It’s Sam’s Birthday!

It”s Sam’s birthday tomorrow, June 9. It’s also the first one that Mommy wont be with us to celebrate on this very important event for us. Well, I would like to correct myself. I know Mariel will be with us still, but only in ways that we’ve not had before.

For her birthdays, usually it was some creatively- staged children’s theme party that Mariel had tirelessly organized each year (see my most recent post). But the last one was different. As Mariel had suggested that for once we should try to spend it with only the three of us. At the drop of a hat, she had set up a short trip to Singapore for a family outing which had included a fun day at Sentosa resort . We were so tickled with the “scary” cable car ride then and had a nice time too at the entertaining pyro and laser show. I can even recall that it was raining hard when we arrived but simply nothing could have stopped Mariel from booking that one essential “package tour”. And I never saw it coming. For in about a month after we’ve returned from that vacation, Mariel will so suddenly fall ill.

I also remember her to be so unusually insistent that we made this Singapore jaunt. And that she had wanted Sam to fully enjoy her unique birthday treat. Although we’ve made other trips before, this one had, on hindsight, a burning sense of urgency for Mariel. She had even “orchestrated’ a mini-reunion at the Changi Airport with her brother Gerry and sister Joy who was merely passing through Singapore on a connecting flight to South Africa with her family at that time. It was another unusual but very memorable experience. Imagine meeting at the Airport visitor’s lounge at 1230 midnight for some much- needed bonding and coffee (only hours after we just arrived from Manila ourselves). But then maybe Mariel was really just “unconsciously” trying to squeeze in as much time with us as she can muster with an apparently slowly closing agenda. I will never really know for certain. But I am just really glad that she did it it again with her ever- efficient signature style. And that after all, she was just being herself and as predictably she was just again doing the “right things”.

If she was with us today, Mariel would have already arranged all the finer details of Sam’s little party tomorrow. She would have sent out the invites much earlier, planned the menu and ordered the cake and cute “loot bags”. Of course now, I have my mom and sister Alma who had so generously pitched in because they know I’m really poor at these things. But I also still miss Mariel’s presence because only she can provide that anticipated “order” in our lives.

But we’re not having anything “grand” for tomorrow though. Just your basic poolside get-together for some BBQ and games. And by the way, Sam wouldn’t have anymore of the standard kiddie stuff of yore as she is currently into NBB, Jonas Brothers and Miley Cyrus these days. She even requests a bit of some “rock star” accents to enliven the party if possible. Of course, I’d approve. Because I’m sure Mariel would’ve. And it’s such a tiny gesture to make. And assure Sam that nothing has intrinsically changed with her “connectedness” to her mom. For Mommy just can’t be with us “physically” on the big day. But still all the emotional and spiritual bonds remain strong. For the love Mariel has shared with us persists and endures through eternity.

To “Samanting”, Happy Birthday from Mommy, she loves you so very, very much.

This One’s For Mommy (Sam sings “Namaste”)

Sam indeed made her mommy happy again tonight after performing as guest singer/soloist at the Assumption METTA’s production of “Romeo and Juliet” (Summer Shakespeare Workshop). We were pleasantly surprised to have received a call from her school last week. They had asked if she could be allowed to sing “Namaste”, an original composition by Ms. Pinky Valdes for the Shakespearean adaptation. Of course we said yes, because we believe every opportunity for Sam to perform is truly an opportunity given her to improve her craft.

Mariel had always been very supportive of Sam’s theater interests. She had encouraged our daughter to develop her many “gifts” as she had looked forward to seeing her perform on stage. She would have been beaming with pride tonight and would have been doubly exhilarated with seeing “Sammy” transform from the bashful little four-year old girl we had enrolled into theater class to try to overcome her shyness to the confident and admired thespian she is today.

I must admit too that it was not easy sitting through the play tonight. I’m no Romeo, but Shakespeare’s words of love found and lost have unexpectedly struck some raw nerves that had sent me reeling back into painful territory.

“O my love, my wife! Death, that hath suck’d the honey of thy breath. Hath had no power yet upon thy beauty… Good Night, Good night! Parting is such sweet sorrow, that I shall say good night till it be morrow.”

Mommy, I know you were watching with me our little “Sammy’s” performance tonight. And I know you knew too that this one was especially for you. We love you very dearly. Good Night!

