Saturday, November 28, 2009
It's not the end, it's simply a bend
I just returned from my trip to the Philippines to visit my mom/Mama. I was last there in July of this year. She's 83 years old now and her health, along with her memory, is deteriorating. My dad (to me he is, and will always be, Papa) died at the age of 39 years old. Mama tells me he was healthy and vibrant. My sister and I went through old papers, photos/slides and documents while we were there. I brought home his briefcase filled with old documents .... my birth certificate, marriage certificate of Mama and Papa, Papa's death certificate and his last passport .... his Thai passport issued shortly before he left Bangkok, his passport photo shows a young man whose drastic weight loss is reflected in his gaunt face. A visa was issued by the US Embassy in the Thailand on September 3, 1968. The immigration stamps on his passport are my way of tracking history ... the last months of his life. He left Bangkok on Sept. 12, 1968 and spent a few days in the Philippines. I wonder how sick Papa felt at that time. By then, he and Mama had received the "death sentence" from doctors in Thailand. A few days in the Philippines to say goodbye to his in-laws. On Sept 16, 1968 they began the long journey to the United States .... Papa's passport shows Honolulu, Hawaii as their port of entry - date of entry: Sept. 17, 1968. From there they traveled to St. Louis, Missouri where he was hospitalized at Barnes and on December 20, 1968 his spirit left his failing body; his essence, and his soul remains in my heart, Mama's heart, and the hearts of my brother and sister. While on the long plane ride to Manila I watched the movie "Time Traveler" about a young man who travels in the past and into the future. I wish I could travel back in time. I wish I could sit down for a cup of tea with Papa and have a conversation. I wish I could have a conversation with Mama when she was younger. As my siblings and I have gone through old photos I see photos of Mama, a young, vibrant woman. Mama is getting old physically, unable to walk far and unable to remember things. She takes 7 different medications every day. In a half hour, the same question will be asked of my sister and I more than five times. We respond to her question each time, like it's the first time she's asked the question. She says she's approaching the end of the road, she's on "borrowed time."
When I think of my mom I think of a strong-willed, somewhat defiant woman who will fight to the bitter end for what she believes in and what she loves. She did that for Papa. As she approaches the end of the road, it's clear she has lived her life for her kids. She has told me that over the years. She has told me, "after your Papa died I didn't want to go on. His last words were 'take care of the kids'". She has done just that, and she has loved us with the same defiance she has loved Papa. For that I will always be grateful. The road has not always been easy. In fact, for many, many years the terrain was extremely rugged and there were times I didn't think we'd get to the other side, but we have persevered and we will continue to persevere .... I don't believe it's the end of the road. I believe it's a bend in the road. I believe there is a God. I believe there is life after death. I believe our soul continues to live on forever.
My wish now, is to fight to the bitter end for Mama, like she did for Papa. As we turn the corner, I (along with my siblings) will do all we can to be there for her like she was there for Papa.
It's not the end ... it's simply a bend.