Remembering

28 Feb

Today would have been my mother-in-law’s 66th birthday. She passed away in 2005. The following was written for her for Mother’s Day that year.

Wherever you are, Mommy, know that you are always remembered with love.

Mommy

Mommy

On Mother’s Day this year, the sun was up bright and early. The rains had yet to fall that time of the year and the oppressive heat and humidity crushed us without mercy. The day weighed heavily in our hearts, even as we remembered its special significance with mixed emotions – with remembrance, gratitude and sorrow. On Mother’s day this year, we laid Mommy in her final resting place.

Mommy is – nay, was – my mother-in-law. Even today, I still speak of her in present tense, so unused am I to not having her around. Mommy left us suddenly, so unexpectedly, in the middle of the night in the waning days of April. It’s been more than 70 days since she left us, and not a day has passed that we don’t miss her still.

With Mommy’s passing, a strong inertia settled on me. I feel paralyzed most days, as I go through the motions of living. My hands work around the house to keep me busy, but my mind still wanders often. For the first time in my life, I am empty for words. And I grieve still for what I lost.

I had known Mommy since I was fourteen; funny, it doesn’t feel like a quarter of a century and more than half my life. She welcomed me in her family long before I knew I was marrying her son. When she was younger and more energetic, she frequently flitted from one domicile to another. In the last five years of her life, however, she found some measure of peace living near us. She became our next-door neighbor, living right beside us with her youngest daughter Joyce and Joyce’s family.

Our relationship wasn’t perfect, as most mothers and children’s relationships are. Moms can get headstrong and pushy and cranky (I should know, since I’m a mom myself) and children, well, let’s just say that they don’t always listen to their parents. But I’d like to think Mommy and I got along well, and that over time, I had become not merely an in-law but her real child, just as she had become a real Mom to me.

Mom wasn’t overtly affectionate with hugs and kisses. Unlike my real mom, who showers us with kisses and is generous with her expressions of affection, Mom was reserved with her affection. She was, however, thoughtful in other ways. Whenever she’d cook our favorite meals, she’d make sure there’d be a bowl reserved solely for us. For me, it was misua and upo, for Anthony, sinigang na baboy, and for the kids, spaghetti and fried chicken. Gifts meant for her were always shared with us, never mind that she had to forego her own share sometimes. We knew that she always gave her portion away, so we would decline politely so as not to hurt her feelings. Mom was often like that, giving to a fault, giving till she had none for herself.

As was our routine, most afternoons, Mom and I would hang around my kitchen. She would watch me prepare dinner or wash dishes as she and I talked about everything we could think of. Movies. Cooking tips. Clothes. Makeup. Relatives. Heartbreak and disappointments. Even politics and religion. Anything really. Over the years, we’ve spent many days hanging around each other. We had each become the adviser of the other. We had become friends.

The Monday before she passed away, she was in my kitchen again. We had been talking for an hour so, as I fiddled with the last few cloves of garlic for the adobo I was cooking. Our conversation was light and cheerful, nothing serious and heavy that day. Then, suddenly, there was the sudden kiss on the cheek. As odd as it was to come from her, it was even odder hearing her say, “Do you know I love you?” I was struck silent for a few moments. Flustered, I managed a barely audible “Thanks, Mom. I love you, too.” It was a first and, as I would later realize, a last.

I saw Mom every day that week, but none as long as Monday’s visit. She was feeling a little under the weather, though a visit with the doctor revealed nothing worrisome. She stayed indoors the rest of the week, and I snuck in a few times to look in on her. By Thursday afternoon, she was feeling better and was looking forward to resuming her usual activities the next day.

On Thursday night, the night before Mom left us, I could not sleep. I was nervous and restless, unable to get a moment’s peace. I felt something was wrong, though I didn’t know what. I had a very strong feeling of impending tragedy. I turned in very late that night, as I forced the uneasiness out of mind. Four hours later, at five, I was wide awake, watching cable TV to drown my anxieties and worries. An hour later, my fears became real.

I guess we never said goodbye, and a part of me continues to mourn for that last farewell. Still there is a measure of comfort to be found in the way Mom left us – peacefully, without pain and sickness. Mom always prayed for a quick release from life and we’d like to think that God listened to her prayers and answered them.

Some days, I still look at my kitchen window, half-expecting I’d see her smile back at me. Then a wave of realization hits me a split-second after, shocking my senses into complete wakefulness. Mom is no longer around.

That last kiss is a gift, a kindness, a mercy, for my grieving heart. It is with gratitude that I look back at a quarter of a century’s memories, and remember special parts of them with Mom, some loving, some not so perfect, but all of them forgiving.

It is this forgiveness that gives me catharsis. I have been emptied, but I am now filled. And I move on forward in life, carrying the last words I’ll remember of a woman who shared part of her life with me, with us.

“Do you know I love you?” she asked.

Yes, Mom, I know. And I love you, too.

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3 Responses to “Remembering”

  1. megamomph February 28, 2008 at 11:00 am #

    Another masterpiece, P. Am sure your MIL is sMILing from heaven.
    Take care.

    Thank you, MegaMom. They say you only realize the value of something- or someone- once they’re gone from your life. I’m glad I didn’t make that mistake. Take care! ~♥Kittymama

  2. FXSmom February 28, 2008 at 5:24 pm #

    it is incredible that you had such a wonderful relationship with her. sorry about your loss

    It wasn’t perfect but we tried. 🙂 And that, I think, made a difference. ~♥Kittymama

  3. hyprsts February 28, 2008 at 5:41 pm #

    i’m like…Aahhhh…I’m such a sucker for this. In this hurried life of ours, we often times forget how happy the other person makes us and focus so much instead on the bad things they do that it makes affection between family members a rare thing to see. It was wonderful of your MIL to cherish you and appreciate you. Even more wonderful of her to express it to you in a very special way. That is one woman who lived her life in joy and appreciation, someone we should all strive to be.

    Late in life, I think she learned not to measure her joys in terms of material things, and that made her appreciate what she had all the more. I’m really thankful for that last gift of grace. ~♥Kittymama

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