The text message I was hoping I would never receive finally came and I had to go home. My 86-year-old mother, Maximina Minerva Rañua B. Atega was hospitalized for she had aneurysm and was declared brain dead. My family had to make an important decision. Before the journey home, my heart led me to Silliman Church, and I witnessed the last part of the Bible Reading Marathon. I actually had a hard time concentrating as some friends tried to start a conversation with me. I decided to transfer to a pew where I could be alone. Filled with much anxiety over my Mama’s situation, I asked God to guide my family with His wisdom. At this time, it was a good friend; Ate Mayette Utzurrum who was reading the 14th Chapter of the Book of Revelation and I heard the 13th verse with this line, “…blessed are the dead who die in the service of the Lord….” I forwarded the verse to all my brothers and sisters – all ten of them. Just like me, my sister Joan found the verse to be a manifestation of God’s wisdom, and she was driven to tears as it was a perfect line that made us accept the truth and the honor on Mama Mening’s inevitable last moment.
It was in the morning of January 15 when Mama complained of a severe headache. My sister, Jemimah tried to help by giving her a gentle massage on her forehead but she was really screaming with pain and so, she had to call my sister Joan to get an ambulance. At the hospital, the doctor explained that the brain scan showed my mother’s very difficult state, the brain hemorrhage resulted in blood clotting up to her nasal cavity. He was honest about the possibility of Mama leaving us on that day. Jemimah right away communicated with all of us. My brother Andre also sent a text message, which was more definite with the doctor’s estimated time of “departure”: around nine o’clock in the evening. Guided by the verse, I agreed to the suggestion to let Mama rest by putting a stop to the breathing machine that was keeping her alive. My brother Gabriel told them to wait for him before a decision would be made. When he got to the hospital at around 1pm, I reminded him to consider my request for 3PM as ‘holy time’ for Mama’s final rest. God’s will prevailed when the attending doctor explained that there was no need to do anything for he was sure that Mama would definitely go with the weakening vital signs. With the text message of Andre being forwarded from one recipient to another, many were already at the hospital to support the family and to express their love for Mama. The evening came, and many more came to be with Mama who was still in ICU. As the forecasted time was coming closer, almost every member of the family was already there except for my sister Ruth who was having a hard time booking a flight from Los Angeles to Manila, my brother Samuel who reasoned that he ‘had important things to finish in the farm” and myself who was still at Silliman Church praying. I was set to take the trip home and was anxiously waiting for the sad news. I had accepted the possibility of not seeing Mama for one last time. Pastor Haniel Taganas gathered those who were at the Silliman Church Bible reading to join Pastor Jonathan Pia who was leading a circle who prayed for “…God’s abiding presence and strength…” for me and family. As they surrounded me, I was touched by the precious act of love in that moment that I felt so very far from home – first flow of tears finally came. I told Ate Mayette that I was blessed by the reading of the scriptures and pointed-out to her the wisdom in Revelation 14:13.
Nine o’clock came, and each member of the family present was given a time to be with Mama. One by one, they all went. But after the farewells, Mama was still alive and it was already beyond ten in the evening. Midnight had come and Mama was still alive! The doctor was saying that it was impossible and told my family that maybe she was “still waiting for someone to come.” They had one thing in mind, get Samuel and force him to be with Mama. At dawn, Andre drove to Samuel’s farm and successfully convinced him that it was time he should talk to Mama.
Morning of January 16 came and Samuel was finally with Mama in ICU. Samuel is a brother who had unresolved issues with Mama: he was a consistent 1st honor pupil from grade one until grade four when he was accused of stealing in a scout camp and Mama had scolded him in front of his friends, this later turned out to be a false accusation – from then on, he changed direction and explored the world of a ‘kanto’ boy. When his very emotional time with Mama ended, the doctor went to check the signs again; Mama’s heartbeat had gone down to 41 and blood pressure went zero. Everyone agreed, it was finally Mama’s time; and they thanked Samuel for taking the courage to see Mama. But Mama kept on and on. The afternoon came and another evening, Mama was still alive. The doctor made another examination and he told my brother Gabriel that our mother “has a very strong heart and it’s keeping her alive.” Then the doctor said, “Maybe, she’s still waiting for another one to come.” They told the doctor with certainty, “She is waiting for Moses who is on his way, our youngest is her favorite son – the one who never fails to make her smile.”
Jemimah had been updating me with every development through text messaging and every message led me to pray for God’s gift of peace for Mama. My mother kept on with the heartbeat count going from 42 to 41. I was already on a bus and was nearing home. When I got the message that she could be waiting for me, I cried like a child and begged God to just let her rest. But her strong heart was holding on. People were looking at me, probably thinking of a different love angle as reason for my tears.
At midnight, my brothers and sisters decided to rest at a nearby hotel. I arrived at the hospital at 1:30 AM and was ushered to the ICU by my nephews Macky and Krisver who volunteered to be with their Lola. I was the only one allowed to go inside Mama’s room. I was very calm as I entered and was in prayer. When I held her hand, her heartbeat went up to 43 and then to 44, then 45. I continued praying for peace. Heartbeat was back at 43. I started singing, “kumbaya my Lord, kumbaya… someone’s dying Lord, kumbaya….” I sang more of her songs and then, I read my sister Ruth’s text message to her, “…Mama, you don’t have to wait for me. Be assured that the legacy of a strong-willed woman will be always in my heart….” I planted a kiss on my mother’s forehead, put her hand on my face, combed her hair with my fingers… I kissed her again. Then, I prayed for God’s will to prevail. At 4:30 AM, the time she would usually start her mornings, Mama’s strong heart finally rested. I cried as I realized that indeed, she was waiting for me. My eyes were filled with tears for I felt the special touch of a very loving mother even at her final moment.
touch of a very loving mother even at her final moment.