We love you Mommy always!

“Love is repaid by love alone” — St. Therese of the Child Jesus

I was with my daughter, Sam last night helping her with her “schoolwork’ when I came across this passage from the life of St. Therese of Liseux . And I had to tell her how this is something she must remember if she truly loved her mom. But that’s getting ahead of the story. So let me first describe how I got here.

You see, I have been agonizing these past few days over Mariel’s fate. I felt so sorry for her and can’t help but have feelings of deep regret over her unexpected passing. She was after all the one who kept a healthier lifestyle. She was even the better person. I was the one in line to go, having racked up all the bad medical stats over the years. I was the one whose passing would have had minimal impact on our family life. I would have gladly traded places anytime. I felt so bad. But the one that really hurt the most was that I never really got to say good-bye to her like I would have wanted. Yes, we did talk for days on end during her illness and I was the only one she wanted beside her 24/7. I was at times so physically and emotionally drained. I must even admit I wanted to”escape” from hospital- duty on some days. But then, I never saw it coming. I never really considered that she may possibly lose the battle. Not even when I was told that we may have to transfer to the ICU after just a week from being “admitted”.

I was prepared to fight on and stay in the hospital for as long as it took. But never once did I consider that things may turn out the way it did. I may not even be too sure that Mariel did either. Although looking back, I sensed a certain amount of “resignation” from Mariel during those last days. In fact, she looked to me as very brave and very in-control, that’s why I was never really worried. I remember her putting back her own ventilator tube after it once got “detached’ . My response was to jump up and down like a scared chicken while calling on the nurse.

Mariel was tough and from my perspective, she was the one even taking care of me.There was this time when I had asked her if she felt all right (stupid me) with all her tubes and needles at the ICU. And she had motioned to me to get a “whiteboard”. ( By now, she was already “intubated”, hooked to a respirator and thus cannot speak. So I had improvised this board and got her to scribble notes and instructions to me) At this point, she had chosen to write instead, “please pay the car insurance, its due tomorrow”. And God, I even found out later that she had been paying our household and utility bills through phone banking from her hospital bed. She was dutiful as she was loving. And she knew she had to take care of her “big baby”.

I was “happy” though to have told her the following as a last message through our whiteboard. I had found this one later on the hospital floor after it was “all over”. I will now keep it “preserved” for as long as I live. As there is nothing else in this world that I would have wanted her to know more than this one.

We love you Mommy always– Daddy and Sam

But as tears flowed again last night while doing Sam’s homework and having chanced upon these words from St. Therese, I had to remind myself and Sam that the only way for us to truly show our love to ‘Mommy” was to learn to now love back. As only love can repay the love we had received.To love and honor her memory. To love all the beautiful lessons she had shared with us. To love all the people and things she had cared for in life. To love and celebrate everything she stood for– love of family and friends, dutiful love… unconditional love.

We love you Mommy, now and forever.

9 thoughts on “We love you Mommy always!

  1. It’s strange how as the time elapses we can begin to go back over events and look at them in a slightly different way.

    The story of Mariel’s hospital stay sounds traumatic for both of you, and it’s good to see you unpacking it and examining it closely, since that’s what we have to do.

    But however we look at it, there’s no realistic way to come to terms with such a sudden and unexpected loss. My own loss was different – stretching out over months of increasing, if unacknowledged, certainty.

    It was torture, of a kind, to watch that slow decline so helplessly, and one might think that it would be better to lose someone quickly – underneath a bus, maybe – short, sharp and sudden, with no protracted pain or emotional distress. But that would be to miss out on all that time to say those things we want to say.

    The truth is, that there’s just no good way to lose someone. Neither route is realistically better than the other. Which is just as well, since we absolutely don’t get to choose.

    So how do you come to terms with it? I don’t know the answer to that question. Perhaps you never can entirely. People talk about acceptance and that’s one term for it – exhausted resignation might just be another. What you can’t change, in the end you just have to put up with.

    I wonder if it might not be a little like losing a leg – an essential part of you has gone and you can never get it back. It hurts like hell, and everything seems impossible.

    But, eventually, you learn to carry on, somehow. You just have to get better at hopping, however difficult that may seem. And eventually, one day, you might even be faster on one leg than you were at walking. It will always be different, though, no two ways about it.

    Perhaps it’s true that in losing our loved ones, we are losing our own former life and its potential as well. And I think that may almost be as hard to accept, in its way. That self-pity is an integral, essential and entirely healthy component of grief, just as surely as the self-criticism which so needlessly follows. But you can only do your best and these thoughts will wash over you for a little while yet, as you clearly realise.

    But after every incoming wave, the tide recedes just a little more. It’s hard to see it happening at the time, but it’s happening all the same.

    Good work, Bong. Spirits up.

  2. Bong, (I hope you don’t mind me using your name)

    It is so gpood and positive that you are looking head on at what happened. Roads is right – it needs to be done. So many people repress the terrible experiences they have had, too scared or pained by them to examine them closely.

