How my mom chose to say goodbye

Roderick R. Mendiola
How my mom chose to say goodbye
In a state outside herself, mom was deeply engaged in a soliloquy with a recurring theme that painted a picture of eternity: that she had conquered pain, that Jesus was with her, that a gathering of people would be made in her honor

My mom, Milagros Rosales Mendiola, silently battled lung cancer last year. She succeeded in hiding the true nature of her condition from her family until her illness became too apparent and required her forced hospitalization. 

On the last week of July 2017, I got a distressing call from my aunt which prompted me to head to Tacloban to minister to my ailing mom.  I was terrified at the prospect of my father caring for her at the hospital – he had been hospitalized thrice already in the past two years. My brother had no one else to share shifts with in looking after our mother, as all his 4 other siblings were in Luzon.

When I arrived in our house near midnight, I hurried to my parents’ makeshift room and found my mom in excruciating pain, her face contorted by anguish.

I fought back the urge to cry as she firmly embraced me, tears welling in her eyes. Knowing that her sobs would only aggravate her illness, I tried to calm her.

That night, while thinking hard about my mom’s terminal case, I surrendered myself entirely to sadness until emotional exhaustion sapped my energy, putting me to sleep. I woke up tired the following day, but with enough strength to bring my mom to the hospital in the morning.

MOTHER'S DAY. The author with his mother, Milagros, during her healthier days.

On her 6th day of confinement, mom showed signs of recovery: a considerably hearty appetite, an active physical mobility, among others.

Her progress made me toy with the idea of bringing her with me to Manila  to give her the best medical treatment possible at the Lung Center of the Philippines, notwithstanding the cost. But a few days later,  my mom had relapsed into a delirium, probably from the cancer cells that had already metastasized into her brain.  

In a state outside herself, mom was deeply engaged in a soliloquy with a recurring theme that painted a picture of eternity: that she had conquered pain, that Jesus was with her, that a gathering of people would be made in her honor.

The gift

While kissing her tenderly with the purest love I felt for my mom, my eyes eventually gave in – I was not ready to face her end yet. Through tears, I silently prayed to God for her life, and in my irrationality I asked Him, “Lord, kahit hindi na ako pumasa sa (principal’s) test, basta pahabain ‘Nyo pa po ang buhay ni Mama (I need not pass the principal’s test, just make my Mama live longer).”

DEVOTED MOTHER. The author's mother, Milagros Rosales Mendiola, when she was in her 30s

That day, when all her visitors were gone and I had a moment alone with her, mom surprised me with her odd remarks that she would win the lotto jackpot and that she had a gift for me. Playing along, I enthusiastically asked her what kind of gift she had for me, to which she smilingly replied, “Principal.”

When I asked her again, she was already back into her usual conversation with herself, rattling on for the next long hours. Miraculously, mom’s cognition was back in the days that followed, though obviously her body was slowly wasting away. Finally, on August 12, 2017, mom decided to spend her remaining days home. The died 3 days later. 

Mom was very much insistent on giving me her gift that she left this world early and chose to say goodbye at the age of 65.

A month later, on September 12, 2017, at 10 am, I received a call from Ma’am Mila – my mom’s namesake and our Faculty Club President – congratulating me on passing the 2016 Principals’ Test, I broke down in tears, recalling my mom’s parting gift.

Mom must have accomplished something good that God had wanted her to give me the biggest surprise of my life.  My performance in the test appeared to have been quite a feat: I emerged not only as the lone passer from among 30 plus other hopefuls from Mandaluyong, but I was also the sole topnotcher from the National Capital Region, edging out more than 17,000 examinees from across the country, in a test with the lowest national passing rate ever at barely 3%.

Mom has bestowed upon me this life-changing gift in exchange for her heavenly desire to see the face of God. But how I miss her so! – 

Roderick R. Mendiola is the school head at the Amado T. Reyes Elementary School in Mandaluyong City. 


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