A wake-up call at the ER on September 21, 2019, at 11 o'clock got me thinking about my life.
I mulled over my fate. The possibility of me dying on that bed made me ask, "Was I ready to go?"
Have I done what I needed to do on earth?
This same sense of the ominous had confronted me back in 2015. A small, nagging voice within compelled me to leave a job I loved, to do a work I thought would be easy.
Four years after, I have nothing to show my Master.
If I face Him at this very moment, He'd squint at me and say, "I have given you all the tools you needed to do the job. One job. Where is it?"
I cannot bear the thought of crumbling down in front of Him, saying, "I'm sorry, my Lord. I tried, but I can't. I'm not good enough. English is not my native language. I speak Tagbislish, and it sounds awful."
Yes, you'd probably ask, "Is that language even lawful?"
I would have run out of excuses, and I'd still see His eyes looking at me with… anger, disgust, sorrow, or sadness? Will I face mercy or justice? Will I hear comfort or rebuke?
Will my life end on this bed, with one daughter beside me and another at home, and my husband thousands of miles away?
"How bad is your pain?" the young doctor had asked earlier.
"Ten." And the last time I recalled having such pain was when I gave birth to my first child. It felt like a pole had pierced my innards, in the same manner, a pig for roasting is prepped.
But this time the pain lacerated under my diaphragm and burned all the way to the back. I had retched at home, but no food came out.
And the biggest pain of all is the pain of the unknown when you know the many possibilities that can come with that vague symptom that is severe abdominal pain. The hypochondriac medical student of years ago reared its ugly head and spitted out, "Acute pancreatitis."
"Any alcohol intake?"
"No. Would kombucha count?" Heaven knows that drink can kick you like a horse when fermented in weird proportions and for a longer duration.
The doctor smiled and shook his head.
I had no energy left to reciprocate the smile. He gave me a tissue to wipe the tears off my eyes. "Would you want morphine?"
"No. No opioids for me. I'd rather endure the pain than throw up all night." That kind of drug messes up my system.
"What about Tylenol? Toradol? Any NSAID?"
"No, nothing by mouth, please. Maybe Toradol. I don't think I'm allergic to it," I said.
Another wave of the gut-tearing episode made me grip the side rails of the bed. More tears escaped through my tightly-closed lids as I gritted my teeth. I had vague remembrance how the nurse had inserted a needle in my right arm and ran an IV.
"I'm pushing in Zofran to keep you from throwing up and then the Toradol."
I curled up on the bed with my right arms extended to her. She pushed the medicines. In a matter of minutes, the pain subsided.
I panted and heaved, glad to have a moment of respite to ponder over my earthly existence.
I wasn't ready to go. Despite all the things I have done to live a good life, I had failed to do one thing.
Tell my story.
Because many told me to "show, don't tell." And I couldn't show. Can't show.
That nagging voice producing this nagging itch is tearing my gut apart, like right now.
What was there to tell?
I hadn't accomplished anything significant like Mother Teresa or any of the great saints. I hadn't changed the world like Martin Luther King or Bill Gates. I hadn't done anything extraordinary like Malala.
What was so special about being born in a place where sirens sounded at 9:00 pm to herald the curfew, while armed men would shout, "Go home, kids or you'll get shot."
People in some areas of this universe suffer the same fate, even worse.
Or to grow up in a house where petromax lit the night, and later on, generators would shut down as the curfew ensued. Some people still live in that condition.
Or how I converted as a Catholic after seeing a man walk and hearing God talk? I'm sure people will merely scoff.
Would anyone be interested in learning how I moved from that remote town in Asia to North America? Maybe not. That's nothing original.
Or how my family traveled to Germany, France, Italy, coursed through Switzerland in a train and rode a car running more than a hundred miles per hour on the Autobahn to Austria with a toddler in tow, two weeks before the move? That's something you read a lot in Travel magazines.
Maybe people may find it amusing if I told them how our family of four landed in this foreign land and how a white girl got scolded by her mom for pointing at the seven brown boxes we loaded on a trolley. Or was she looking at our brown skin? Children don't usually notice skin colors. But brown boxes are not that rare in the LA airport either.
Even the recently diagnosed disease that I have, though rare-sounding, isn't as rare and fatal as the other diseases out there. What's the buzz about Sjogren's Syndrome anyway? I can't even pronounce it correctly. It rolls off like dry sawdust on my tongue. The other autoimmune and inflammatory symptoms I feel are so common nowadays, and it's rarer to find a person who has not had any.
My trivial accomplishments in the land of the USA surely wouldn't spark any interest. Who would want to hear:
How I learned how to drive a manual transmission car in three days?
How I passed the driver's test in one take with my eyes closed as I backed up the SUV between four poles.
How I switched roles from being the sole breadwinner of the family to being a full-time housewife in six years?
How I lost pounds and weigh even less than my pre-marriage weight without going through some fancy diet?
How I was able to get back to running after hurting my back and suffering from chronic low back pain for seven years?