Thursday, January 14, 2010

Triumph Comes

Once in a while I come across extraordinary stories that are made even more special by retelling.

Florence is one of my nurses on night shift.  She's from Uganda, and has been in the States for 20 years.  She left to escape the political and civic unrest in her country.  Truth to tell, I am glad to have met her because Uganda, when I was very young, meant only gory stories from the book The Rise and Fall of Idi Amin.

In 1986, at the height of war, Florence was on her ninth month of pregnancy, and one night,  felt the first pangs of labor.  Her family took her to the nearest clinic in their village, unable to brave the flying mortar and face the violent, bloody riots in the streets, to go to the hospital.  Foremost on everybody's mind was to escape.

She was in labor for hours but the baby wouldn't come out.  She was the only patient, and the doctors and nurses wanted to leave.  The country was in a big chaos, and survival and self-preservation was the priority.  Finally, after more than 12 hours, the baby was delivered, dead.  Florence's water broke a long time ago, and for whatever reason, the amniotic fluid had continued to seep, and the baby died in her womb.

The baby was delivered, and the doctors and nurses left.  They said the clinic was the safest place for Florence.  If anybody happened to come by, they were unlikely to hurt a newly-delivered woman.  So she lay there on the delivery table by herself, while all around her the war raged on, her baby gone. For how long, I forgot to ask.

She said she wasn't even able to name the baby, and because of the general chaos, somebody just offered a portion of their private property to bury it in.  That place is now a gymnasium.  I said to go to that place and just offer a prayer the next time she goes home.

This story is special for two reasons.  First, she has never told anyone (at least, at work) about it except me (she said it's okay to write about it here), and she's been there years before I even got employed.  Second, Florence never got pregnant again after that, and had just had a total hysterectomy last October, meaning, she will never be able to conceive anymore. 

She likes to cook African food for the staff, and has a recipe for me, which I will share next time.  She is a very good nurse, and said I inspire her (thank God for that). 

I like to meet and work with people whose passion for life is deep and touching.  Their experiences and outlook make my life all the more meaningful and purposeful.  Sometimes, we don't fully appreciate what we have until we hear stories of survival and triumph.


The recent earthquake in Haiti is heartbreaking.  My thoughts are with the survivors, and hope they get through this difficult time.

All my prayers for everybody.  Let's be thankful for the gift of life.

Monday, January 4, 2010

Inspired to Live

After the fall of Saigon, there was much oppression, alienation, and public outcry between the divided Vietnam.  Many people lost their lands and property to the Communists. It was amid this chaos that able-bodied Vietnamese decided to flee their country, in hopes of a future (not even a BETTER one, just a future).

Many of them landed in the Philippines (as many more had perished in the sea).  This story is about a couple who had managed to beat the odds. Before I continue though, please be warned that I am not sure if this was one story or two stories I'm melding into one, as I have read it/them a long time ago.

But read on.  The gentleman belonged to a prominent family in North Vietnam, so much so that they owned maybe 2/3 of all North.  When the Communists took over and they had lost all, he was among the people who fled.  He sought refuge in the Philippines, along with his wife, and in time, had assimilated the culture.  However, because they were deemed illegal immigrants, they couldn't be granted citizenship. 

This gentleman, though, was educated, and helped improve the fishing industry of the country.  In time, he was allowed to go to America with his wife.  While on the boat,  he felt a sudden wave of depression thinking about the life he left in Vietnam, the fortunes he had lost, the family members so long not seen nor heard from.  He was filled with so much anguish that he wanted to jump overboard.  He almost succeeded if not for his wife, who stopped him, and begged him to change his mind.  She willed him to think not of what they had lost, but what they stood to gain, however hard it was to understand.  In that moment of darkness, the couple looked to each other for hope and reason to live again.

They reached California, and started a life working in a bakery/grocery store.  They helped bake the bread, and tended the store in the daytime.  They slept on the kitchen floor at night.  They used public bathrooms to clean and relieve themselves.  For two years.  And even after they had saved up enough to afford a decent apartment and a car, they chose to continue their disciplined if not odd existence, because they had a goal.  In 3 more years, they would be able to buy the grocery from the owner.  They reasoned that if they lived in an apartment, they would have to spend for everything that went with it. The same was true if they bought a car.

So for 3 more years, they slept on the kitchen floor.  After 5 years, they had enough money to buy the place, and that was the beginning of their good life.  Maybe they were able to send for the rest of their family in Vietnam.  I don't remember.  But somehow, their story found its way in the pages of a book, and I read it.  It is a source of inspiration for me.

In a few months, my family and I will become American citizens.  While we have not endured the hardships that the Vietnamese couple in my story did, we have our own story to tell.  Every immigrant in a strange land always has a story to tell.

The moment we pledge allegiance to the American flag, my heart will weep a little because it is then that we have to renounce our loyalty to the Philippines.   Or at least that's what the application forms say.  In my heart and mind I will always be equally a Filipino and an American.  In due time, we will make that possible by applying for a dual citizenship.

Meanwhile, life goes on.  And we celebrate.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Happy Reunion

That's Helen with me.  She is a dear friend and classmate from Nursing school, and we had not seen each other for 19 years.  So we decided to meet at the mall.  I said, don't tell me where you're seated.  Just tell me what color shirt you're wearing.  She did just that, and of course, it was a BIG mall with an equally BIG food court.  My eyes turned as round as saucers when I got there.  But slowly I walked.  From table to table.  Scanning faces.  On the look-out for a green shirt, thinking, what in the world did Helen look like now?  