Every Day I Miss You (Part 1)

“If I had a single flower for every time I think about you, I could walk forever in a garden”.- C. Gandhi

What’s there to miss about Mariel? I’d say, a world. For starters, she had always provided me with that reassuring presence that I could do just about anything I decide to put my heart into, and that she’d be there to follow me to the ends of the earth. Out of enthusiasm, unwavering belief, respect…, love? I guess all of the above, and more. For Mariel had in her also the qualities of any good leader– knowing exactly when to get into the picture and when to get out of the way. And while we had so many “spirited debates” over the years about almost everything, she never once imposed her ideas on me. Because she had always tried to win me with reason and even better, with her example. She was first to sacrifice her love of shopping during times when finances weren’t too great. That’s why I felt so guilty when hankering after my latest “gadget” then. But lucky me, many times she had conveniently looked the other way while as I raided Apple Center. She had “spoiled” me and I miss her so much now.

I also miss her creative home decor projects. Those who knew Mariel will tell you how much she loved to decorate our little home. While her favorite themes were mostly English country-style, she had this knack for making masterpieces of even “found” objects. But I’d just say that she had only wanted our home to be plainly clean, sunny and comfortable. Bright floral prints interacted with fresh greens and cool blues. And certainly, life would not be complete if we didn’t have her favorite accents of lilac, violet or purple (yes, her signature color). While I often contradicted her ideas with my own “unique” design sense, I have to admit now that most of the time she was right when it came to knowing where to put the piano or next flower pot.

I miss her for her ways with Sam. Mariel loved her dearly, but really knew when to “discipline” her. She had always told me it was all about timing. She knew when to be firm and when to give those hugs. I am truly lousy at it even today. So, I usually end up aggravating Sam’s feelings even when I just wanted to give her some encouragement. I really need to practice more and get guidance from my Mariel.

I also miss just sitting around the house and reading the newspaper with her. We would get into these lively exchanges on politics, business news and at times times about that juicy entertainment gossip around town too. Mariel could gamely trade views on just about everything from Alan Greenspan to Brangelina. And that’s why she was never a bore to be with. She would always make you feel comfortable and knowledgeable. She would try to reach out to you, even when initially she’d appear “offish” when you first meet her. I guess she was just in some ways shy, but she was always really very compassionate.

I miss her for her “heart”. She was usually first to remember birthdays, anniversaries of friends and kin. She had always gently reminded me of these things. She was genuinely concerned about the well-being of people. Whether it was to visit a friend who was sick or to get that little present for my mom when we see her on Sundays to cheer her up, Mariel simply cared for others. And she would do this in ways that you’d never even feel that you’d have to return the favor. I’ve heard many, many stories of people she had “helped”, all of which I’ve come to know only after she died. She never once tried to share any of her little acts of charity with me. Giving came to her naturally, and oftentimes it was Sam and me who were at the receiving end.

Tonight I just miss snuggling on the bed with her and our “Sammy”. I miss her warm and comfy embrace, her nice smell, her kisses that were more like sniffs. I miss her gentle reminder of that “early meeting” tomorrow. I miss giving her those leg massages that put her to sleep. I miss coming home late then waking her up in the middle of the night just to tell her stories about how our high school reunion went. (And she’d even try to stay up and be sympathetic.). I simply just miss being next to Mariel now and knowing that everything will be all right tomorrow when I wake, knowing that she’ d be there to follow me to the ends of the earth if she had to.

I love you Mommy. I do miss you every day. There are so many things I want to tell you when we next meet. Good night.

Happy Mother’s Day Mariel!

I found a Mother’s Day card I gave Mariel some years back among many cards she had so neatly saved in a bundle for me to discover someday. To tell you honestly, I never even remember writing it and it was simply dated “May 2”. You know how it is with boys, we often look at occasions such as this, more like a duty than anything else. Of course I know better now.

And I still have Mariel to thank for finding a safe place for all the memories. For it seems like even then she knew that one day I would gladly give anything for the chance to feel once more her love even just for a fleeting moment (sigh).

The “Hallmark” card had a very nice photo of a flower garden (so appropriate for this blog) and had said simply–

“A mother’s love is like a garden, where the sun is always shining. Because of your thoughtfulness, my life has held many beautiful moments. Because of your caring, my heart has known a special kind of love. Happy Mother’s Day.”

