Whenever I leave our convent to go to the children’s hospital where we have our apostolate, my prayer is simply to live the present moment and bring God’s presence to the people I’ll meet. Surely, I thought, God would reveal himself to me through them.
On the way, I would ask myself: How many children are dying of severe sickness every day? How many parents grieve because they can do nothing? How many children just cry over the pain they are experiencing? I have no answers. What I know is that we young people can do something. The world needs us more than computers, iPads, cell phones and everything else that concerns the world today.
Seven months ago when we first visited the children’s hospital, I met Claire, a 17-year-old afflicted with cancer. She had a big smile for me, and so I approached her. I saw in her a longing for home. “I want to go home,” she said in Filipino. “I get really bored here.” She wanted to be home but I could only ease her boredom for a time. I asked her some questions, but she could hardly hear me. She was losing her hearing because of the medicines she was taking. She spoke a lot through her eyes. She had a lot of dreams, big dreams waiting for her.
Every Friday, whenever we would visit the hospital, I would make it a point to talk with Claire and her mother. I would ask how she was: “Kumusta, Claire?” And she would try to smile. One Friday, while Claire was sleeping, her mother showed me a letter. It was written by Claire. She thanked her mother for taking care of her, and said she could not complain even if she was hurting because she pitied her mother: “Salamat po sa pagaalaga. Kahit po nahihirapan na ako, hindi na lang ako dumadaing. Naaawa na ’ko sa ’yo, Mama.”
I kept my tears from falling. Pain, whether physical or emotional, is never easy, but love bears it all. At her age, Claire should have been busy with a lot of activities—studying, building relationships, fulfilling dreams, and many others. What a shame, I told myself. Sayang.
Months later, Claire could barely sit up; she was weak and very thin, and had lost her hair. I smiled at her but she could hardly smile back. I tried to help her mother, who never left her side. I gave what I could—my presence and prayers. How could I help in such a situation except through prayers? The mother told me that Claire was waiting for her birthday.
She was to turn 18 in October! I think I was more excited than Claire herself. I prepared a simple card to greet her in advance. On the way to the hospital, my companion and I prayed hard. We believed that we could still sing her a birthday song. I imagined her receiving the card, but at the same time, there was a bit of fear. “I hope she’s still there.”
When we finally arrived, my gay mood changed to sadness. My heart broke into pieces. Claire had died two days earlier.
On Claire’s birthday I prayed intently for her. I knew that she was now happy with God. No more boredom, no more surgery and injections, no more pain and no more weeping, but rejoicing forever with the Lord. I told her: “Claire, you’re now where you were longing to be—home.”
It’s true that life is too short to forget its worth, too short to waste. The challenge to pick a choice and live it to the full is in our hands. We are full of opportunities to grow and change by living, neither the past nor the future, but today. I believe that even if Claire’s life on earth was short, it was worth it. Looking down from heaven, she would say, “My life has not been a regret.” Why do I say so? She inspired and shaped me to become a different person.
And so, make a choice. The world is waiting for you. Make the world into its true home.
Clarynse N. Subijano, 20, is a novice of the Teresian Carmelite Missionaries at the P. Palau Formation House in Quezon City.