Then I spotted a bewildered-looking girl who probably thought she was as lost as the one looking for her. Ha!  What a joyous reunion.

I thought I'd post it here because Sir Joey sent me a beautiful sentimental email (the one that has nostalgic music against a picturesque background), and it made me think of good friends, happy memories.  You know how it is when you say good bye, and you just can't finish?  That's the kind of friend Helen is.  Well, I hope you remember one of yours this holiday season and catch up. 

It's a good feeling.

Oh, yeah, bring it on!

Tomorrow's the 31st, so out with the old and in with the new. 

Curtains, bed sheets, cushion covers, towels, rugs - we changed them all. The laundry room's busy, there is absolutely no piece of clothing to be left behind.  Wash, wash, wash.

M put coins on the windowsills.  Yup, attract the gods of the finances, to always keep them in order.  Only round fruits on the table.  "Mom, onions?"  "No, dear, just fruits."

No broken anything.  I have a vase in one of the bathrooms that I fixed with superglue a few weeks back.  That has to go, too.  My china and utensils have to be in perfect shape. 

Only good thoughts now.  That's right, bring it on!  Let the tiger ROOOAAARRR!!!

What are you doing to usher the new year in?

Falling Leaves

I watch the leaves fall to the ground

Before the wind rushes

To take possession of them.

The leaves are the reddest, fiery and golden.

They tease the senses

At their most transcendent.

I watch enticed

Only for so long.

In a whisper, they all glide away with time.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009


picture source:

The electric bill came up to $146.00 for last month.  Whew.  That alone makes me shiver even more.  But we can't help it (or can we)?  It's the winter break, and the kids are mostly at home, we've had some guests over the holidays, and it's REALLY  just cold.  It's 22 degrees outside right now as I type this.  I crank the heater way over 70 almost everyday because despite sweaters and socks and quilts (thanks, Ms. Sandy, AJ takes his Thomas quilt everywhere around the house), it is still freezing. 

I think I'm getting better, though.  When I talk, my voice is raspy, booming, whispery, or not there at all.  I am following everybody's advice, thank you so much, and since I'm off  today and tomorrow,  I hope to get the rest I need.

How do you all cope with this winter chill?  Brrrr!!!

Monday, December 28, 2009

Understanding Jesus

On December 9th at 11pm, Debbie was not to be seen.  It wasn't like her to be late.  She was one of the CNAs scheduled to work.  But before I could find out what happened, someone blurted out the news.  At 5:30 that afternoon, she was caught in traffic by the train tracks in her SUV with her two young sons aged 9 and 6 sleeping at the back, when the Amtrak train barrelled down on the car.  The boys were instantly thrown off the vehicle and killed on the spot.  Deborah was rushed to Duke, and survived.  All that the witnesses could remember was an explosion and Debbie's screams.

My legs crumpled.  A staff member fled to the bathroom and threw up. 

Later that night, I gathered my staff in a circle and,  holding hands, we offered individual prayers for the children's souls and for Deborah's peace of mind.  Fourteen months ago, she had just lost her first-born son to a shooting incident, and before this recent event,  was still visibly grieving.

I don't get it.

I don't get that we have to die in such a violent way, especially children -  in which case, people are bound to point fingers. Why leave the living in anguish and pain?  Debbie was heard to say later, "Somebody up there must really hate me."

I married late, and it took three years before I became pregnant.  It was an ecstatic moment, more so knowing we were to have twins.  But I miscarried at 13 weeks.  They would have been the first grandkids on both sides, and the third generation of twins on my side, at least.  We buried the placentas, but the memories lingered. I saw the pain in my mother's and my husband's eyes, which compounded my grief.  I felt the burden of guilt and blamed myself for the longest time, even though I am a nurse, and knew better than to do so.  My mind did, my heart didn't.  Nobody blamed me, but I tormented myself. 

Earlier this year, I was pregnant again, but lost the baby in June, at 6 weeks.  Matthew wept and the memory of my 6-year-old clinging to my bosom wailing the loss of  "my baby sister" (as he was sure it was a girl) continues to sting my heart.  My husband cried a silent tear. "She" has a simple resting place by the tree behind the house.

I am comforted by the thought that we have three angels watching over us, and that the twins now have someone else to love, and they won't be so lonely.  It takes a lot of explanation to Matthew, and I know I am not equipped.  He is on a journey to knowing Jesus, while I keep on stumbling on my way to understanding Him.

Jesus died in the most violent of fashions.  His disciples and the multitude of His followers were stricken.  They felt horrified, and scared.  And they also pointed fingers.  They were guilt-ridden.

Debbie must feel the same wretchedness as the disciples, the same unworthiness, loneliness, and grief beyond all griefs at the untimely deaths of her sons, leaving her to bear the brunt of suffering.  Fingers pointing her way must feel like a thousand daggers, even as her mind screams for mercy, and her heart wails for her loss.

I draw my analogies as I type, and so forgive my lame attempts. 

One day, I hope to understand what I have written. 

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someone very blessed to walk this life with you