As I look back, I am surprised to realize just how indelible a mark Mom has left in the person I am today; my temperament, my tenacity, and my disposition are the carbon copy of the very same traits in her. Having lived an exemplary life, Mom showed me how to be kind, loving and forgiving. But foremost and above these, she taught me how to be courageous in the face of adversity, which turned out there would be many. Little did I know that her wisdom would yet again prove itself when, unbeknownst to me, she prepared me for what she knew would be the most difficult test I will ever face without her ---her own demise.
In the early days of her confinement she began telling me to gather her things, to make the necessary provisions, and how she would like to be cared for in her final days. I paid no attention to what she was saying because I could not conceive of what she was proposing; that this time her confinement would be her last, that there was no coming home from this one. Defiant, I told myself that none of that could be true. I could not even bring myself to give credence to this "crazy talk". But as her health continued to quickly deteriorate it dawned on me that the future might have made itself known to her, and wisdom prompted her to prepare her children in whatever little time she had left. That is when panic overcame me because I realized I failed to make use of her foresight and I had wasted precious time in denial instead of using it to serve her last wishes. Suddenly, the sight of my Mom in pain sent me into hysteria. Thoughts of her gasping for her last breath overcame me. Fears paralyzed my mind. Where to turn now for strength when my source of strength is the one quickly fading away from me? Just then, as if knowing I was in dire need of her strength one last time, Mom came to my rescue and showed me how to face the inevitable.
Seeing Mom's acceptance of her fate gave me the strength to accept it as well. I mustered the courage to speak of life after her; that I will respect her last wishes, that my siblings and I will take care of one another just as she did when she was bringing us up. As mothers and daughters are prone to do, we argued over the many details of what was coming; she did not want to avail of man's artificial means of prolonging life because she felt that the Lord's will must not be superseded. As it was, she felt she was already on borrowed time; on her 80th birthday she asked the Lord if she could live to see her 85th birthday. The Lord saw it fit and three months ago Mom celebrated her 85th birthday. Thereafter, Mom kept her end of the bargain. Conscientious to the end, she did not want to burden her children any further and chose a nursing home to await what she called her "homecoming". Later, we realized that whenever she said she wanted to come home, she meant joining my late father who preceded her in death in 2001. During the many hours I spent alone with her, I was thankful for the chance to speak the unspoken love I always had for her. Tears from her eyes fell as she lifted her eyebrows to acknowledge the words I was telling her. I wept over and over, then many more times thereafter, knowing full well that the love we were sharing would be the final ones.
On June 16, 2011 I was with my mother when she took her last breath. She was calm and peaceful when she passed away. Strangely enough, so was I. Looking at her still body, I felt the serenity of her passing. I was surprised to feel no tears on my face. I was not traumatized as I thought I would be when the moment came. Could it be that she consciously numbed me from the coming pain by running over the details so that when it finally came I would be all cried out? I would like to think so. That was my Mom, the ever-courageous and loving person I will always remember her to be.
Oh my Mahal, you and your family are in our prayers. remember the memories to ease the pain. Nanay now has gone to hold the light on the other side to bring us home. She still remains the light of your life and the center of your soul. we love you, Luz and Cynthia
Please visit the link posted on Ate Precy's facebook and leave your well-wishes to the Antonio Family. At the onset of my mother's hospitalization this time around and later in the hospice, my sisters, brother, and I took turns watching over her round the clock every night, ensuring that she would never be alone at any given time. Not content in relinquishing total care of my mother to the medical staff, my siblings and I took it upon ourselves to see to it that Mom was being given the proper care we had arranged for her; from the administration of morphine to her physical care, we monitored that each were properly dispensed so as to ease her pain as she edged closer to passing . Having gone home for the evening to catch a little rest before ressuming our respective vigil, the dreaded call came around midnight on June 16, 2011 from Ate Precy whose turn it was to watch over Mom that night. We all rushed to the hospice and found our mother lying in bed with that unmistakable serenity of a person who passed away quietly. I sat beside her, stroking her hair and painfully thanked her over and over again for all that she had done for us; for her motherly guidance, for the sacrifices she had willingly made, for the wisdom she had imparted on us, for the unfailing love only a mother could give. When it seemed like I could not thank her enough, I simply rose from my seat and with both hands squeezed her cheeks tightly and kissed her goodbye, only pulling away after feeling that she had to have known that my kiss said all what words could not.
Auntie Lucia was a kind, caring, soft-spoken, and cheerful aunt. During my childhood years I remember vacationing at her house where she endearingly monickered me "Te-ong". Auntie Lucing was always welcoming of us and opened her home not only to family but friends alike.
Being the eldest of her sisters, I saw her lead by example not with a strong hand but with a soft touch that seemed to calm everyone down who was disconcerted. As the years passed and visits to her became infrequent due to the growing complexities of people's lives taking roots in different parts of the world, one thing seemed to never change: Auntie Lucing's big smile that welcomed you the minute she saw you in her front door. Over the years as her hair turned silver, seeing her familiar face reminded me of who I was, and where I came from; no matter how much life has changed, I was always "Te-ong" to her, an appellation that always made me feel warm in her company.
During her final years I saw her faced the inevitable with courage, devoid of self-pity, and with faith, still leading by example, showing all of us how dignity can be had towards the end. Around the stroke of midnight June 16, 2011, she took her last breath, with her daughter Priscilla ever by her side while the rest of her children rushed to the hospice despite very little sleep from keeping vigil throughout the preceding days. Seeing her children wept, I was moved to see the love they expressed as they each bid their beloved mother goodbye. Auntie Lucing passed peacefully, without pain, and quietly. We take solace in thinking that she is now with her late husband, content at knowing they had both raised their children very well. I will miss you, Auntie Lucing, and thank you for all the kindness you have shown me both as a boy and later as an adult.
What a strong woman Nanay was...in her convictions, in her protection and care for you all, in the goodwill she imparted to her friends...we will remember. We now have a guardian angel to watch over us all.