A wake-up call at the ER on September 21, 2019, at 11 o'clock got me thinking about my life. 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 in 2015. A small, nagging voice compelled me to resign from a work I loved, to do something 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 and say, "I have given you all the tools you needed. What happened?”
I cannot bear the thought of crumbling 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 Him looking 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, 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 had such pain as though a pole had pierced my innards (somewhat like a pig being prepped for roasting) was when I gave birth to my first child.
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.
The hypochondriac medical student of years ago spitted out all sorts of differential diagnosis. I settled with acute pancreatitis.
"Any alcohol intake?" the doctor said.
"No. Would kombucha count?" Heaven knows that drink can kick you like a horse when fermented in weird proportions and prolonged duration.
The doctor smiled and shook his head.
My lips quivered but couldn’t smile. He gave me a tissue to wipe the tears off my eyes. "Would you want morphine?"
"No, please. No opioids. I'd rather endure the pain than throw up all night."
"What about Tylenol? Toradol? Any NSAID?"
"No, nothing by mouth. 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. I gritted my teeth while the tears flowed freely down my cheeks.
The nurse straightened my right arm, inserted the needle, and ran an IV. “Zofran and Toradol in.”
In a matter of minutes, the pain subsided. I heaved out a sigh. The respite made me ponder over my fragile 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.
That nagging voice producing the nagging itch is tearing my gut apart.
What was there to tell, when all I hear is “Show don’t tell?”
And I have nothing to show.
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. 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?
How I coped when my first-born moved to college and adopted pets that I fed and fed me?
How I completed the half-marathon even with my osteoarthritis?
How I earned as a writer by going back to my roots and blogged for websites?
How I realized that although the writer's life looked fun, it entailed a lot of hard work, and therefore, not something I wanted to do 24/7?
How I'm marrying my passion for cooking with my medical training through Culinary Medicine?
How I passed the Certification for Professionals in Healthcare Quality without formal training and after four years of being a stay-at-home mom?
All these things sounded trivial.
My accomplishments in a developing country in Asia perhaps is more interesting.
How I won a beauty pageant judged by two Miss Universe title holders, Gloria Diaz and Margie Moran when I was 18?
And how I burned the best in swimsuit photo, much to Mama's chagrin when I entered the Carmelite Monastery?
How I ran the 10-K when I hated running?
How I learned how to windsurf even when I didn't know how to swim?
How I climbed the mountains of the last frontier of the Philippines wearing rubber slippers alongside tribal minority men for three days?
How I covered the plight of the Vietnamese refugees in the Union Catholic Asian News?
How I finished medical school paying 25 cents per semester?
How I passed the National Council Licensure Exam of the US state board of nursing while training to become an anesthesiologist?
How I saw a vision of my husband and daughters even before they came to be?
How I discerned that the married life was right for me, and this loud boy, whom I initially avoided was the one for me?
Or how I first started hearing a voice that guided me through it all?
Surely, these stories have been told before, right? So what is new under the sun?
But I had one job. And I had yet to deliver. If I die now, I would regret it forever. So I might as well die trying, or try dying.
Obviously, I didn't die that night. How an acute gastritis could jolt my dream back to life, only God knows.
This is my third attempt at telling a story. Surely piecing these Shimmering Images together according to Lisa Dale Norton's book, which I could use a my manual of operating procedure to write this memoir will be easy.
But then again, I said that before. I hope this time, it's for real.
So here goes. Let me tell you my story about my life as an alien. Nothing extra-terrestial or illegal. It's all legit.
It all started in Manila, Philippines back in 1992, when I first heard the summon.