And I also wrote further in the margin, ” To my loving wife, Mariel, who inspires me and makes me whole. To the mother of my child who gives us a reason to be hopeful each day. I love you now and forever. — Bong”

The words rang so true then. And even most especially now, when they try to reach out with my loving wishes through eternity.

Happy Mother’s Day Mommy from Sam and me. We love so very, very much. Now and forever.

How’s Sam Today? (Part 2)

Yes, I must say that most of people who knew Mariel would typically start our conversations with that question. That’s because they knew how precious little “Sammy” was to her mom. For Mariel had always wanted only the best for her daughter even if it meant that her own career and personal convenience will often have to take a back seat. But she didn’t mind, for Samantha was her “magnum opus”, all the best things she ever hoped to be and much more. Now I can only tremble at the responsibility but still choose to carry on for Mariel. Because I love her and find this task as the best way to thank her for the life we shared and for her truly “giving” heart.

Today, April 27, I brought Sam to Virra Mall in Greenhills to have a “fun” afternoon with her cousins, Gabby, Trisha and Julia. They had the usual dash to check out the latest Nintendo DS games at the gadget store. This week’s favorite flavor is none other than Super Mario (He’s back folks and if you’d care to know Mariel too spent many hours on the game and excelled at it some “twentysomething” years ago.) Sam of course seems to be very “okay” when she is around her cousins and playmates as her mom’s absence is momentarily eased. I still however sense a deep sadness in her. But who would not be, after a gaping hole had been created by her mom’s loss. Again we only choose to carry on despite the great inertia to cave in and abandon the “fight”. Because Mariel had exemplified always doing the “right things” and we should not do anything less. Always.

Letter to Mariel, April 20, 2008

Dear Mariel,

I woke up today feeling a bit light-headed from staying up too late last night. You know I could not sleep because I had to lie alone on an empty bed in an empty house and I still terribly, terribly miss you . You know Sam is away on a weekend trip to Fontana Resort with Mama, Alma and her kids. I wanted to go with them but there are just too many things on my mind these days and I wont be a “nice” traveling companion so I decided to stay home instead. I did however manage to call “Sammy” before she went to bed last night and she seems to be having fun specially with the pool and the “giant slide”. I know that we would have both been there with her if things were different. That’s why I miss you even more.

I also dread facing this day knowing its the 7th month “anniversary” since you know. And all I can do is to pound away on this computer while feeling lonely. Nothing much really has changed since you left. I have not been able to organize much my life just yet, preferring to coast along instead or keep busy with little side projects. It’s like being on auto-pilot I guess as I rely mostly on Mama, Alma and Baguie to tell me where I needed to be. And I have not had much luck either with Sam who seems to be in some kind of a “space bubble”. She still avoids talking about you or looking at your pictures. Which is exactly the opposite of what I’d like to do all the time. But don’t worry Mommy, we will be able to sort things out sooner than later. Again as they says “grief is the price of love” (right, Robert). I know still that you will be always with us even while we go through our darkest and most difficult journey.

I still get “ambushed” by bad memories of our times at the hospital. I just try to block them off and just keep praying whenever those times come. You may have noticed that I’ve been “surprisingly” more prayerful these days. (I know at least the change would have made you happier now because you tried so hard to get me to realize this before. I know now why, for at the very end there’s just really God who will truly understand what you’re going through. Now I know..)

It’s a Sunday and I must be off now to Heritage Park to tend to your little memorial there. I think I will be bringing you more colorful ones this week. You may have been bored already with those white roses, white stargazers, white mums, white everything. I will do my best also to see “today” on a more positive light, as I know this would please you (I’m not making any longer term promises however because you know how it is). I will try today to remember only the good memories and all the good things you stood for, which are a lot. And to remember too the beautiful person whose beautiful face I loved to touch and kiss so much. And whose beautiful and loving embrace will remain with me till the day we meet again.

I love you Mommy, now and forever.

With all my love,

Bong

Helpless in Hanoi

Just arrived last night again from Vietnam after a week-long trip to work on a launch project for an airline company there. This explains my apparent absence from the blog for sometime now. Life had simply caught up with me as I tried to keep busy on “making a living”. Yes it takes so much more effort to “make” it when the very person who inspired you and moved you to be the best you can be is no longer there. I have to remind myself often that I still have Sam to live for. But while I’d do anything for our daughter, there are just it seems some things that could never be the same. Like, enjoying watching flower vendors in Hanoi’s picturesque streets and alluring parks.

