Earlier, my wife and I went over the topic of how my mother’s passing on exactly the eve of my birthday could’ve actually been more deliberate on her part rather than coincidental.
You see, my mom and I never really saw eye to eye on a lot of things. We’d disagree a lot of times.
A couple of weeks before she passed, there was a prodding from inside of me to talk to my mother about certain moments in our lives wherein our “less petty” disagreements have affected our relationship towards one another – to put some sense of definite closure on things. But her stubborn denial of her own sickness was a hurdle too difficult for me to overcome. She gets all worked up when I, together with my wife and kids surround her… she would normally say, “Ano ba kayo??? Wag niyo ako paligiran. Para naman akong mamamatay na sa itsura ninyo”. She would react defensively when sensing that things are getting too serious. Perhaps, it was her way of coping with her sickness… a means to shun the thought of coming to terms with what was inevitable.
I feared that if I spoke to her even in the slightest tone that would somewhat resemble reconciliation and forgiveness, she would freak out and push me away. She’s like that. And stressing her out with the kind of condition that she has was the last thing I’d want to do.
My mom and I are “ok”. I guess, there is that unspoken forgiveness that mothers always extend to their children no matter what circumstance. I’ve always sought comfort in that for as long as I can remember. But things are a bit different this time… I was looking for something more concrete – a sort of confirmation that things are really OK between me and my mother. It was something I was hoping to get before she leaves me.
But it was not to be.
Fast-forward to 1:00AM of August 7, 2012… the eve of my birthday. My phone rings, notifying me that I’ve got a text message from dad. It read, “Happy birthday, Chuck… I am sure your mom would want me to include her in greeting you on your special day. Your mom and I love you very much. God bless you always.”.
I replied, “Thank you, dad. Please kiss mom for me. Pakibulungan na lang siya na mahal ko siya… and please tell her to wait for me later. Diyan kami maghahanda ng pagkain para magcelebrate ng birthday ko kasama niya.” (Note that mom had requested weeks before to celebrate my birthday at their place with her choice of food).
Dad does exactly that. He whispers to mom’s ear and says, “Cyn, binati ko na si Chuck para sa ating dalawa ha. Birthday na niya. Sabi ni Chuck, I love you. Hintayin mo daw siya kasi dito siya maghahanda para sa birthday niya kasama mo.”
Mom nods in acknowledgement. After months of being in a fetal position (she breathes easier that way), she turns and lays on her back. Dad is surprised.
Mom had passed.
My day of birth has become her day of death.
Out of all the days in a year… 365 days to be exact, my mother would pass away exactly on my birthday by chance? I think not. She held on. I’d like to believe so. To mark something significant.
To send me a message, perhaps.
To let me know that in spite of all the pain she was going through, she was still thinking of me. She held on until her last dying breath to show me by her actions what she couldn’t say in words.
That it was still me she was looking after… that I was more important than all her pain and suffering. A confirmation of her love for me and forgiveness for whatever hurt I may have caused her in the past.
For holding on.
Birthdays are meant to celebrate life. But from now on and for years to come, during my birthday, I choose not to celebrate my life.
I celebrate yours.
I love you, mom… and I miss you.