• Jasmine Mendiola

Cancer is our Gain

I have this very bad habit of bothering Mio even when he sleeps just to get him to say “I love you Mom” when I tell him that before bedtime. Most of teh time, after a long day at work or those guilt-frilled nights when I come home from a late evening with friends, I just carry him off my parents room and take him to ours. Tonight, after checking out from the hospital, I attended to a makeup trial, tried to hear mass on time and visited a wake of a high school classmate’s father. So I come home and I find him sleeping soundly.

These times, I make it a point to say a fervent prayer with him as suppose to those other nights that I carelessly tell him, “did you pray?” I usually get a yes. You see, I’m not religious at all. But in defense, I always say that my faith is personal, something I have between me and my God. I am not one to profess or proclaim the word of God unlike how openly I’d profess my feelings of loss or longing—how ironic, I think now. “O ye of little faith” I hear a lot. So in pursuit of imparting the same kind of spirituality to my son I gently remind him to “just talk to Jesus, baby. Say thank you for our blessings, say sorry if you failed to do the right thing or if you accidentally hurt someone today and pray for those who need it most. Ask him to continue to bless us. Say good night and that you love him and Mama Mary.” He does just that even if he’s half-asleep and murmurs away with the words “good night Mama Mary, I love you Jesus, I love you Mommy. Amen.” All in one breath. As if that’s how his love for me is supposed to be. Like how he loves Jesus.

Wrong.

As I cuddle him in a mask after meticulously taking a shower and dusting off the sheets, I try to squeeze him as gently as possible unlike how I’d used to. He’s fragile now and looking at him still displaces my perception of his condition. May cancer yung anak ko. Unbelievable. Tonight, not being there to say his prayer with him (which he did day in day out in the hospital and would do the sign of the cross with his tubeless hand and end his praying hands by holding mine instead) I whisper to him,

“Anak, you have to be brave. You have to be strong. A lot of people are cheering for you so you have to beat the enemy. Mommy will never leave you but no matter how many soldiers the doctors put inside your body, it’s up to you to fight the enemy. Please be brave, anak. Even when it’s painful you have to be brave because all that Mommy can do is love you, anak. I love you, Mio.”

He doesn’t answer as he drowns in his dreams.

I did not assert anymore because it was selfish to take his rest away from him. And it took him having cancer for me to realize that after all these years of bugging him in his sleep. Either that or it took a hundred of people helping us survive the past two weeks, giving and giving—praying and cheering knowing that we have nothing left at all to give in return. My prayer would usually be for unconditional love and that is what I got. Your support and undying prayers are like Mio’s unwavering desire to have me beside him. In fact, in between this writing, I’d hear him crying out from the room, “Mom I want you to sleep na.” I asked why and he said, “because I want you with me all the time.” That kind of selfishness, I don’t mind.

I don’t mind at all because coming from the wake of Lachi’s father (may his soul rest in peace, please pray for the repose of the soul of Francis Chico), I saw in her such power. You see, Lachi was by her father’s bedside 24/7. She always said her father, being her first patient after becoming a registered nurse, trained her well. And although her father did show her his appreciation in as little as squeezing her hand after multiple blood clots, she knew that her father would have wanted her to take care of herself, have a boyfriend and go off to offered vacations. But Lachi said, “every moment I spent with Daddy, even if it meant sleeping on benches in the hospital just to make sure he had someone with him all the time, was my gain. I had everything to gain in taking care of him because I had the most time with him and I knew I wasn’t going to regret it.”

What more for us who have all the time in the world with our loved ones? Shame on children who abandon their parents. Shame on parents who don’t spend time with their children. If it weren’t for cancer, you might as well cast stones at me right now.

#Parenting

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Jasmine Mendiola

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