All in God’s grace
Daily I celebrate in my prayers my mother’s life and that of my father, who had gone ahead of her. I always remember them, especially on All Souls Day which is now at hand.
My mother died on Feb. 7, 2016, when she was 99, just a year short of a centennial life. Her name was Engracia, which means “in God’s grace,” or, as I fondly translate it, “one blessed by God.”
A month after she died, on March 5, 2016, I received a text message from a hospital where she was once confined, greeting her on her birthday. I replied that she had passed on, happy on her birthday in heaven.
When she was already in her 90s, my mother still went with us to the cemetery to visit my father’s tomb. She would “childishly” be asking, “Which is greater in number, the dead or the living?”—a query I would throw to my wife. As we prayed in front of my father’s tomb, she didn’t notice the space beside it intended for her.
The day she left was a Sunday when I was in Manila and she was in the province. News that she was dying was unbearable. It was 7:30 p.m. My wife and I hurriedly hit the road and were on our way. While driving I could not help but cry. I had been prepared for her passing a long time ago, but it was still painful to think that she would be gone forever. I prayed that I could still be with her in her last moments.
I best remember my mother as the one who introduced me to God. When I was a boy she taught me how to pray the rosary, to attend novena Masses during cold December mornings, and to be good while other boys were busy playing. I can’t forget the memory of her gathering us after dusk to pray the oracion and the rosary in our family room.
My mother was gone when we arrived at our house at 10:30 p.m. She died on her bed 15 minutes earlier, waiting for me. Her body was still warm; her breath, her love were still there. My wife pulled me from that long and hard embrace as I cried loudly like a child: “Inay!”
In the middle of the night we brought her body to an old building, a holding place, some sort of a morgue in a public cemetery in a nearby town, to be embalmed before being put in a coffin. I should have let the funeral people take her body and just waited for her in our house already in a coffin. But I wanted to be with her in those moments. We were not allowed to enter the room where she was tended to. As we prayed, the reality of life and death filled my mind. That night was the longest, darkest, creepiest night of my life.
During my weekly visits when my mother was alive, I always asked her how she was. “Eto, buhay, humihinga pa (Here, still alive, breathing),” she would answer in jest, to which I would laughingly add: “Wag kayong titigil huminga (Don’t you stop breathing).” And she’d nod in approval.
God blessed her with a long life, almost a century, yet at one point she told me she wanted to rest and join my father. In a coma for three years, she took liquid food into her mouth with no fuss; sometimes I saw tears flowing from her eyes, but her face was at peace, with a smile. I knew her soul was already in heaven, though her body was still with us.
Masses, novena prayers and condolences were offered. As we laid her body to rest, I thanked God for being her son remembering her life fully dedicated to Him. At that moment, I still didn’t know which is greater in number, as she often wondered in the cemetery—the dead, where she and my father now belong, or we the living. Of one thing I am sure: “We are all in God’s grace.”
Mario D. Dalangin, 62, is a past grand knight of the Knights of Columbus and a member of the Special Minister of the Eucharist and of Adoracion Nocturna Filipina at Fatima Parish, Las Piñas City.