It was a Saturday. I was 12. There was an invitation from a neighbor whose name I’ve forgotten now to a birthday party at their house. I wanted so badly to go with my cousins so I asked permission from her. She said it was okay to go; so we, my cousins and I, were at the neighbor’s house when someone from home came to pick me up telling me to rush home. Nanay wasn’t okay.
It’s a hazy memory now and I could only remember bits and pieces. What I couldn’t forget was the look in her eyes, the most loneliest eyes I would never ever forget, looking at me as I leave the room to frantically contact Tatay. I couldn’t remember how many messages I left on his beeper that day. It could have been dozens, but I couldn’t remember the exact messages now. In retrospect, I might have been thinking that if Tatay gets home, everything would be okay. Nanay would be okay.
But that didn’t happen. He eventually came home but it was too late. Nanay was gone. And Tatay wasn’t at her side, neither was I. It’s the biggest regret I have up to this very day. I should have been on her side. I wish I didn’t leave her side. I wish someone had told me to never leave her side. That she needed me to be by her side. I was only 12, I was very afraid and I didn’t exactly know what to do.
I could have said it’s okay for her to go, that we would be okay. That she needed not worry. I could have lied to her and perhaps those lonely eyes of hers would have never been my last memory of her.
It took me 18 years to write about that day. It was the most painful day of my life. I couldn’t bring myself to write about it in those 18 years. Every year since then, this scenario has been playing over and over in my mind especially as her death anniversary approaches. I guess I just couldn’t translate the memory to words. It’s that painful.
It’s been 18 years of questioning God why He took her away from me, from us. Why did she become sick? Why did the symptoms come out after my 12th birthday? Why did she have to suffer? Why did I have to take that frightful ambulance ride with her during that one time she needed to be rushed to the hospital? Why did I have to be the one to go to the pharmacy at the wee hours of the evening to buy the expensive medicines she needed while Tatay stay with her at the emergency room? I was only 12 years old then.
Why did she have to lose her wonderful short hair? Why did a wig cost so much way back then? We could have bought her one so she’d still feel pretty even while undergoing the painful chemo and cobalt therapies.
It’s been 18 years, and it’s still painful.
The questions are just there being answered each day in one way or another. I may never find the exact answers to all of them but I get consolation and strength that I know it’s part of God’s plan.
This year as I remember her more fondly day by day, I’ve come to realize that instead of feeling greatly devastated about her death anniversary, I should be thankful for that one Saturday in 1996. It was the day God ended Nanay’s physical suffering and called her home, where pain has no place and everything is bright and wonderful.
At this moment, I picture her looking at me from where she is, smiling because I am writing about her and maybe laughing a little at her “naning”, who’s once again shedding tears just because.
I miss you, Nanay.