Wednesday, September 10, 2003

Today is my partner's mom's birthday. She passed away earlier this year, during the Lunar New Year. The following is a letter from my partner. He put this out on Craig's List and sent me a copy. He's headed to the cemetary to visit her. I'm about to cry.

It's been about 7 months since my mom passed away
unexpectedly from complications from heart surgery,
and today is her birthday. I've been dreading this
day ever since she passed, and all I can see in my
mind are random flashes of memories; seeing my mom and
dad walk around the hospital floor hand in hand a
couple days before the surgery, her asking me to watch
over her on a sunny January afternoon in San Jose
while she slept and I read a book and her smile when
she woke up knowing that I was there the entire 4
hours, her gentle hello when i would pay an unexpected
visit to her and opening the door, asking me if I've
eaten. Sometimes the not so great memories pulse in
my brain; the constant arguments as my sister and I
were growing up while she wanted us to stay the young
kids who depended on her for everything while we
clamored for independence, her stubbornness, her need
for constant attention, her weird agoraphobia when she
wouldn't leave the house for days on end.

It felt like my mom was waiting for so many things to
happen before she could really pass, knowing her
family would be ok. I had gone into therapy for a
couple of years because I was determined to have a
better relationship with her, knowing that my image of
her had frozen into this maniacal woman who had to
have her way and seeing her afterwards as a woman who
simply wanted to make sure everything was ok, even if
she didn't have the vocabulary to express it. A lot
of things she did to us were totally and completely
fucked up, and on the one hand, I will never forget
all those horrible moments; but I also have found the
capability to forgive her and myself.

A few months before she passed, I noticed that our
relationship became significantly better, we were able
to talk, watch TV, argue and debate, and eat. We
never had a talk to express our differences and our
anger towards each other, but somehow we knew that we
had to make things right between us. My partner would
often come down with us, and while she never got her
name right, I knew deep in my heart that she loved
him as a son, even when no one else in the family
truly understood. I still see the smiles on my
mom's face when he would hug and kiss her goodbye.

She knew that I was happy, and was able to take care
of myself regardless of what happened. For the
longest time, she worried about me. Because it had
been so hard to be with her growing up, the resentment
I felt had crystallized and acted out when she tried
to show concern, but I began to understood why she
acted the way she did, even if I still didn't agree
with it. Instead of a woman who I had thought was
only out to ruin my happiness, I saw her as someone
who truly cared; as a woman who loved her children so
much but because of language and other difficulties,
wasn't able to express it in ways that I thought would
be appropriate. Towards the end of her life, we began
to both realize that we saw things eye to eye, and we
could finally be mother and son, and friends again.

The last few days while she was under heavy anesthesia
to deal with the pain of the surgery that she would
never recover, the doctors tried to incorporate
language that they thought we wouldn't understand.
Immediately I knew what was going on, and at times I
felt like I was the only one who knew she wasn't going
to make it. Perhaps that's what made the last few
months so bittersweet; my mom and I had really
reconciled our relationship towards each other, and
she knew that she couldn't leave this earth without
knowing that her son would be able to fend for
himself. As my familiy tried to touch her to comfort
her, when I touched her hand, images transferred from
her to me. She wasn't ready to die yet because she
still had her own personal struggles to deal with.
She had told us about being a domestic violence
survivor, witnessing the murder of her mother by her
father's hands who got away with it scot-free because
her hometown in Asia was under anarchy because of
World War 2; I saw her struggling to reconcile and
forgive her father and brothers for being horribly
abusive; I saw her talking to my other relatives
who've already passed, making peace; I saw her
wondering if the rest of us would be ok.

45 minutes before my family found out she had passed,
my father and sister had gone out to eat lunch. I was
waiting in a separate room when suddenly I felt an
incredible comforting spirit surround me. It held me
tight, caressed my hair, and before I could truly
embrace it, it had passed. Immediately, I heard the
loudspeaker say, "Code Blue," meaning someone's heart
had stopped. That's when I knew. I couldn't believe
it, but I knew. I had brought in the leftovers from
my own lunch into that same room, stuff that was
perishable and should've gone bad within a couple
days. A week later when we were getting ready to
finally clean the house, my sister and I noticed that
the food, leftover sushi, fruit salad, and some
scones, were still fresh. They hadn't spoiled at all,
despite the fact that it was in a brown paper bag,
forgotten in our grief. We ended up feeding the food
to my mother's cat, who ate every bite.

For months, I couldn't get rid of that horrible
experience of seeing my mother dead, her still warm
body as the machines buzzed silently in her hospital
room. I kissed her on her forehead and left her room,
preparing for her funeral. Those images have been
replaced with happier images, embracing her for the
complex woman that she was. On my computer are random
images that my partner and I had taken from various
Christmases and holiday gatherings, and there's my
mom, opening up presents, laughing with my dad as she
danced. I recall the time when my dad tried to sing
Filipino romance songs on our karaoke machine, and
when they sang a duet together. I can sometimes
remember my mom and dad running around the house after
each other, screaming and laughing, then telling my
sister and me to go away for the afternoon. We never
figured out why until we had grown up.

There are times when the pain of her loss never seems
to go away, but I swear at times, I feel her talking
to me, smiling, encouraging me, even yelling at me.
In my dreams, she comes to me, and we talk about my
life, the life that I had to hide from her while I was
dealing with my being gay. We talk about her life.
Sometimes my pillow is wet from my tears when I wake

My last memory of her before her surgery was her
crying as she was being wheeled to another hospital.
She started to cry, and I told her it would be all
right. The last words she said to me were, "I love
you. Watch your drive." At that moment, I knew that
we had truly reconciled, always watching over me, and
saying that she loved me.

I wasn't able to give the eulogy and tribute that I
wanted to give to my mother, but perhaps in this short
anonymous way, this is exactly what I'm doing. I miss
my mother and love her so much.

Happy birthday, mom.

"Sometimes, in life, for principle, you're gonna have to kick some
ass." --Jill Scott, Gettin' in the Way

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