I missed Mariel as I went through some small curio shops and art galleries in Pho Hang Trong street. These were those little things we did together when we were out on trips of “exploration”. These are now the little things that I tried doing but find to be somewhat pointless and uninspiring. I made sure however I brought home her favorite “fridge magnets” to add to her collection on our trusty ref. If truth be told too, I had actually found them before to be quite unattractive. Of course today I can only look at them with fondness and longing. I may even have a clue to why Mariel had collected them. Maybe perhaps, so that someday I can look at them again and re-live our lovely memories. I now would like to use them to remind Sam what a truly wonderful person her mother was. And how I had counted myself to be so lucky to have at some time shared browsing through those little curio shops with the most BEAUTIFUL person in the world.

Mariel, I love you. And I still miss you so very, very much.

She is Gone (A poem by David Harkins)

Bong and Mariel as the Flintstones

My friend, Gil Gonzales shared with me this poem by David Harkins. It’s so honest and true. God willing it will reach out to others too who have “lost” someone special. It gives hope to those of us who grieve that there is some way out of the darkness. That the beautiful memories and love we shared with our “lost loved ones” will live on forever.

Mommy, I know you’re smiling tonight. I love you.

“She is Gone” (Short poem by David Harkins of Silloth, Cumbria in the United Kingdom)

You can shed tears that she is gone
Or you can smile because she has lived

You can close your eyes and pray that she will come back
Or you can open your eyes and see all that she has left

Your heart can be empty because you can’t see her
Or you can be full of love that you shared

You can turn your back on tomorrow and live yesterday
Or you can be happy for tomorrow because of yesterday

You can remember her only that she is gone
Or you can cherish her memory and let it live on

You can cry and close your mind, be empty and turn you back
Or you can do what she would want: smile, open your eyes, love and go on.

(Read more about why Mariel will forever be in our hearts  here)

Mommy, I’m back

Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

I just got back tonight from a week-long trip to Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. It was a very productive one, having accomplished some important milestones for an ongoing project there and also made a number of new friends along the way. It was “good”. However, tonight while I was waiting to be fetched from airport arrival area, it just suddenly dawned on me that for the first time Mariel wont be there anymore to take me home. For she did this without fail with every travel I made (which was quite often considering my work)

Mariel would sometimes also bring along our daughter Sam for those “special” times. And what a treat it was to be able to see the two most important persons in my life after an expectedly stressful outing. We ordinarily “grabbed a bite” after that at McDonald’s or something just to celebrate our togetherness. I imagined that Mariel looked forward to being with me again even if I ‘d been away only for a couple of days. She’d sometimes go directly from her work just to be there despite her own usually hectic work day. She’d customarily ask me how my trip went and if I had done my best to avoid eating those kinds of food that usually brought me gout. She only knew too well that as a rule I would try to “get away with it” as she would not be around to check on me. I missed those conversations so much now. Although back then I’d sometimes think of them as annoyances. You know how it is, guys. Now I only know better.

I had done my best to hide my tears tonight from the driver who had picked me up from the airport. ( Although I know I was never really good at these things. ) I truly felt so lonely at the airport arrival entrance, having again suddenly realized the great void in my life. Some will call it just “habit”, I call it simply love. For Mariel loved me enough to want to “see” even if it meant taking time away from more important things like Sam, work or catching up on a favorite book, etc., etc. I wish I had been thoughtful enough to have completely appreciated those simple moments at the airport terminal. But like many important moments in life, It’s so easy to take those for granted. I never realized that I was a bloody lucky bastard (pardon my French) to have my Mariel. Now I’m just another bloody lucky bastard crying at the airport wishing he knew then that he was the bloodiest, luckiest bastard on Earth indeed.

I love you Mommy, I’m back. I had brought home “something special” from my trip for you tonight.

