Today, the Philippines is mourning. We lost an icon, a hero, a mother, a woman of courage and strength, a president who brought back democracy in the country.
Almost two years ago, our family also lost someone. We grieved for days, even months, over her death although it was four years beforehand we already she was going to leave us. That someone was my grandmother. It was mid 2004, I was a sophomore in college majoring in Nursing, when my mom received an overseas call from my Uncle Joe. “Pumapayat siya at walang ganang kumain.” She was hospitalized for weeks because she can’t eat and was already skin and bone. It was then that they decided to send her home, back in the Philippines. “Baka namimiss lang niya kayo.” my uncle said and a few days later they decided to bring her home. In the United States, she was diagnosed to have hypertension and was given hypertensive medications. Knowing my mom, when grandma arrived she immediately had her checked. It was then that she was diagnosed with cervical cancer. The anorexia, weight loss, abdominal cramps explained everything. How come they were not able to diagnose it in the States, where everything else was supposed to be better especially in advances in their field of medicine. That question remains unanswered until now. And so palliative treatment were done to prolong her life. She had hysterectomy (removal of the uterus) and chemotherapy. After completing her chemotherapy sessions in the Philippines, grandma decided to go back to the States. After a few months she would come back home again because things are getting worse. After another session of chemotherapy she will leave for the States again. Dr. Atencio said the prognosis wasn’t good because the cancer was already stage 3 and taking note of her age (she was70) she only got 6months left but through prayers from people who care, God gave her four wonderful years to spend with us.
When Kris Aquino announced to the public that she will be spending most of her time with her mom, I knew, based from my family’s experience, that it won’t be long and Madam Cory would soon join her Creator. The last two months of grandma were the hardest I guess. She was flown home with the whole family and she in a wheel chair, so thin and can’t even finish her meal. But she would still smile and laugh at our jokes. I never heard her complain of pain, even though I see it in her expression. The last two weeks she spent most of her time sleeping. Gone were the days when she can still pray the rosary in the morning and before she goes to sleep. Gone were the days when we would watch John Cena and Eddie Guererro, the stars of WWE. Gone were the days when she can finish a bowl of oatmeal or eat pork. Gone were the days when she can come along to the church on Sundays. The last days were spent on her bed, sleeping, praying in her thoughts, hiding the pain from her children and grandchildren. I spent the last two months with her honing my nursing skills (I was a newly registered nurse then.) I would bathe her in the morning and at night. Feed her when she can only tolerate a tablespoon of rice, a sip of water and bite of banana. She refused to take her medication. We go to the hospital only to give her IV vitamins and we would bring her home after. She doesn’t want to die in the hospital.
Two days before my oath taking, I told her, “Magpagaling ka. Pag-uwi ko nurse na nurse na ako.” And she was smiling at me and she held my hand before I left her that night. I didn’t know that was the last time I’d see her. A day after I have pledged to practice my profession faithfully, she passed away. She passed away while my mom and her other siblings were praying the rosary along with our trusted parish priest Fr. Polly Albano. It was such a coincidence the Tita Cory experienced the same. She breathe her last, on the third Glorious mystery and went home with her Father peacefully.
My grandmother, Rosalina Villanueva, was an epitome of simplicity, humility and strength. She lived a simple life of a homemaker, wife of a farmer and a strict disciplinarian, a mother of four kids (one died of stabbing), a grandmother of 6. She was so humble that mom would always remind us to emulate her, to keep our feet on the ground even if we already reached the stars. She was strong, a strength incomparable in battling her cancer. She had faith. She may not be as great as Tita Cory, but to us her family and friends she was great in her own way.
If asked what the greatest memory I had with her, I would always tell people that she was always my shield when my mom punishes me. She would hug me so that the hands that would hurt me will not land on my skin. She was my protector. And she would always tell me, “You are the best nurse.” And I think she is one of the reasons why I continue to be good and to keep striving to be better in my profession.
For the Aquino family, my condolences and prayers are with you. I know the feeling you are in right now and I know in God’s own time you will all be okay because that’s what your mother would love to see from up there. You, not only lose her, the entire nation lost a mother. The Philippines is mourning with you. To the Filipino people let us live up to the expectations of the former president. Let us pray for our country, let us pray for the healing of our country.
Just Me. For Now.