Wish You Were Here

sam-up1

Dearest Mommy,

I will never forget waiting for Sam on the top of the stairs at U.P. “Bahay ng Alumni” on her first day at the university last August. It was a very rainy afternoon and I had for the very first time dared to let go and give her the chance to find her place in the wider world.

There were many anxious moments, especially when for quite a while, I couldn’t reach her phone. I already had wild ideas of bandits lurking in dark corners. Imaginings brought perhaps by my loneliness and the stark reality I had no one else but her to remind me of the love we had once shared. We had hoped too that someday she becomes all the best things we can only dream of for ourselves.

So I could not help but shed a tear, as I saw her walking a long way to get to the steps at the Alumni Center. I knew she was very tired and confused with a brave new world facing her. And I had wanted so much to come to her rescue as I often do when she stumbled when she was very young. But I also knew that I had to “let her step to the music that she hears” and dance to the beat of her own drum. I knew you had looked forward to this day with Sam in U.P. But I also somehow knew that you were never really far away, for your love was with us at that moment.

It’s been 9 years since that unimaginable day in September. I had grown much older and hopefully a little wiser. But as I had promised you then, as I promise you now, that I will make sure that your dreams will live on through our daughter. She is in many respects, all the best that you were. I still watch her sleeping and see you there. You have never really gone.

Thank you again for the love you had shared with us. You will never be forgotten because you are too beautiful a person to ever forget. We love you so very much and we will love you forever. Please watch over us, as we find ways to always be worthy of your love.

We love you so much Mommy.

With all my love,

Bong

 

 

 

Light from the Darkness

Mariel and Sam in Baguio

Bong’s Note: It’s 8 years since. Feels like only 8 weeks, or even 8 seconds sometimes. It will never be the same again but I’d like to believe that some light can be drawn from all the darkness. Thus, I share this short piece from Sam which she had written for the required ‘personal statement’ in her College application. Yes, she’ll be going to college next year, but she will always be our baby. We love you Mommy forever, more than any blog can imagine.

How Darkness Can Bring Light
(An Essay by Samantha Bianca F. Bello, August 2015)

“In the early morning of September 20, 2007, I received the most devastating news of my life – one that probably changed me permanently, and defined what I am today.

My dad woke me up to tell me that my mom had just died. I couldn’t believe what I’d heard. Ten days earlier, she was just fine – the healthy, loving, and doting person she always was. She had been stricken by a rare and cruel sickness called Interstitial Lung Disease. This was a kind of autoimmune disorder that was impossible to predict and didn’t seem to have any cure. I didn’t know this at the time. All I knew is that she had some kind of flu, and that we’d be going home soon. However, I was horribly wrong.

Just like that, the light of our home had been extinguished. It wasn’t easy dealing with this. In fact, the days that followed all seemed to be a blur. There was a kind of void created in our lives that can never be replaced ever again.

The first thing I learned from it all was the value of the acceptance of God’s perfect plan. We may not know why things happen the way they happen, but we have to trust in Him anyway. No matter how bad things get, He cares for us through people and circumstances that come into our lives.

I also learned humility. In the days that followed, I was cared for by my grandmother and my aunt while my dad was grieving. I learned to receive help from other people with gratitude. Through this, I learned we cannot do everything ourselves, and we must realize our human limitations. No matter how self-sufficient you think you are, there will always come a time that you will have to rely on your neighbor to get you through.

I’ve always thought that my mom would be around forever. I thought that she would be there to provide for my every need. However, things had to change. I had to understand that I had to do certain things on my own. I was proud of myself for receiving academic honors, but I was so sure this would come to an end because my mom was no longer there with me by my side. Somehow, I was able to keep my class standing through hard work, persistence and the belief that my mom would be proud of what I’ve done on my own. I actually did it for her.

Then, there is courage – the strength to carry on even when we are unsure that success is guaranteed. I have learned that nothing comes to you easily. There will be challenges, but these challenges can be overcome through a strong faith in God and hope that there is something better for us if only we push ahead. There was a time when I was frightened to go back to school, and I constantly wanted to go home and avoid activities that normally reminded me of my former life. However, I was able to conquer this by focusing on each day as it came, and it’s been 8 years since that fateful day.

