A year ago today, I was dying. I could still feel it like it was yesterday. The needle pricks, the endless parade of doctors and nurses, the dizzying attack of new blood entering the body – they’re all there. A year ago, it did not matter that I am who I am. It did not matter where I work, where I’ve been to or what I have. All that mattered is that I was dying.
Now, a year after, I am sitting in a restaurant surrounded by the most important people of my life; family and friends that a year ago, I thought I would be leaving permanently. The distant noises of my playing nieces and nephews, the chatters of my friends and cousins – just by hearing them, just by mere looking, gives me so much pleasure, unimaginable.
I had to tighten my grip at the thanksgiving mass as I was on the verge of bursting into tears. I look at the altar and saw the endearing face of the Holy Mother staring at me. And then I remember:
First day at the hospital, I was shaking madly from cold, screaming as my body was getting number and number. I was having visions; everything was blurry. Mama was calling for the nurses, she was frantic. Scared, I guess. She was alone with me in my hospital room and she didn’t know what to do. Then I felt her warm embrace as she handed me a hard beaded thing. It was the rosary I always keep with me wherever I go. “Pray hard,” she said. “Ask Mama Mary to help you.”
Days after, on the 8th of September 2011, when Catholics hail the Holy Mother for her incarnation in the world as the child Mary, I was officially released from the hospital. I was healed.
When your life depends on platelet count and injected IV drugs, you’ll think there’s nothing else to see but the pain of it all. That amidst the acrid smell of constant vomiting and seemingly countless drops of dextrose above your head, life already turned its back on you. But when you see people praying for you, distant relatives wiping your body with wet towel to ease the fever all throughout the night or when friends who can’t come regularly call to check, you’ll begin thinking “what the hell did I do to deserve all these goodness?” Apparently, what I didn’t see for a long stretch of time is that all that ever mattered are these people who are willing to love me when I least deserve it. That time I thought: from here on, I have the responsibility to take good care of this life, not just for myself, for God but also for these people who care so much about me.
So how do you say thank you to those whom you owe so much? The special pasta I cooked for the neighbors, the expensive flowers I offered at the altar, the dinner party, the thank you notes and calls I made, this blog entry I’m writing right now – I could only do this much. But how could I truly repay Mama, all my relatives, my friends and especially God?
And then I was reminded of what Elizabeth Gilbert wrote. That we must all give up trying to pay back the people in this world who sustain our lives. In the end, maybe it really is wiser to surrender before the miraculous scope of human generosity and to just keep saying thank you, forever and sincerely, for as long as we have voice.
As for me, I think I wouldn’t mind spending the remainder of my life doing all these stuffs whenever I could, always being grateful to those whom I owe my life to, probably even up ‘till on the other side.
[click here] to see what happened a year ago