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cecile s. yumul
cecile s yumul Bie ning Ima 3: When Time is Up

DAWN? ALL the "dogkids" in and out of the house went on a hair-raising howl. I snapped out of a shallow sleep and looked at the clock. It was three in the morning. I called the roll, starting from the eldest of the dogkids until everyone's name was uttered, at the same time walked to the main door to take a look. This is the first time they made the same sound one gets to hear only on Gabi ng Lagim or films of similar haunting themes.

Apollonius, Olympus Luminus and Lady Godiva, the three dogs inside the house, were all looking at the main door. I opened it and from the light on the porch, I saw the rest of the dogkids all facing one direction. The date suddenly clicked in my head. December 14. Father's 4th death anniversary. I took a deep breath and said towards where my dogs where looking at. "Ali, eku bisa. Ali me!" I banged the door shut and ordered the dogkids to go back to bed. Silence took over.

Back in the living room we transferred the custom-made bed that we had even before it became fashionable to have an extra bed hidden like a drawer. Mama stayed on the main bed while I stayed in the drawer bed, close to where I can keep my hands connected to her all the time. Mama stirred and made sounds like she was trying to get out of a dream. I hold and tell her it is I and no one is going to take her away from me. My voice is calm but my heart is not. My head is churning. My throat is constricted. My eyes are smarting. I looked at the Sacred Heart which had been installed from day one when we moved into our bigger house. I was making conversations with God inside my head.

"Ena na man pu eni, eyu naman kakaduan ing aldo ayni. Kalungkut naman nung piyadua yula king metung mung aldo." My whole body moved like a rocking chair, forth and back, silently in the stillness of dawn breaking.

I don't know how long it went on in my mind. I saw the sunrays streaming through the curtains shining on Mama's face. She stirred. It was six o'clock in the morning. I stood up to check on her diaper, clean her up and turn her around. If she was up to it, I'd let her have breakfast seated while facing the morning sun slipping through the windows. I'd prepare breakfast to be fed from a big syringe so that there would be no spills from the corners of her mouth.

Christmas carols on the radio, on television, in the newspapers, on the internet. "It is beginning to look a lot like Christmas…," so went one of Mama's favorite songs by Perry Como, as I play them for her on a Sony turntable and her 33 ½ rpm records. (Christmas doesn’t stop from coming just because this heart wishes to stop from beating so loudly in my ears. These eyes want to cease from running like a faucet with a faulty stopper. This nose is so clogged it's redder than the reindeer Rudolph's.)

The church bells start to awaken the whole community for the Simbang Gabi, starting off on December 16th. The mobile phone keeps on signaling the influx of endless texts as soon as midnight strikes for the 17th. The cycle of eyes smarting and feeling like a multitude of bees sting my eyelids. My throat is constricted from holding back the sounds of a babe lost in the dark, I beat my chest in silence, pleading as loud as I can inside my head.

"Naman, naman po, ena man pu eni birthday cu. Casaquit angga eni mu maniad cu para canacu, ali ye pa pu…"

I look at Mama in slumber. The soft white cover rises and falls in an even, shallow rhythm. I am consoled as the light of day softly peeks and shines on her face. We are given another day and I was gifted with the most precious presence. I mark my birth from dark to light and the glimmer of another light flickering from a vague distance. I cradle Mama as she must have done more than a thousand times to make sure the fragile baby in her arms will grow in the warmth of a mother's unconditional love. I hold Mama not as close because of the oxygen tubes dangling between us, but in the same intensity and fervor I could approximate all of the love she has given not for one child but for all those whose lives she has touched.

And the litany goes on inside my head where only God is capable of seeing and listening in, while the rest of the world grooved, jingled, danced and feasted as Christmas comes near.

The smell of sabo liga, morcon simmering, biringhe, calame, pancit guisado, menudo, asado and more "dodos," too many to enumerate, accompanied by children blowing torotots, the kanto men (dagul danang butakal, eno boys) throwing their labentadors, bauangs, and other noisy merrymaking standards signal Christmas eve in a few hours. Light against dark, the parols, the colored lights diffuses the dark.