I learned to value family, friends, and the time we spend with them. Some things are temporary, so I find time to hug my dad every day and thank him for the love and care he’s shown me every step of the way. I also learned to say thank you to my cousin, Trisha, who has learned to be more understanding of my teenage ups-and-downs. I cherish my friends, and the time we spend together watching movies, laughing at almost nothing, and telling stories about each other. I love them all.

I am an only child. I had never been good at sharing – until one day, I realized how much I had received in my relatively young, but eventful life. I consider myself lucky for having so many blessings that when the time came to organize something for the victims of Typhoon Yolanda, I felt free to give away some of the precious little things I’ve collected over the years. I know this is a small step, but I promise myself to give more and more whenever I can.

I have so much more to realize in life, but if there is one thing I really believe from all I’ve gone through, it’s living life for a purpose. I used to think I was so unlucky, but then I now see that all the unfortunate circumstances I’ve been through were meant to prepare me for something bigger than myself.

I am not completely sure about why God had decided to take my mom away at my young age, but I’m pretty sure that all the challenges that came after that gave me the strength to pursue my dreams and to discover my real purpose in life – which is to make God and my mom proud.”

Seven is a Good Number to Remember

mariel-on-the-grass

Dearest Mommy,

In Math, the number seven is called a happy prime. It is one of those numbers that is both ‘happy and prime.’

To others, seven it seems has come to represent completion. There are many examples of this even from our Bible. Some even refer to it as the number of perfection.

And these thoughts are why the promise of today’s anniversary sounds a bit dissonant to me now. For I still find myself nowhere happy, nor near completing many of the things I know you would want me to do.

I however want you to know that I really am trying hard and somewhat already on my way. It is the least I can do to honor your love and everything you stood for. Most of which is about making sure that Sam grows up to be the best she can be. I’d be happy for her to be just even half of the beautiful person you were, you are. And I never tire about reminding the world about this.

By the time you may be reading this, which I guess in heavenly terms would probably be a blink away, I would have finally found the courage to pack away your things I have left untouched at our Mandaluyong home since the fateful day. I’ve avoided doing it or visiting our once lovely home often because they will make me sad. But grief I guess truly is the price of love. I take some pride however today in being able to start ‘donating’ your things to those who may need them more, as you always like to do before. (I may even ask Mang Tom, our neighbour, if he could help ‘rescue’ some of them. Our street in Sto. Nino has never been the same since you left.)

I would however keep a few mementoes for myself.  To simply remember, like your favourite pajamas, perfume and Jeffrey Archer pocketbook.

The years have not been too kind to me. But it seems that remembering is one of those I am still good at, especially when it’s about you.

Like, I have not forgotten your love for Gershwin, or those magnificent castles in France. On reading up on Shakespeare or watching the Lifestyle Channel on TV. With catching up on Efren Bata Reyes even when I know that you never once held a pool cue in your life. On snuggling happily in bed on those cold rainy nights. And collecting things that come in purple, or hunting new DVDs. In eyeing new bags and shoes, and designing that next Christmas tree. And talking about your dreams for Sam, and our growing old together. Watching waves, sharing jokes, eating out, reading a book, talcum on your feet, Estee Lauder, and Dendrobiums, I can go on and on and on, because they keep me wishing and hoping. For that day, we could just continue from where we last left off. I know that day will come.

I miss you terribly Mommy, especially now. I am not sure I will ever be good at this moving on thing. But I try, I will keep trying. Because I know this will make you happy.

Thank you for loving me. Thank you for giving me Sam. Thank you for the life and love you shared. You are forever special. You will forever be in our hearts.

Seven is a good number to remember. We love you always Mommy.

Forever yours,

Bong

How Fast Does Love Travel?

our-family

It’s been another year Mommy. Three hundred sixty five days, or rather three hundred sixty five nights of missing you still.

 Sam and I pray each night and  wish you good night like always. We simply wish you all the love our human brains can manage to imagine and send them across the heavens and the universe. We pray too that these would reach you somehow, because we hold on to God’s promise of one day sharing our heavenly home with you. So now I wonder how fast can our love really travel to you.

On the other hand, time travels fast, as it loves to do. Sammie is grown now, and is no longer the little girl we once had so many dreams planned for. She has started now to make dreams of her own, as I only wish that I’d still be there somewhere too. She is independently-minded and sometimes a little headstong, but who really was not at her age. In many ways, she is a lot like you, iron-willed yet willing to follow, pragmatic yet overflowing with compassion. So that’s why I miss you even more today.