Midway To Nowhere

Mariel with Baby Sam

It’s been exactly six months since Mariel left for God’s garden. It’s what some would see as a midpoint in the yearlong “mourning period”. People tend to create these milestones as if we operated like mechanical clocks. I hope he wont mind, but if I may quote a friend, Robert of the price of love blog– “the calendar brings no release. New seasons, birthdays, anniversaries, family reunions, Christmas – we don’t want to see any of them, but they come round relentlessly all the same.”

I see it myself as midway to nowhere. For nothing yet has managed to fill in the gaping void that Mariel’s absence had left. She is immensely missed for the love, beauty and gentleness she had brought into our lives. Samantha and I must now try to do our best to “limp on” through the life’s uncertainties. We’ve gotten a little “better” at it these past months, but we still have a long way to go. We know however that the pain and emptiness we still feel today will probably remain with us till we can see Mommy once again.

Mariel our love, we you will forever remain in our hearts. You are the ‘compass” that we hope will someday get us out of this abyss into the light of God’s love. We love you always.

(Mariel loved this song from Nat and Natalie Cole. I wish to play this one for her tonight.)

Hooray! School’s Out For Summer.

At Karon Beach, Phuket

I never prayed for the Summer break to come more than any other year.

No, I was not exactly daydreaming about the white sandy beaches, although they are every bit inviting. I was actually ruminating on getting back some part of my life now that I didn’t have to worry, at least for a few months, about doing homeworks and projects and quizzes and unit tests and trimestral exams. You see since Mariel left for God’s garden, I had to take her place with managing Sam’s daily slew of school work. I never really realized how much hard work when into it until now. Mariel had to deal with GCFs, LCMs, running the household along with doing her regular office work at the bank. She was truly one “Superwoman”. And she never once complained. I had a taste of it these past months and almost lost my mind dealing with mixed fractions and parts of the plant. Now I can see why Mariel had looked forward so much to making the yearly trip to Baguio or occasional outing to the beach resort. It was really the only time to get away from it all.

I asked Sam where she’d like to go for some well-earned “rest and recreation” this year. She’s still deciding, but I just can’t wait to idle away some evenings and catch up on those books still left unread. I do cherish my times with my daughter working on assignments but it’s simply that school work takes so much time away from doing the “cooler” stuff in life. I’ve been reading about some nice places to see in Ho Chi Minh City (formerly Saigon) Vietnam. Perhaps I can take Sam along with me to check out its wonderfully chaotic markets in my next business “junket”. I know that her Mommy had a chance to see the place many years back when she visited sis Joy Davy who lived there for a while. She told me of its beautifully crafted art and very enterprising people. Perhaps this can be a short sentimental journey for the three of us (for I know Mariel will be with us too like the good old days once again).

So, hooray Mommy, let’s head out for the beaches.

What’s in a name?

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Wikipedia defines Mariel as “a municipality and city in the La Habana Province of Cuba. It is located approximately 40 kilometers (25 mi) west of the city of Havana. . It’s the Cuban port nearest to the United States. It is also where “in 1980, some 125,000 Cubans left Mariel and went to the United States in what is known as the Mariel boatlift, when while many reached the USA, several died traveling through the ocean.” Famed American actress Mariel Hemingway was also named after this town by her also famous dad.

To many, “Mariel” would be quite simply another form of the name Mary. Of Dutch origin, it was said to mean “the perfect one” (how very apt). I’m afraid I never got around to asking her mom why she chose this name for my wife. In fact, I also did not know her as Mariel when I first got to talk to her. I actually knew her as “omni” and then “Gina” much later. (Yes, they are all her ‘names” too but I guess you have to read further in the blog to learn how this came to be)

To some, especially her siblings, cousins, nephews and nieces she was “Mar”, short for Mariel. (I guess they wanted something more endearing.) I even remember her nephews usually going to Tita Mar when they had something they wanted to ask from their own parents but were hesitant or too afraid to tell. She was their bridge, their confidant, their angel. She was “Mar” too to her most favorite cousin Annie who had spent hours with her on the phone talking about anything and everything. Mariel was always there for those who just needed to talk or plainly wanted a shoulder to cry on.

In my case, “Mariel”, among other things, meant guide and teacher. For she had made me realize that God, loved ones and family must come before self. Looking back, I feel so ashamed at my thoughtlessness then. Mariel had shown me that unconditional love was indeed possible. Not just with words, because I’ve been witness to how she had literally given up buying “things” for herself (even as she loved shopping) and instead devoted her life to unceasingly looking after the needs of our daughter and me. She was always caring. She was forever selfless and unassuming.

