I’ve realized something about myself in the way that I have been grieving for Mom:
I really am a very selfish person.
The tears I shed are not really for her, but for my loss of her. I resent that she was taken so suddenly from this world only because I wanted more time with her. And I am so sad about upcoming events where I know she’ll be missed – not because she’s going to miss the experience, but because I will miss sharing it with her.
In reality, if Mom could have decided in advance the way in which she would leave us, I don’t think she would have chosen anything different. I’d like to think she would have wanted to wait a little longer – she was, after all, getting ready to file for Social Security in just a few months – but Mom always said she’d rather not know when she would pass, relying instead on the Good Lord to take her when he needed her.
The truth is, Mom always said she wanted to be in the Philippines when she died. She also said she never again wanted to be hooked up to machines and catheters with needles in her veins. And she never wanted her healthcare to be a burden on anyone.
Mom had a really great life, and I’m so blessed that I was a part of it. But as I held my son in the moments after receiving the news, I still wept as I told him of all the things he would never know about his Lola.
He’ll never know, for example, how much she loved to dance. Music was one of Mom’s legacies to my Ate and me. She loved music, and she would dance around with each of her grandchildren singing Filipino folk songs. She loved hearing me sing and was always so proud of Ate‘s abilities on both the accordion and the piano. I know she would have been so delighted to hear Jordan playing the piano for her. But he won’t know any of this.
My son will never know Mom’s generosity, either. At the mere mention of someone in need, she would find a way to help. When my friend Jen was expecting her child, Mom sent her baby blankets and offered motherly advice and support while Jen’s own mother was still adjusting to the news of this unexpected pregnancy. She was never asked to step in – she just did it. That was just her way. And he’ll never know.
He won’t know how much she loved her family and made her children a top priority. Mom always said that her only goal in life was to be a mother. As a teenager, i remember thinking that was odd. After all, she should want so much more! But now that I’m a mother, I think I understand. She wanted to nurture, to teach, to share in our joys and sorrows. And motherhood was the most important job she had. May times, she told me of the moment she realized that her career needed to take a back seat. I was too young to remember, but there was a time when, on our way home from school, Ate wanted to share some exciting news with her. But Mom was trying to negotiate her way through LA traffic and was preoccupied with the list of things that needed to be done at home. Later that night, she asked Ate what the exciting news was, and Ate‘s reply (“Oh, it’s not important.”) broke her heart. That, she said, was when she decided that her children would always come first. But C__ won’t know that, either.
C__ won’t know what an amazing storyteller his Lola was. When she relayed tales, you almost felt like you were there with her. I remember one story she told of herself as a young girl who, rather than heeding her own Lola and taking a nap, snuck out of the house to play – and got stuck in a tree because a big lizard was blocking her way down! (Mom hated lizards.) I think one of the best things about having her stay and help take care of the baby was that I could bask in her stories. I only wish I recorded her voice or wrote those stories on paper, because my son won’t get to hear them.
There is so much more that my son – her apo would never know about her, I though, as I sat with him on the floor, rocking for my own comfort rather than his, tears streaming down my face as I tried so hard to process the enormity of my loss.
Yet, upon reflection, I’ve concluded that my husband is right: C__ will know his Lola. Sure, her arms may never embrace him again, her voice may never again coo words of love in his ear, and he may never again be smothered by her kisses.
But Mom left behind her legacy in all of us, especially her children. Everything I am I owe largely to her. Her values, her ideals, her spirit will live on in me. And that’s what I can share with my son. After all, he’s a part of her legacy, too.
After all that Mom had done for me, taught me, and given me, the least I can do is go on the way she would want me to: with my chin up, my eyes dry, and my heart at peace with the knowledge that she’s always going to be with me.
Mahal kita, Nanay. Mahal na mahal kita.
And I miss you so much!