Hello, it’s Meryl and here’s my hundredth attempt at bringing this back to life.
I contemplated on celebrating and making a huge production out of this, but some things just don’t feel right anymore.
It’s the smallest things, really.
Like how I don’t feel like myself anymore with wavy, long hair and side-swept bangs.
(In a fit of misery and grief in early December, I had it chopped up to my chin and with full bangs to boot. The bangs are now overgrown but I want them back asap.)
Or watching a K-Drama before going to sleep at 1AM.
(I got sucked into the content blackhole of K-Pop group BTS and they now put me to sleep anytime between 2AM-5AM. If it comes at all.)
Or having my sunny side up with the white part all fluffy and the yolk well-done.
(I now like it ramen-style, with the yolk perfectly sunny and runny.)
That’s also how it is with laying my words out in the public: I don’t feel comfortable, not even in the slightest. Maybe it’s because I’m still figuring myself out after the storm that was 2017, maybe it’s because I have too many words spilling out of me and they’re running too fast before I can write them out properly, maybe it’s because it makes me feel extra vulnerable when I’m already feeling fragile as it is.
But my mom would have wanted me to go on. And so here I go.
The elephant in the room needs to be addressed, so I might as well rip off the bandaid: my brave, vibrant, loving mom passed away last November. A month before that, she was suffering from constant pain and a myriad of symptoms that we wrote off as effects of chemo. Her oncologist suggested that we put chemo on hold until my mom got back her appetite for food and life, so we spent the whole October doing our best to feed her well and cheer her up while keeping tabs on her body. I finally managed to convince her to go to the hospital on All Saints’ Day, where we holed up in one of the stalls in the emergency room before being wheeled away five hours later to her private room.
We thought it would be the usual routine of tests and several rounds of blood transfusion. We always managed that way, and my mom looked good after a couple of days in the hospital. We weren’t cleared to go home though until her team of doctors figured out why and where her pain was coming from. It was all vague but we were hopeful that she will get better. Ten days later into our hospital stay, her attending team of doctors held a meeting with the whole family and dropped the bomb: it was the end of the line and there wasn’t much to do except palliative care.
It was all a blur from there – dealing with the rollercoaster of emotions while trying to function properly as my mother’s main caregiver. I wanted someone to tell me it was all just a nightmare I could wake up from, that it was just some sappy, bad movie I had the misfortune of watching.
But it was my life. I was actually living through it, something I have never, ever thought I would go through.
One of the last things my mom and I did together when she was still conscious was sign the Do Not Resuscitate form. I was under her strict instructions to follow through no matter what happened, that she won’t be resuscitated in no way and no form, if and when she flatlines.
Is it strange that I felt some honor in being the one who signed that form with her? I felt that she trusted me enough to see it through; she knew I wouldn’t let my emotions get in the way.
It was painful.
I cried an hour later after we signed the DNR, when I felt the the life-altering decision weighing heavily on my heart. I sobbed ugly, ugly tears on my mom’s shoulders while she gently laughed and patted my head.
“Kaya mo yan,” she said.
I remember that gloomy morning and the terrible sense of peace, fear and grief that came with it. There was something in the air that day, like my family and I knew it was time to let my mom go.
I remember sitting next to her at 5AM, playing her some of her favorite songs while doing an awful job at not crying. Touching her chest, feeling her heart pitter-pattering and assuring her that it was okay for her to go. That we understood.
But if I was being honest, it was difficult to understand.
How can life go on without my one true constant? It just didn’t make sense that we had to say goodbye that way, that soon. I wanted more hugs, more kisses, more quality time with her. I wasn’t merely saying goodbye to my mother and my best friend, I was also saying goodbye to the future I have to let go of: my mom and I traveling together, her loving presence on my wedding day someday, my mom spoiling her future grandchildren the way she spoiled her own babies.
Life stole a huge chapter from what was supposed to be my future.
What I got instead was an unexpected chapter:
Going through the motions of signing my mom’s death certificate, then picking the memorial chapel, casket, floral arrangements, urn and crematorium. Sending out text blasts, posting on my mom’s social media, putting on my PR face. Meeting her friends and colleagues and old classmates who all had loving stories to share. Dealing with unsolicited but well-meaning advice from those who mourned with us.
Coming home and realizing that I don’t know what to do now that I don’t have to care for her. The past year and a half revolved around my mom that thinking about her and her well-being was second nature to me. I was used to waking up and asking her whether she’s eaten and if she’s taken her medicine, followed by checking how she’s feeling so far. I didn’t have to do that anymore, so most days I stay in bed until lunchtime.
Losing the will to be responsible and then quitting with no backup plan. For the first time in my adult life, I am unemployed and holding on to that pause button. Sure, I am slowly getting my ducks in order but other than that, I am relieving myself of the pressure that I constantly carried with me. I might not get the chance to take this kind of break again and so I will relish the opportunity that I have no place to be but here. That I don’t have to answer to anyone else but me.
This is my Ground Zero, picking up what’s left of the rubble after my life exploded. Trying to figure out how and where to go from here.