“Where am I?” As I opened my eyes, I was looking up at the ceiling of an unfamiliar room. My still confused and sleepy brain was trying to recall how I landed in this place. A few more blinks and with the humming sound of the air conditioning unit in my hotel room, took me away from my confused state, made me fully awake, and brought me to reality. My mind went to a soliloquy, retracing the previous incidents that transpired, and why I am here, now.
One week ago, I received an unexpected overseas call from my niece that my aunt, Sister Mary Ignatius, a catholic nun of the Order of St. Paul of Chartres, is in the hospital. There was no exact information that I could extract from her, why my aunt was taken to the hospital, except that she is in serious condition. My aunt, whom I just visited four months ago, was rushed to the hospital and I have no idea as to how serious her medical status was.
That night, after I received the call, I could not get myself to sleep and before the break of dawn, I reached to a decision: to file an emergency leave from work, and fly back home to be with her. Five days after I got the news, my daughter Waye Marie and I boarded the Philippine Airlines from San Francisco, California and flew directly to Iloilo City, Philippines where she was confined at St. Paul’s Hospital.
Lying on her hospital bed, with eyes closed, she looked so frail, pale, and listless. Bags of fluids and blood hang on the poles near her bed, dripping through tubings, feeding to the veins in her arms. I felt a heavy pressure in my chest, and my heart missed a beat, while I look at her in this situation. I tiptoed towards her bedside, tenderly stroke her forehead, and planted a kiss on her cheek. “Hi…It’s me.” Almost a whisper, these were the first words I was able to utter. Her eyelids opened slowly and looked at my face. For the longest time that I could imagine, she was staring at me…and then, I heard it! “Mila”…she recognized me, she said my name! And then, drifted back to sleep.
Every day, for the most part of my waking hours, I stayed by her bedside. I made sure that she was comfortable and pain-free. Once more, when she was awake and a bit strong, we sang together, the song “Tree”, the song I used to sing with her during my last visit, four months ago. Will this be the last time I will be singing this song with her? Will we be able to sing this song in the future?
On the day that I was to leave, she was still clinging on to her dear life. I did not want to go, but my vacation time was up. How I wished I could stall the ticking of the time…how I wished I could pull back the hands of time, back to the first of the seven days that I spent with her. I kissed her goodbye, and said “I Love You”. She said: “I Love You”…
Every step that I took, away from her bed, out of her room, and along the hospital corridor, my vision was blurred by unshed tears. My heart seemed to have been ripped apart when I boarded the plane that carried me to a thousand miles away.
Sister Mary Ignatius, SPC…
For sixty years, she has been the “Bride of Christ”. For fifty four years, she has been my ‘Tree of Life”.
I don’t know when will be the time that she will finally meet her Creator, but I will always remember exactly how she molded me…Who I Am Now.