And the church bells ringing.

The litany in my head reapeats with alteration, "Ali naman pu Pascu, cascup cu na salo, masaquit… e naman pu eni, bie ye pa quecami ening Pascu." No one hears the agony of pleading inside my head except a God who understands and listens.

Mama is dressed for Christmas, her hair combed to wisps of soft curls. Relatives, friends, brothers, sisters, extended families come, and gently kiss her hand one by one. I look from a distance, tears rolling uncontrollably seeing a final tribute while Mama looks up from time to time when a voice is not recognizable.

And Christmas passed, moving on to the last days of 2010. On the evening of the 27th I refused to catch even a nap. It was a foreboding. Like peeking into a script before its completion where changes can still be made before it is acted out on stage. December 28th is the "Day of the Innocents" and I was on guard. If it was a well crafted play, Mama may just be taken away today, because she lived an almost saintly life. She wouldn't have been called "Cordero ning Dios" for nothing.

Bie ning Anac 2: Turn Over Time

I DOZED off from lack of a thousand nights of real slumber, my hand laid over gently on her hip. I hear a sound. I snap out of a stupor. The dogkids, pick up the slightest sound and they howled like the dawn of December 14th. Mama opened her eyes and I looked at the clock. It is three in the morning. I whispered to her, it is too early but I will check on her nappy. I took advantage of her being awake and cleaned her up. The whole ritual takes more than an hour at least. Finished, I asked her if she wanted to drink and take her food (Ensure, in liquid form). She nodded. I propped her up. She finished a full mug by my squirting it through a big syringe.

Daylight was starting to stream through the windows. Dang Beth and Celia were up and about readying our own food. I put on a DVD of Kiss Me Kate for Mama to watch. For the first time in more than a week she sat on a chair. The movie started to play. They called me to the kitchen to have breakfast. I checked what's on the table. I told them I will just see to it Mama is comfortable watching TV before I join them.

Even while I was approaching, I saw her breathing not in the same rhythm I am familiar with by then. In a rush, I knelt before her, and asked, "Mama, okay ka? Okay ka mo?" She replied with one sigh and dropped her head accompanied by a trickle of tear at the corner of her eye.

My world crashed and the only words I could muster to say were, "Mama co, bebe co…" again and again (I don't know for how long in seconds or minutes).

I saw myself carrying her to the bed, giving instructions, and I was in hysterics. There was me putting on the oxygen tube, getting on the bed and starting CPR. I was a hysterical daughter, torn between two worlds of knowing what to do in an emergency and the daughter who instinctively knew the most precious life in her world had moved on to eternal bliss. For how long, in between calling my brothers to come over, the CPR went on I cannot remember.

The remaining coherent moments saw me asking for a flashlight, directing the light to her pupils, checking on her pulse and lifting her hand and dropping it gently. Not the slightest movement. It started with a hoarse whisper, "Ma, mama, open your eyes, lawen mu cu…”, knowing it was futile to even ask. I turned into a helpless daughter, getting Mama out of the bed, cradling her in my arms, I put her on my lap.

I was screaming her name and all the other names I have called her all my life from the time I learned to say one of the most beautiful sounds ever known, "Mama." She stayed limp. No matter how I tried to embrace all of her, she wasn't getting warm.

Then there were strong hands on my shoulders and my brothers were there.

We huddled in one big cocoon with Mama, who gave us all of her life, who was the center of life, in our midst. Touching, accepting even while the tears would not stop from falling.

Taken. Gone from this physical world. At peace. It was turn over time to where she truly belongs.

[About the author. A renaissance social worker, a revolutionary teacher, a supporter of artists, a trail-blazing woman of substance, Cecile S. Yumul is an embodiment of the phrase "Carpe diem!" This multi-awarded teacher/broadcast journalist started her broadcasting career over 27 years ago. Her radio/tv show "Bukas Bayan" has been on air since 1999 and is still airing with a multi-sectoral fan base. She is an accomplished cook, a mystic gardener, an actress, and a true environmentalist—a distinction she is indeed proud of.]

-Posted: 12:12 PM 10/7/11 | More of this author on eK!