Monday, May 14, 2007

Missing a Mother's Embrace

I will never forget that day in 1990. I traveled three days by boat to be on hand for Mama's triple heart bypass at the Philippine Heart Center. When the ship docked at the harbor, news reached us that there was an ongoing transport strike. A fellow passenger, with whom I got acquainted on the boat and knew the circumstances, kindly offered me a ride up to the corner of Delta Theater. And so from there I walked to the hospital. What struck me from the moment I entered it were the jolly smiles from almost everyone. The hospital layout gave me the impression of maze-like compartments in a beehive.

When I finally saw Mama, I dropped my luggage and rushed to embrace her. She had been in the hospital for two months in preparation for her operation. Earlier, when a second opinion confirmed the need for her operation, we (the siblings) were dismayed. We knew we didn't have the money for it. I asked for help from the Department of Social Welfare local office. Upon presenting to them the required paperwork, I learned that the salary I received from the University I worked for was below the poverty threshold, thus, qualifying Mama to receive assistance in terms of free medication and discounted medical services.

After two months, Mama was ready for her operation. Having three granddaughters at that time, she wanted so much to live long enough to see her grandson(s). Her nurses and doctors were optimistic about the outcome. On the other hand, my brother (who watched over her during those two months) and I were briefed by her surgeon on what to expect. Dominican seminarians of Santo Domingo Church donated blood for her operation two days later. Dominican priests and nuns offered masses for her successful operation.

One hour before the operation, we embraced. She asked me to take care of my siblings specially our "bad boy" and his family. When she was wheeled to the operating room, I gave her a brave smile. It was Friday, 10 a.m.

Eight hours later, the surgeon came to see my brother and me. The triple bypass was finished and the heart & lung machine turned off. But Mama's heart was failing to restart beating and her lungs were filling up with liquid. He told us they were about to perform the ultimate measure to revive Mama - inserting a tube into her heart to help restart it. I saw a nurse bringing the styrofoam box which contained the donated blood out of the operating room. My brother said he was going down to the chapel to pray. I was left to hold vigil outside the operating room.

An hour or so later, bad news! Mama didn't make it. My brother and I waited at the morgue for her body. He was hoarse from shouting Mama's name and got so hysterical upon hearing the news from me, he had to be sedated. When we were shown her body wrapped in a white shroud, we raced to embrace her.

It has been 17 years since Mama left us. In those years, I would have the chance to get close to mothers of my friends, neighborly mothers, Mama's friends, and motherly friends. My friends would rib me for being a nanay-napper because I would share in their bonding time. These times were filled with exchanged laughter and embraces. There is really nothing like a mother's embrace - soothing, consoling, calming, reassuring children, regardless of age, that all is well in our broken imperfect world.

Every time Mother's Day rolled in, I would usually be advanced in greeting my surrogate mothers. And every time, I would get in trouble with their children specially those who forgot to greet their mothers. I would then "nag" my friends not to take their mothers for granted.

Through the years, several of my surrogate mothers had moved on. Now I can count with my fingers the last remaining ones. And these are the ones I continue to cherish for being part of my life, for unselfishly sharing their loving embraces with me. To you Mama and my nanays, Happy Mother's Day! Thank you for your love and embraces.

1 comment:

rolly said...

We will always remember our mothers, her cooking, their caring ways, the warmth of their embrace. I'm sure you can still feel it today even after 17 years.

My mother just passed away last December and I miss her, too.