Then “Mariel” was “best friend” too. For we had shared everything. The ups and downs of life and raising a family. She was my greatest cheerleader. She encouraged me to explore the most “hare- brained” schemes because she believed in me, even if I myself had doubts. She was my critic too, when she saw sometimes that I may be heading towards the edge of the cliff. She’d advice me to “cut your losses” when it was very clear that I had reached a cul-de-sac. And she was always right. She was my “foil”, my teammate, the Ginger to my Fred. She made me whole and complete, that’s why I miss her so much.

Of course, Mariel or “Mommy” (as she wanted me to call her when Sam was just a baby to help her learn the word) will ALWAYS mean my one true love. My kind- hearted wife and soul mate. For while she had come unexpectedly into my life and left as suddenly, she had changed it positively forever and gave me HER greatest gift– our daughter Samantha. She was all the best things that I can only aspire to be.

I love you Mariel. You are the name that forever will be etched in my heart. Till me meet again, good night my sweet princess.

Letter to Mariel, February 29, 2008

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Dear Mommy,

It’s been over five months now and I still miss you so badly. I promised myself not to keep count but what can I do, when I still think of you almost every minute of the day. You know I talk to you all the time and I’m very sorry to keep bothering you with my trivial issues. But I have had no one else since you left for God’s garden last September 20. And there’s so much more I wanted to say to you.

Most of all, I never had a chance to say good-bye properly. They had to let me leave the ICU at 11pm the night before and all I can do was to give you those little kisses on your feet. I was very afraid to give you ‘germs’ for I know they were giving you those immunosuppresants. Plus, I thought you really needed some rest. That’s why I can’t understand why I suddenly woke up at around 3:30 am with the very high fever and that bad case of gout. And how can I ever forget Alma (my sister) getting that fateful call at 430 am from the doctors telling her that they were administering CPR on you already. I was in shock to put it mildly and I wanted to rush down to the ICU to be with you. But I can’t even stand up. I wanted to be brave and be with you like you always wanted, but I just couldn’t walk. Was it God’s way of saving me from seeing you in such a desperate state? Alma told me later that you decided to “go” only when she told you that she will take care of Sam. And she has really delivered on that promise to this day. She truly loves Sam like her own but I still weep knowing Sam can no longer have your embrace. (It hurts now so much just thinking about this, Mommy. Please help me finish this post, it’s too painful.) And yes, I remember how peaceful you were when I was finally able to go down to see you (and kissed you once more) that day.

Sam misses you too very much, Mommy. But she would not talk about it much. She takes after you. But I guess you already know that. By the way, do you want me to bring her to the salon for a haircut? We’ve had some “spirited discussions” about getting it some days ago. Although I can’t believe how much she is starting to look like you, specially with the longer hair. She is as beautiful as I’ve always remembered you. And she has your “flawless” skin too. Don’t worry though as she is fine and is generally starting to “recover” from that little dip with her grades. She’s still number one in her class (I know you’ll hate me for writing this), that’s because she really takes after her smart and beautiful mom.I also got your little message the other time. I know you’re really always there for me, especially when I get those usual “setbacks’ at work. I’m still not 100% but I do try my very best for you. I know you want me to succeed in life for our daughter Sam and I promise not to fail you. (Even if it’s the last thing I do before my own exit) I still can’t do much traveling these days, although I really think I need to do it so I wont miss any of those opportunities in Thailand and Vietnam. Mama promised meanwhile to look after Sam whenever I’m away. Besides, school’s out in a few weeks. Don’t worry Mommy, it will just be for a couple of days at a time. I vow to make you proud of me again.

It’s kinda late and I also know you want me to go to sleep now. I will write again soon but then I hear you in my head all the time, so you know where to reach me (hehehe). Also, please keep “reminding” me if I sometimes “go astray”. After all, you’re my Guardian Angel now. And I ‘m very happy because not very many people get to call their angels by their first name. I miss you Mommy. Please stay “close” to me always. I also really look forward to that time when I can be with you again, “to love and to hold” forever. I love you so very, very much.

Good night Mommy.

With all my love,

Bong

P.S. Here’s a song I thought you might enjoy listening to before you sleep, ‘love you.

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.