We can never really prepare ourselves for death, however long a time we might have had to do so.
It was around March of last year when we first noticed symptoms of a kind of sickness Mama had contracted. She was limping and coughing really hard that time, but dismissed them as arthritis and allergies. Time went by and finally we were able to convince her to go to a real doctor. It was in June when this doctor said that she had lung cancer and that it was already spread out. At first I couldn’t believe it. How could someone with no vices at all possibly contract this kind of cancer? We had to get a second opinion and true enough, there it was staring us in the face — lung cancer with bone metastasis, stage 4. This literally broke my heart. So much so when I researched about it more. I only got to retain several information during my research since it was too painful to continue reading. There is no early detection for lung cancer, and the worse case is its’ metastases in the bones. It was the most painful part of it, as the cancer cells would slowly eat up your bones until they deteriorate. And the time-frame for all of this to happen? Six months.
Mama started undergoing chemotherapy, the kind with no radiation. She underwent about 6 sessions in the span of 3 or 4 months. However, chemo only prolonged her stay with us and not really cure the cancer. At first, she could still walk. Then there came the cane, and then the walker and eventually she couldn’t walk at all. She was bedridden and it really hurt me to see her in so much pain. She moved out of our house since it was becoming difficult for her to stay as we were always at work and no one could really provide her the care that she needed and deserved. It was very sad seeing her go in an ambulance that day.
We would visit her on weekends, bring her food for merienda. There was even a time when I cooked Carbonara and she said it tasted good. In the last several weeks though, her body slowly deteriorated. She took morphine for the pain and would be delirious most of the time.
My last visit was on May 22, Sunday. She was asleep for most of the time while I was there. And when she started saying words I could not understand, I started to cry. I could never understand why she had to be the one to bear all of that pain. I left before nightfall and said “Bye Ma” which she answered back with “Bye”.
On May 23, at about 4:45 pm, my Mama succumbed to cancer. Her body was almost unrecognizable to those who knew her when she was healthy.
I choose to remember her differently.
Mama Pres was never my yaya, she was my second mom. She took care of me ever since I was born and was a constant in my life. I always remember her as a lot of things. Allow me to share a few of the best memories I had with her.
I was an asthmatic kid and I remember once in kindergarten, I was being my usual hard-headed self and played on the jungle gym against her wishes. She spanked me so hard on the butt that her hand mark was literally stamped on it. I also remember always running away from my hair being combed that she would chase me up and down and around the house just so she could comb and tie my hair. When she eventually caught me, she cut my hair into the shortest and crookedest bob ever. There was also a time we were at JS Gaisano doing the groceries when I spotted this Hello Kitty shower cap that I wanted so badly. I began to have tantrums when she wouldn’t buy it for me. She eventually bought it and carried me and the groceries all the way to our former betamax shop in Bonifacio. No matter how much of a hard-headed kid I was, she could never really say no to me.
In elementary school, Mama would always bring my lunch, accompany me to Les Miserables rehearsals and Songspell. She was my protector. In Grade 2, I was a transferee and my schoolmates teased me that I had AIDS because I was so white. She immediately went to my school and told off all the kids who were teasing me. This was something automatic for her. Anyone who would do anything wrong or anything to hurt me would definitely hear from her. In high school, there was a time when it was just the two of us living in our house that we would forget to eat since we were so engrossed with the TV. She was my mass and strolling buddy.
She was always my go-to person. Whenever I left anything at home, she was just one phone call or text away and within that hour, she would be there bringing the stuff that I forgot. Even as I got to college she would still be there to help me. On my enrollment she accompanied me. On my first trip to the dorm to stay there, she was with me. When I had to get home for the weekend, she would go all the way to Mintal just to pick me up, nevermind how far it was or how hassle the travel was. When I needed money, she would give even her last centavo to me. Every birthday I had, she would always be the one to cook my favorite Carbonara. During my first birthday at BPI, she personally brought the food to my office.
All my boyfriends, she had to approve. Every time I go out late, it was always her who would text me, “San ka na Ging?”, “Anong oras ka uwi?”, “Sinong kasama mo?”. And no matter how late I would go home, or how drunk I would get, she would always be the one to open the door for me and take care of me. Everytime I get sick, she would stay up all night to wipe cold towels and have me drink my medicines. When I had bad dreams and couldn’t sleep, I would wake her up so she could lie on the bed next to mine.
Mama was so many things to me and I never really had the chance to give back to her for everything she has done for me. I regret the times when she would hug me and make “lambing” but I would just tell her, “Mama, malaki na ako…”
And now, she’s gone, and I could never really tell her I owe her so much. That who I am today is because of how she raised me. And that I love her.
I miss you Mama, and I am sorry I could not be here when you are finally laid to rest. Please watch over me and help me become even half of the person that you were. I love you.