I also look at our old photographs together and see how much older I’ve become. The seasons  it seems have not been very kind to me. I only wish I can photoshop a few wrinkles in you too, if only for a few moments of make-believe, imagine that you are still there with me. But I shall always remember you in your perfection, forever young and beautiful as the day I first met you at the Gourmet Cafe.

With regard to the moving on thing. You know I try to keep pushing forward, although sometimes it feels like Sisyphus up the mountain. I will try to be brave and hopeful if only because of Sam. Please do hold my hand  through these and replace my fears with  your comforting embrace.

I have many times asked to hear your voice even for just one more time; I haven’t had much success with that. But I have lately also realized that maybe you actually continue to speak to me. Through the stories about us that I hear from your friends, through your old birthday cards, through your poems and letters, through your funny but insightful jokes, through your purple- colored knick-knacks, and of course, through your life of grace, beauty and love.

Sam and I love you Mommy, now and through eternity. Please always remember that.

So then how fast does love travel? Surely faster than a hearbeat, faster than the waves of your beautiful memories, even faster than and as often as I can whisper your name each night.

(I always come back to this video just to remember and get a good cry)

I Carry You in My Heart

Dear Mommy,

It’s now been 5 years today, since you had to leave us for our heavenly home. It’s been a long hard journey, Mariel. And I often had to remind myself, not to give in to temptations of despair. For it was so much easier to feel sorry for myself and blame God for the apparent injustice, than face a future still to be written. Remember our dreams of traveling and visiting castles, they will have to wait, for a little more time.

You had so much to live for, and so much more to give that I would not hesitate trading places in a heartbeat. I thought things may have turned out a little better if…, but who am I to question God’s always perfect plan? …for us, for Sam.

I look at your beautiful Sammie today, and can see the same strength of character and resolve you had. She is growing up to be in many ways very much like you, always accepting that things in life do not always happen as planned. She is extremely ‘pragmatic’, not of the bad kind. She has learned to put aside her own comfort, believing other things are far more important than the material world. Just like you, she knows her priorities. She is therefore my strength now; while I keep trying to feign courage so that someday I can eventually learn it.

Sam is the greatest part of you and me. She is all I live for. She is the one thing that had kept me from giving in to the easy path of hopelessness.

I still remember that day in September, when I had to tell Sammie the most painful news. It still is the second most difficult task of my whole life, next to, of course saying goodbye to you that morning. No words can ever describe the emptiness and complete disbelief that a person so beautiful such as you, can suddenly be removed from our lives

Five is a nice round number. Five years they say should be enough. Some even claim that the number does represent “opportunities for decisions for the future.” Like perhaps, moving on. Yes, I have grudgingly learned to tolerate those words, even as I remember hating hearing it from people, who I know also cared a lot. But I ask, is moving on some place?  Or some kind of enlightened state?

Yes, I will move on now Mommy, but I choose to “carry you in my heart.” That way I can move on, without ever having to leave you. “I carry your heart… in my heart”

Sam and I love you Mommy always. And will forever be thankful for the life and loving heart you shared.

With all my love,

Bong

P.S. I will visit our special place in Promthep Cape later today, perhaps to sing or read you this poem from E.E. Cummings, with the squeaky voice you always said you loved.

[i carry your heart with me(i carry it in]

“i carry your heart with me(i carry it in

my heart)i am never without it(anywhere

i go you go,my dear;and whatever is done

by only me is your doing,my darling)

i fear

no fate(for you are my fate,my sweet)i want

no world(for beautiful you are my world,my true)

and it’s you are whatever a moon has always meant

and whatever a sun will always sing is you

here is the deepest secret nobody knows

(here is the root of the root and the bud of the bud

and the sky of the sky of a tree called life;which grows

higher than soul can hope or mind can hide)

and this is the wonder that’s keeping the stars apart

i carry your heart(i carry it in my heart)”

