Exactly two years ago today I woke up to the most devastating news about my mother’s death.
She was 76. She died six days after her birthday and just a year after her vacation here in Thailand. Mama Toria succumbed to a heart attack and left without a warning.
Our Last Conversation
Few days before her death, I felt something unusual. I would feel a sudden pounding of my heart and feel inexplicable longing for home. It happened several times so I had to make calls to check on my mother. My last conversation with her was on a Sunday evening after I came home from our evening mass at the church. The call woke her up. She told me she was doing well but had no plans for her birthday. “Walay kwarta,” as she would always say.
There was something different in that conversation. “Gimingaw na man ko nimo Nak, oy. Kanus-a man ka muuli?” she asked. When I told her I won’t be coming home for summer vacation because I already booked a ticket for Japan, she sounded disappointed. “Would you like to come back to Thailand?” I said. I felt there was a little excitement when she said, “Ikaw ray mag-igo kay ikaw may naay kwarta.” Then I made her a promise that I would bring her back to Thailand or take her to Singapore the following summer break.
As I wrapped up the call, I told her, “I love you, Ma.” There was a short pause at the other end. That was the first and the only time I have told my mother I love her. She must be surprised too because we don’t usually express ourselves like that. I had to tell her again, “Ma, I love you, ba” before I got a reply: “I love you, Nak.” And that was our last and final conversation.
The Heartbreaking Message
I woke up to the shortest yet the most devastating message on a Monday morning, March 12, 2018. I felt momentarily paralyzed. When I came to my senses, I immediately dialed her number hoping to hear Mama’s voice at the other end of the line. It wasn’t hers. It was my brother who confirmed “wala na gyud si Mama.” It felt like all my energy were drained out from me before the day could even start. I sat on my bed for a while trying to gather my thoughts.
I decided to go to school to finish my works. With a heavy heart, I focused on my submissions. Later that day, a few of my ‘real-life angels’ arrived in school. One booked my ticket bound home, the others helped me with my grades. I finished everything in no time. My immediate superiors from school granted my request for an emergency leave.
On The Way Home
The Doysabas sisters – Ate Leah and Ate Fe sent me off to the bus station. The bus left from Phitsanulok at midnight on Wednesday. It was the longest bus ride I’ve ever had. I wanted to sleep but I couldn’t. My tears were endless. I was still in denial about my mother’s death.
While on the plane from Bangkok to Manila on Thursday, I was seated at the middle of two passengers so I had to hold myself back so as not to make any scene. The struggle to control my sobs was real. Three hours of travel felt like an eternity.
I met my sister, who was from UAE, at the same airport I disembarked later that evening. We shared an emotional moment when we saw each other. Her eyes were red. She had been crying too. We boarded on the same plane on our flight from Manila to Butuan the next morning. But the travel was not yet over. There was two more hours left before we could finally see our beloved ‘Mama Toria’.
Seeing Mama for the First Time
Looking at Mama inside the coffin for the first time was the most difficult part. She was lying there peacefully and I couldn’t touch nor hug her anymore. Nothing compared to the pain I felt at that very moment. The reasons for everything that I do have left for good. I’ve never felt so alone in my entire life. Both of them, Papa and Mama were gone.
Two Years After my Mother’s Death
Our relationship with our parents is nothing like any other relationship. When they are gone, we can never say we ‘have moved on’. The truth is, there is no moving on. The agony of losing them will always be there. They will be hidden for a while, but they will come back anytime.
Perhaps, I’ve learned to get used to the pain brought about by my father and my mother’s death. “They’re happy wherever they are now. They’re proud of what you have slowly achieved for yourself,” so I’ve been told. But none of these words could heal my brokenness. I will forever be a wounded soul.
Lessons to Learn
I lost both my parents while working overseas. My father passed away in 2015. I had many regrets like many of those who lost their loved ones. Things like “I could have given them this and that,” or “I could have done more or could have done better.” But they are no longer around me so I couldn’t do anything more about it. My time has ran out.
However, if you’re reading this and your parents are still around, you still have a chance.
Take them to your travel goals. Take notice that they are getting older and they’re getting slow and be more patient with them. Treat your mom to a beauty spa. Go with your dad to his daily morning walk. Call them often if you work far from them. Give them your biggest hugs as often as you can.
More importantly, tell them “I love you” while they are still capable of giving it back to you.
Because life is short and the time is ticking fast.
I surprised my mother a debut-themed 75th birthday party in Thailand