An Elegy for My Mother

LEONILA C. FERNANDEZ (1945-2008)

 

 

When I was a child, new to this world,

curious eyes, a fragile mind unfurled;

her love I remembered, 

but pain I took to heart-

a pain masked by naked strength,

pain she shrouded in most part

with niceties of motherhood,

But God knows I understood,

for that pain never escaped me.

the unruffled look in her face,

and a voice—such comforting grace,

yet the eyes betrayed, and could not hide;

spoke of loneliness, uncertainty.

She’d loved a husband who died.

the grief of a young widow,

with no means, alone,  to take care of

one unborn, a two-year old, to love.

We took, we ate, we grew, damn! We’re fools;

she cuddled, held us, her precious jewels.

No hands of hers pushed me to certain roads,

but where I went, paths were lit by her words.

  

I saw my mother struggled and worked to put food on the table.  Early on, I knew I had no luxury of causing her more pain.  The message was unsaid, but clear to my young mind then.  She sought no personal comforts, no luxuries, no gifts.  When I had the means, I had the greatest difficulty of finding, if not, buying that thing to make her happy.  

 

Her love was pure and unconditional.  She sacrificed and chose to delay her own personal joys so she could give us ours.  I realize we, her children, were her life. 

 

She is sorely missed.

  

In her death, I thought I would,

as dark clouds loomed in the road ahead,

summon that pain again, instead,

it was pain that summoned me.

            On October 28, 2008, a few minutes before midnight, my mother, Leonila C. Fernandez, succumbed to cancer. 

Earlier, it was perhaps, the longest, most distressing, and agonizing two-weeks I ever had.  It was difficult feigning a deportment of normalcy at work and trying to put my anguish and worry out of sight for two straight weeks.   To a certain extent during the day, when absorbed in work, I did forget, well at least momentarily, the much dreaded thought of losing the person I love so much, someone I wouldn’t dither taking a bullet for.  But every day after I leave work and head to the hospital where she was confined, I was greeted with numbing bites of a grim reality, as shown by the unexpectedly rapid deterioration in her condition.  It had become less and less a dreaded thought but more and more a mounting certainty.

A few weeks before, after months of chemotherapy, a surgery, and radiation, we all heaved a sigh of relief when she responded positively to the treatment.  All the laboratory results showed that her organs were clear of antigens, and that she was virtually free of cancer.   That’s why the sudden and early recurrence was very much unexpected, and very painful.  This agent of death—cancer—had already metastasized to the liver, and had become very aggressive.

Death proved to be such a ruthless thief.  It probably just lurked behind the pall of darkness.  It was furtive and waited until fate was just about to bestow the gift of hope—hope that my mother would still be there for years to come—when death coldly wielded its scythe. 

 

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42 thoughts on “An Elegy for My Mother

  1. i love auntie nelly. i will surely miss her. i understand how painful it is to lose somebody you love so much, a person who was or is a big part of your life and that losing her/him makes you feel incomplete.

  2. I share your pain, ‘Lan. Watching my mother die of cancer was very agonizing. The most hurtful thing is to stand by knowing we couldn’t do anything to extend their lives.
    I’m glad I got to meet her again and spoke briefly two years ago when you invited us to a picnic at your Uncle Ramon’s cottage. Much of the time I remembered about your mom was when you were still living at your old place near the San Vicente chapel. She always graciously smiled and greeted me every time I passed by your store whether I am on my bike or riding in a pedal-powered tricycle or “potpot”. In our lifetime, we meet people in different places, different time and somehow when we come to remember them we associate our acquaintances with something they have done or given us. With your mom, I must say it was the spaghetti and the sweetest potato or “kamote” I have ever tasted. I know it was your birthday but I can’t remember the year anymore. There were lots of food but it was the kamote who permeated through my taste buds and gave me a lasting food impression. To this date, I still can remember when your mom passed me that sweet potato in a yellow kind-of -square Tupperware and said “taste it, it’s sweet—-indeed it was, and like your mom, she was always gracious………..and sweet. May she rest I peace.

  3. Nicely said Shoe. In my wedding, Ningning and I decided to have only a pair of godparents, and I wanted that mine would have to be the two of the most influential people in my life. Indeed, I never hesitated to pick Mama Nelly as one of the two. That’s how especial she meant to me. In her memory and honour, let me share this:
    Love,
    Filled my memories of her
    Beautiful, endearing, humble soul.
    Abundant, indeed, her compassion
    Shared with us, we, I
    Too she cared as her own.
    Honoured, I will always be
    Blessed that I shared her memories
    Filled with warmth of a Mother’s
    Love.
    May she rest in peace.

  4. janet, thank you. I never experience this kind of pain before. I had so many plans, so many things to do but would not happen anymore.

  5. Emerson, thank you for that piece of poetry. Close friends like you easily regarded my mother as if she was your own mother–and my mother treated you as her sons. I know you have shared the same grief as I do.

  6. My condolences & I’m deeply sorry for your loss. Auntie Nelly was such a nice and caring woman. It’s such a tremendous sorrow losing a loved one. Hope everything is well with you. My family and I extend our regards to you & yours.

  7. Alwyn, thank you.
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