My Heart’s in the Highlands…

mariels-garden
“My Heart’s in the Highlands, my heart is not here… My heart’s in the Highlands, wherever I go”  –Robert Burns
Dearest Mommy,
It’s been four years today since you left us for God’s garden.
I know you never like me keeping count but how can I not when part of my broken heart had left with with you on that day. It’s also not been easy these past years, but I know that you’ve watched over us through our long journey. I have often whined about it not being fair that you had to leave me so helpless, completely torn and all alone. Until I had begun to realize that in fact you have left me with the best and biggest part of you– our beautiful daughter, Sam.
She is grown now Mommy. And I could not believe how much she has become to be the strong and loving person that you were until I finally left for Thailand last week.  Of course we had  said our goodbyes and good wishes together with you at Heritage, but it was only after I had sobbed shamelessly at the airport on this trip that I had truly caught on that Sam has indeed in many ways taken over where you had left off. For just like you, she had calmed me even through her own pain. That I have nothing to fear, that everything will eventually be all right. She always starts our conversations with asking if I am okay. Like you were, she is  strong- willed and ever caring.
Through all these, I had also tried to think of a fitting way to mark this important day in our lives. But being so far away in Phuket has left  me incapable of even “kissing the ground where you lay”. I remember too that in the not too distant past, I had held your hand, kissed your lips, and promised to love you and to hold you at Promthep Cape under a tree.
So today I return to sit under the same Pagoda tree, near Rawai to remember and thank you for having shared your life.  And to once again say,  that I  truly love you and will hold you forever always. I love you Mommy. You will forever be in our hearts, as a part of us will forever be with yours too.  Please continue to watch over our daughter until the day that our family can again be together forever in our heavenly home, in the most beautiful of highlands.
Forever yours,
Bong

Forever Young In My Dreams

Dear Mommy,

I had originally called this new post as “The saddest day of my sad, sad life” but your daughter Sam found it too depressing and wont have it. But indeed it was, because I could not imagine being told that morning of Sept 20 that you had passed away. When I had just kissed your feet the night before and I was asked to leave the ICU so you can get some rest. Add to that too, the most painful task of telling your daughter about your passing when she did not even have an idea that you were at all sick. (Just the thought makes me again shiver. I can still hear her anguish)

I kissed you only at your feet that night because I was afraid to give you germs. I’ve always thought germs and you, even just in the same sentence, were completely incompatible. You were after all, always angelic, pristine white and porcelain-like. Remember how I thought you were somewhat “Imeldific” the first time I saw you at Gourmet Cafe? You were glowing in the mid- afternoon blush while I was fidgeting on my chair staring at the Cappuccino. You were so beautiful then and I felt like I had just won the lottery, but I was trying to act cool and nonchalant about it. Remember also that I had told you, before I actually met you, that I sort of looked like Keanu Reeves? (To everyone, that’s a joke that I’ll reserve for another day).

It’s been three year now. But it feels like three weeks or three days or even three minutes to me. Time has not behaved the same way since. I used to find the work week too long because I’d always looked forward to our weekend trips to the mall. You know, discovering that new exotic restaurant or simply browsing at the “tiangge’ with you made me very happy. I liked shopping with you because you always gave in to my “retail therapy”. I was a spoiled little boy, or did you just love me too much? That’s why I miss you so much now. My days look like endless clones and weekends are not much fun anymore. Except maybe when Sam agrees to go out with me on Saturdays. I dread too, the day when she wouldn’t want to hang out with me anymore or have more time for friends. Where will I go then?

But as I’ve told you a lot, I’ll just do my best to keep busy looking after our daughter. I know she needs more space these days, but also I have to assure her that I’d be there for her anytime she needed me. Well mostly today, it’s still about reviewing for her math quiz. I don’t know someday if it’ ll come to talking about “boys”. Then, I wish you were there to hold her hand when that time comes. I’ll just try to wing it at best for now. Perhaps you can help me with some tips?

I miss you Mommy. There are days I imagine how it’ll be when we meet again. I do look forward to that time, but you keep reminding me of  being here for Sam. I’m quite torn, but I know doing it will make you happy, so I submit. I’ve always imagined too that we will eventually grow old together. And hold hands while taking long trips to the beach, when Sam gets to have a family of her own. But alas it will just be another movie script, waiting for a re-run. I will grow old my love all right. But you, my love, will remain forever young, in my dreams. I hope you will not mind though some silver streaks on my hair, when again we meet. I promise to continue where we left off, when we last talked. I love you so much Mommy, there will always be a void in my heart that can be filled only when we are together again.

Watch over your daughter. Pray for me and never forget how much we love you.

Forever yours,

Bong