Tonight I ran out of fiction, so I let her take over and tell her story.
I can’t remember much anymore. The memories left were mostly the ones at the hospital- when I would spend nights with you everyday after class, going to the canteen to buy you anything you asked was a special mission for me, looking away when it’s time for your injection, calling the nurses, carrying a cup of Buko Juice from Philcoa to your room and ending up with half of it left because I was so naive being in Manila for the first two months at 15 and I remember you telling Dad you want it and I was so lost I couldn’t think straight I wanted to give you everything I could to make you feel better. I remember how kind and supportive your doctor was but still I hated her for saying there’s not much they can do anymore. How she talked about your death, and how I felt like she said it matter-of-factly, even if I knew it was her job. And there was no other way I would hear it that it would be less painful. Still I cringe. How could they give up?
You told me once, the first time you brought me with you at the hospital, that people say the first visit to the chapel inside is supposed to be special because whatever you pray for, it will come true. I prayed you will recover from your illness. Now I wonder how many prayed to get well and did not make it anyway, how many daughters prayed for their beloved mothers and had to go home with them lying cold and stiff at the back of the vehicle.
That was the most terrifying trip home. I always enjoyed trips back home. Because I hated Manila. I hated you going to the hospital. I hated going to the university every Monday because I don’t wanna be away from you. All I wanted was to take care of you for all the time remaining because I knew and I feel terribly bad that all I ever was could not be enough to show you how much I loved you. And I wanted to make up for all those years and squeeze everything to the weeks or days left.
I remember some from when I was a kid- food and field trips, tears and family fun days, medals and recognition days, buying and fitting gowns for Flores de Mayo, relatives being wed and walking to the altar in a small gown. My partner would cry, I’d walk like a model. When did I lose that confidence. I envy the beauty of… who I was and my forgotten childhood.
I don’t remember much of childhood. People would only say I was truly you and Dad’s and Lola and Lolo‘s princess. I must have been. We were pretty well off before Chemotherapy sessions sucked the fortune out from bank accounts and stuff. I used to write in my journals or at the back of my notebooks why life had a price. Why we have to pay so much just to extend life. And how I wished that even then, money could buy good health, salvation, or survival, a cure for Cancer. I used to ask what miracles are made of. I used to pray. I remember the time I stopped praying and tried over and over to pray again and cast my doubts with the strength of my faith.
But I felt betrayed. I felt too betrayed I could not even trust my own capacity to believe again.
I remember a bit of highschool. The long letter for the class retreat in Tagaytay. I cried a lot. I sure know where this passion of mine for writing came from. I remember telling you about the first boy I (thought I) loved. How you wouldn’t laugh at me when I expected you would. Or how I thought you would get angry but you tried to understand and allowed me to learn on my own. I am still surprised at how little things like that would matter after all.
I remember you going with me to the gigs. How dad hated me for that. He sure did. But you loved me. And that’s how you showed it, that’s how you know I would feel it. That’s not merely the prize for being in the top of the class, or winning a bunch of contests, going home from the school van with my adviser congratulating you and me waving my trophy or my medal or even the cash prize, that’s not merely a reward, that’s more than a birthday present. That’s how I will remember you as the kind of mom I could ever hope to have.
I remember these things yet I wish that I would remember more and everything else. Because 16 years with you- that’s all I have and that’s all I would ever remember of having a mom when other girls would have theirs til their wedding day or their first child’s first birthday or every Christmas, for much much longer than I did. It’s a sad sad idea. I remember the lessons you taught me. How proud you were of me. And how happy I am that you were.
But most of what I remember were towards the end. At Granma’s when you barely spoke. When almost every night people were coming over to cry after all the best efforts to be happy with you and to talk about other things than the fact that you’re soon leaving. I remember everyone so desperate of finding and giving you every little thing you would mention that would probably help alleviate the pain. I remember how everytime you smile, it will bring us that fragile sense of happiness that would all the more bring us to tears. I remember prayers and rosaries and whispers, I remember how frightened I am. I remember when you don’t want my siblings to visit because you don’t want us to see you in pain. You don’t want to go home yet and you promised that you’ll only go home when you’re already well. And the time you went home, there were already flowers and candles, seemingly a garden in the living room.
It was so beautiful a place for you to finally rest. Yet it was haunted. Since you left, home was never like a home again. It will never be.
And i’m writing this because i’m afraid i’m forgetting. I don’t know if it’s my way of coping with grief, cos you see no matter how many years have passed, five and counting– it always always, the pain always feels like everything happened yesterday.
I don’t know if my mind is unconsciously doing it so as to spare me from pain, and although it would hurt. It will always hurt to not be with you but I still would always want to remember you.
I probably missed to tell you in dreams, the last time I felt genuine happiness again. I did it Mom. After I lost you I thought I am no more capable of being happy, but I was. You may not always be proud of my decisions and life is pretty shitty recently but I know I will make it. And I want you to still see me in that moment even as you look down from heaven. And i’m still trying, still wanting to be happy, to pray, and to love again.
I think of The Plan. Whoever planned it. That maybe when I asked for recovery, it was answered, only not in the way I hoped for. That maybe what you needed wasn’t to rest at home but eternal rest. Maybe the comfort that Above is going to give is much much better that any of us here on Earth can offer. Yes I do believe there’s still something bigger for all of us apart from this world.
And probably this will be the way it is for every person I will love dearly and lose anyway. It would hurt, but I would still choose to remember.