The night before my mama died

Exactly a year ago today, I spent my entire Saturday with my mom. I was trying to make up for all the days I was busy with work and with my little children that I couldn’t be there with her long enough.

So I freed up my entire Saturday to be with her. She was running a fever and spent the day too weak and sleeping. I sat beside her and played her favorite songs.

I sponged her with water to keep her temperature down but I sang to her throughout. It was an all-day concert of all her favorite songs mostly by The Carpenters.

By midnight I felt my voice cracking and a sore throat starting but I kept singing because each time I would pause awhile my mom would move her right leg towards me as if trying to check if I was still there.

So I’d reply with: “I’m here Mama just drinking water” and then I’d sing to her again.

My mama liked to hear me sing. Growing up she would beg me to sing her fave Carpenters songs to her.

That night I was hoping it would help bring her back. But her condition was hopeless. She was too weak with tubes running down her nose and mouth– one to bring food directly to her stomach and another to help her breathe. She was hooked up on numerous machines.

I know my mama too well, I know my mama enough to know that she hated it. Those needles stuck to her, those tubes, those machines. I knew my strong feisty little mama who seldom got hospitalized when she was younger hated being in the hospital.

The first night they put tubes down her throat the moment I got there she tried to tell me something, and from the look in her eyes I knew that she was angry. What was it that she wanted to tell me? What did she want me to know? Maybe someday I’ll know.

By 1:30 am I sponged her legs to keep her temperature down, but looking at her I couldn’t help but cry my eyeballs out while singing, stiffling my sobs because I didn’t want her to hear me crying. I didn’t want her to feel how hopeless I felt. I wanted her to fight.

My husband saw me crying while singing and wiping my mama’s feet, so he hugged me tight. He said I looked like a little 5-year old girl crying for her Mama. At that moment I felt I was.

I felt helpless, I felt how despair was really like, I understood how it’s really like to feel hopeless.

I had so many questions “Why isn’t she getting better?” , “When is she going to get better?”, “Is she ever going to get better?”.

I contacted my cousin who’s a physician asking for help to contact people she knew from another hospital. I wanted for my mom to get transferred.

“Maybe they’ll have a better chance of curing her there?”, I thought to myself all while crying my heart out.

I didn’t know though that that was the last night I would get to spend with my Mama. I didn’t know it was our last night together.

I had already sent an email to my colleagues announcing that I’d take a few days off work to be with my mother, I was ready to spend those days with her singing to her, feeding her, telling her stories.

I didn’t know that that night would be our last “karaoke” night.

Looking back I feel lucky to have had the chance to sing all those songs to her. To comfort her even for the last time. I feel lucky to have had the chance to try to make her happy.

During her wake I kept asking her “Did she hear me? Did she hear me singing those songs to her?” And nine days after she died I saw her in a dream. Her first words were “Narinig kita” (I heard you). I woke up crying, I knew it was her. I felt it was her.

So I know my Mama heard me. I know she knew how much I loved her how much she meant to me. I know that she knew I was there, that I was with her until her last days.

Tomorrow will be her first year in heaven. It’s been a very difficult year and I still have a long long way to go. But I know that my Mama in heaven can hear me always and forever.

Here’s another song for you Mama. ‘Till we meet again.

Author: Loraine Balita-Centeno

I'm a Manila based journalist who's been working in the industry for 12 years. I've written pieces for newspapers and magazines based in Manila and some abroad. I'm a work-at-home-mom of two so I spend my days writing or editing with a toddler clamped around one leg and a pre-schooler asking me questions every 10 minutes.

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