Seven years ago

A photo of me with my mother in the 1980s.

The last time I got to talk to her was a Friday. She would pass away just four days later, on a Tuesday. That was seven years ago.

That Friday, it was my turn to watch after her during the day. Watching after her though only meant getting to visit her at the ICU for 15 minutes, at a pre-set schedule just a few times through the day.

Around noon, I received a message from the ICU, telling me that she’s been asking for me. She was complaining of pain in her lower body, and it supposedly felt like it was coming from her legs.

The nurses were kind enough to let me in unscheduled, to talk to her. The attending doctor instructed me to purchase a topical painkiller to ease her pain.

I was back not long after and the nurse applied the medication. They allowed me to stay with her though it wasn’t the scheduled time for visitors yet. She said it hardly worked, and she still felt terrible pain. She was teary-eyed so I held her hand to comfort her.

We tried to talk about other things; to distract her from the pain, and to keep myself from my own tears. It barely worked but I felt thankful to share that moment with her. Several weeks before that day, I came to accept the inevitability that there will be fewer of these moments in the coming months before they all become just a memory.

So I tried to pray with her, almost silently. We held hands like that until she fell into slumber, her agony masked by sleep.

The afternoon light was fading.

I thanked the ICU staff for graciously allowing me to overstay as I left. That was the last time I talked to my mother—the last time I heard her voice.

My brother was back by evening. I told him it was the first time our mother got to rest during the day.

I stayed at home that weekend to be with my wife and son, only to learn from my dad and brother that our mother’s condition worsened in that brief span of time. By Monday, she was in comatose and would never wake up again.

My sister flew home to the Philippines late Monday evening with their still-nursing, months-old baby. She only got to see our mother in the ICU on Tuesday. By evening time, our mother was gone.

That was seven years ago.