live without her. I love her so much. Please let her live longer. Allow me to see her alive when I come to the hospital. You who parted the seas is the same God who raised Lazarus back to life. Please do it again, Lord. Do it again.
I am almost near Rizal now. Just a little longer, just a little longer. I begged the taxi driver to drive faster. Then my phone received a text again at past 3 p.m. and it said:
“Wala na si Mama (Mama is gone).”
This is the most painful text message that I ever got. I just sobbed and sobbed. In my heart, I am slowly despising God. I felt betrayed.
March 27, 2015, about 4:15 p.m.
I arrived in the hospital and came running towards my family. All my siblings were sitting in a row of chairs in the lobby. Their faces are blank with sorrow. They cannot speak. Their eyes are swollen from crying.
Where is Mama, I asked frantically. My sister pointed me to a hallway to my left. I followed the bare walls which ended in a poorly lit room, masked by heavy curtains. I opened one curtain.
I saw my father sitting next to Mama’s pale, skinny body. He is not speaking. He just looked at me and shook his head.
It took me a time before I even take a step forward. I was praying in my heart. Lord, will You use me to make Mama come back to life? Will my touch or my tears bring Your power to bring her back to us? I am afraid but I have no choice. I stepped forward and touched her face.
She is still warm. Lord, in Jesus’ Name, I ask You to bring her back to us. Mama, please wake up. Mama, can you hear me? I am already here. You can wake up now. You said you will be waiting for me to come home early today. Mama, I am here. Please, please, just wake up now. But she would not wake up, no matter how hardly I shook her body. My tears fell unsparingly upon her face, her chest, but she would not open her eyes again. She is really gone. She has left me.
I cannot stop crying in the morgue. I have not given up on waking up my mother. Who knows, God may see me and be moved. I am really desperate to see my mother alive. My knees gave way, I have no strength to even stand now. Papa, who was watching all along, kept crying silently. I told him that Mama will still wake up, we just have to wait.
“Wala na siya. Iniwan na niya tayo (She is gone. She already left us),” he said.
March 27, 2017, 2:59 a.m.
As I look back now, I still cringe at the thought of that fateful day. I cannot compose myself even up to this moment. 2 years have passed but still my heart cries for our loss. Sometimes, I ask myself, do you even really move on from this? Will a daughter who lost her mother to cancer ever move on?
I wished I had stayed a little longer that morning of March 27, 2015. I wished I had stayed longer to appreciate what Mama has told me. I wished I stayed longer to tell her that I am beautiful because she is. I wished I stayed longer to feed her personally. I wished I stayed a little while to embrace her so tightly and tell her how much I love her.
This is the story of how I lost my mother to cancer. I am still grieving today. But I will choose to share as well all the more meaningful stories in our journey before and after this came.
Dear Momsi, you spent 2 years in heaven now. I miss you so much. I love you still.
Your beautiful daughter,
Telen (Kathy) 💜