Each time I say goodbye to my mother after a cross country visit
I never know if I will see her again.
In her room, before I leave, we a share moment, just the two of us, singing the words of an old Filipino song,
“Dahil Sayo”: Because of You
As she sings her head is slumped, her neck at an angle since her stroke two years ago.
Yet from beneath her mop of grey hair
she turns her eyes up to look at me.
She mouths the words to the song familiar in her fading memory, her voice a whisper.
Together we sing, as I try to recall the few Tagalog words I know:
“Because of you” Dahil Sayo
Sa buhay ko’y labis ang hirap at pasakit
My life has been full of hardship and suffering
Dahil sa iyo, nais kong mabuhay
Because of you, I want to live
Tanging ikaw sinta ang aking pag-asa
You alone, my love, are my hope
I became happy
Ang lahat ng ito’y dahil sa iyo
All this is because of you.
You gaze up at me
The way you once gazed down at me when you held in your arms
I was so dependent on you for life, for love, for nourishment
Now the opposite is true
You depend on me for it all.
The burden breaks my heart.
I grasp her hand before I say goodbye.
You say, “Hello, Vina.”
“What’s my last name?” I ask her.
“Beautiful,” she says.
Only a mom sees me as I hope to be seen
Only a mom sees me like that, only a mom sees the past, all of me, as I was a child.
I hope each one of us knows this kind of love
Where all is seen from the heart
From the true beginnings
To who you really are.
There are mountains between us.
A valley of the shadow of death: Alzheimer’s. But it does not separate the love she has for me, or mine for her.
I pray as a mom on this Mother’s Day, I see my children in the way she sees me:
Do I see you child
For who you really are
Past my expectations.
Past my measures of your worth
Or mine as a parent.
Do I really see you child
Your heart, who you were made to be
Not who this world says you are
But who you truly are
A star shining in the universe, holding out the word of life
A star that shines, a light to others.
Mom, that is who you have been to me.
Let me be that kind of mother to my children
one who lets go, who lets them be who they truly are.
Who they were created to be.
Let them be a voice, a song of all that is beautiful in this world.
Because of love.
Because of you.
to Lola, for Daniel, Andrew, Michael and Lauren. Mahal Kita.