I’ve waited long enough to write.
So much so that I pray this moment has not yet passed its expiration date.
Back in May, a spate of work trips saw me flying back to Manila every so often. It was the height of election season, and I was plunged straight into the impassioned swirl of campaigning and heated support for each one’s candidate of choice. And now, just over a week into this Duterte administration, change has indeed come—and no, I’m not referring to this new brand of governance.
The sense of impermanence on this earth has become even more imminent to me in the wake of all that unfolds around the world. Major political shifts, senseless mass killings, redefined societal values and on a more personal note, death in the family.
Mama Lily had waited long enough.
It was surely no mere coincidence that my visits to Manila became more frequent leading up to Mama Lily’s final passing. In her final months, Mama talked about her anxiety around wanting to go, coupled with a fear of what was to come next. She feared being alone. The longer her solitary days at home, shifting between bed and wheelchair, the more she felt imprisoned in her frail body.
This was very different from the Mama I knew in my childhood. Strong, in-control, self-confident, fiercely proud, a veritable institution in her community, a pillar of her Church.
This was a woman who had gone through a lot, growing up and then raising children in the turmoil of Jolo; knew a lot being a true help and partner to our grandfather in his role as town doctor; and did a lot, extending assistance to all around her.
She could get things done and as she would regard, better and more efficiently than others could. The results a proof of her resolve, whether it be her signature leche flan or getting her grandchildren to put on a show. She had a tough love for her five children and slowly softened over the years with us grandkids, while still maintaining a no-nonsense demeanor.
On that final weekend in the midst of our sister’s graduation celebration, I sat at her bedside during downtime in the hospital room. We prayed, sang and piped worship music into her ears (oh and yes, even that Frozen classic, “Let it Go”, for not all humor is lost). Even when she could no longer respond in words, those few labored muscle movements, gasps and breaths were fading signals of her presence.
One by one, we said our goodbyes, let go of hurts, assuring Mama of our love, acceptance, and that she had nothing to fear in this farewell. That God would be there in these final hours as He has always been from the beginning.
And God never delays.
Mama would not be Mama without one last act to set the stage for her remaining days. Amidst debate on whether to keep her in the hospital or bring her home, she moved her
left leg to express her wish to be brought home.
Just two days after, in the confines of familiar bed sheets, it was time for God to take her into His embrace.
On the day the Philippines inducted its new president into office, our prayers were answered with a peaceful passing for Mama Lily. The end of an era in many ways.
We like to say that phrase, this too shall pass, in full hope for something better.
In grief over the loss of loved ones. In the pressure of everyday struggles, making a living or writing a thesis. In the anxiety of finding a new job or waiting for a pass approval. Or quite simply in that state of wanting to be anywhere but where we are.
And only Jesus makes that hope something worth our whole life’s existence. Not the security of a job offer. Not the promises of a new president. Not even the love of a grandparent or parent. Not anything that we can claim as our own on this earth.
“All people are like grass, and all their glory is like the flowers of the field.
The grass withers, and the flowers fall, but the word of the Lord endures forever.”
1 Peter 1: 24-25
All the temporary balms and relief this world offers are nothing compared to the glory waiting for those who faithfully press on toward the eternity ahead. Indeed, at the end of the ages, all these things shall fall and only the source of all these will remain. Only God’s kingdom shall stand, never to pass.
Mama Lily, your life here with us has run its course, but we look forward to the day when we too shall be joined with our Lord, never to part.