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.