    It is OK to have regrets. It is OK to wish with all your heart that you could change the outcome or rewrite the past. And it’s wonderful to keep the small but important reminders like the whiteboard – they will give you lasting comfort.

    When my dearest bestest friend, and then my beloved father died of cancer, I created a memory box for them both. It contains so many of the small incidental items that were symbolic of our life together. A last birthday card casually written, a christmas card hurriedly scrawled, favourite photos and hand written notes. These items have no monetry value – yet if there was a fire, my memory boxes are the things I would rescue above all else. I treasure them.

    So I am glad you are holding such store by the whiteboard. It is very special.

  3. Dear Robert, Writinggb and Jan,

    As Robert puts it so accurately, the tides will indeed come back, to tear my heart out once more. But I know I will make it through, as YOU are all always there to hold my hand.

    Writinggb, I choose to love on as it’s what will keep me always connected with my Mariel.

    Jan, please call me Bong anytime as I know our paths have met not merely by accident. Thank you for suggesting my keeping a memory box. I’m already on my way building my “treasure trove”.

    Thank you from my heart to you all.

    Bong

  4. Mariel B.

    Dear Tito Bong,

    I have to be honest with you, I’m sorry for not following up on your site for awhile. There’s just so much pressure and stress arising from School such as Exams and SATs that a teen like me has hardly anytime to converse with her friends without breaking into a sweat about her next project.
    Tito, when I read your excerpts(like this one) I can’t help but always be moved to tears. You really did love Tita (obviously) and that to me is so unique and special. Well, firstly I have to compliment you on your ways of writing. Have you ever considered writing a novel? If you do, please tell Lola so I can buy the fist copy!! And secondly, your speech has a way that is very appealing and flows all together. It really expresses your love for Tita Mariel and it makes me cry everytime. Especially when you say that you wish you could’ve said goodbye to her like the way you wanted. I think that message on the whiteboard did satisfy her in the few short days she lived. I know she knew that you truly loved her with all your heart and soul. It’s crystal clear, Tito.
    And lastly, before I take up all your space, the quote you posted…really hit me hard…it’s deep and yet so simple. All we need is to Love and in return, we will be loved back. That is what this world needs, More and More Love. Then maybe, hate wouldn’t consume so much and innocence could once again be resurrected.
    Anyways, Tito, I may not always have the time, but I’ll try to keep up with your site. You are a talented writer and keep sharing the love!!! I will always love You, Sam and Tita Mariel.

    Love, Mariel Bello (your niece).

  5. Dear Mariel(my beloved niece),

    First of all, it’s you who moved me to tears with your beautiful and heartfelt words. And it’s you who I think should consider one day to take up a career in writing.I know you are truly talented.

    Re: your suggestion on that novel, I think I will leave it to others to maybe someday tell “our” story.

    Thank you for loving your Tita Mariel. She was a truly special person whose love we can now only try to pass on to please and to honor her.

    Take care of yourself always and know that we always fondly think of you too even while you are so far away. Give our warm embraces to your dad, mom and brother Ryan.

    Love,

    Tito Bong

  6. Albert B

    Bong, it is heartwarming to read that you have others who help you keep going. Nothing more can be said about love of others. I continue to hope for your life’s journey to be one that will also continue to help other people going.

    AlbertB

  7. Thanks Albert for helping me through. You know very well I never saw this coming.But, I just now try to do my best for Sam and of course, Mariel. Please continue to pray for us. Take care too and let’s get together soon.

    Bong

  8. edsel tolentino

    Bong, I don’t know why but this post, amongst your other posts, was the one that made me cry. It just cut through the heart of the matter of grieving: regret.

    This emotion has been lurking in your tribute site to Mariel. Now, probably because of the increasing distance to and the short time that has passed since your loss, you have cast a bit of light on that shadow of regret. It took some courage, my friend, and I salute you.

    It’s most challenging to deal with regret. Amongst emotions, it’s perhaps the one that creates the most “ripples” in our heart: guilt, anger, self-loathing, despair—all are stirred up with every wave of regret that crashes into our being.

    It really doesn’t help that the unfolding of events was too quick, the denouement too abrupt, too sudden. I remember you calling long-distance to tell me about Mariel’s unexpected confinement to the ICU. Then three days later, you called again to deliver the terrible news.

    Regret feeds from negative memories, and regurgitates the “what might have beens”, the “could-haves, would-haves, should-haves” of our life. Unfortunately, regret shackles us to the past which, for all practical purposes, we have no control over.

    What if we wake up one day without any memory of hurts and losses? We won’t have anything to regret about, would we? Until science is able to engineer an anti-regret pill, how are we to deal with painful attacks of regret, short of banging our heads in the hope of getting amnesia?

    Many, if not most, people idealize a life of love and loving—and to live it with no regrets. That’s how strong the emotion of regret is: it follows on the heels of love. Yet I subscribe to the idea that love conquers all, regret included.

    The fact that Therese’s words resonated could only mean that you’re experiencing a “turning” inside. You’re being led to take a tiny, if tentative, first step towards your own healing.

    “Love is repaid by love alone.” Pay it forward, dearest friend.

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