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Written by Martin Dale D. Bolima
It’s what is do when the pain resurfaces, gnawing at a heart that is no longer whole, but is beating just the same, every beat longing for someone who will never come back—ever.
It’s what I do most nights, when the wife and kids are asleep, when only time and space keep me company as I ponder on a past full of cherished memories, a present with a void that will no longer be filled, and a future long on endless yearning.
It’s what I do whenever I visit her grave, mostly by myself, ostensibly because I want to be left alone so I can cry—cry until the tears stop flowing on their own and the heart takes a break from grieving, from being in misery.
“Her” is Mama. Mama Nimfa Doming Bolima. Mama was more than my mother. She was my everything—my best friend, my confidante, my teacher, my biggest fan. She was my rock, my solace, my inspiration. She was the world to me, the perfect mom to a most imperfect son. She had very little, yet with her I felt I had everything. And then, just like that, Mama was gone.
I cried that night. I cried the most I’ve ever cried in my life that night Mama died.
My everything was dying, the flame that was her life was slowly getting extinguished right before my very eyes. And I could not do anything. I could do nothing. Nothing . . . but cry.
That Night I Lost My Everything
Mama Nimfa was never the healthiest person. She was diabetic and hypertensive, and I knew, deep inside, that health complications will ultimately catch up with her. I just didn’t foresee it happening on the 25th of January 2021. And I never thought things would unfold the way they did on that fateful night.
Two or three days prior to the 25th, Mama had started feeling ill. She mostly stayed in her room, ate only lugaw, and was devoid of her usual cheerfulness. It was clear that something was wrong—very wrong. And that night on the 25th, I was finally able to convince Mama to go get confined at Martinez Memorial. I had tried to convince her the day before, but she refused because “wala kaming pera.” Mama was stubborn that way.
But on the 25th, when I entered her room, I resolved that there would be no negotiation. We were going to the hospital that night, Mama’s objections notwithstanding. But there was hardly any objection this time. After her initial opposition—“Wag na, wala tayong pera, Mart,” Mama said, her voice barely audible—Mama ultimately relented. I guess she just couldn’t take it anymore. Whatever was bothering her was already taking a toll.
We—Mama and I and my younger sister MJ—arrived at Martinez at around 8:30, maybe 9 in the evening. The attending ER was surprised and alarmed by Mama’s very weak heart. By the time we got there, Mama’s heart, beaten and battered badly by life so many times already, could beat only 30 times a minute—less than half the normal beats an adult heart should be beating.
That doctor, God bless him, recommended confinement right away, and he did everything to get us admitted. It takes more than an hour before we get Mama to a room, and by that time it was around 11:30 already. Mama barely had the strength to get to her bed. I literally had to lift her up just so she could sit on the side of the bed and once there, she stopped, took a few deep breaths, and started to pull herself up closer to the headrest.
Even that was a chore for Mama, and again I had to lift her up so she could lie down comfortably. But then, Mama asks for help so she could sit because she was having difficulties breathing.
“Itayo mo muna ko, nahihirapan ako huminga,” Mama uttered, her voice so faint and weak.
Those were Mama’s last words to me.
Mama collapses in my arm, her eyes rolling up. I try holding her up. I try to wake her up.
“Ma! Ma! Gising, Ma, Gising!”
I tap her leg, her arm, her face. Nothing. No response. No movement.
My sister starts panicking, screaming for Mama to wake up. I ask her to go get help—call a doctor, call a nurse, call whoever.
MJ runs out of the room in tears to get help.
And at that moment, it was just Mama and I, like the old times.
I start crying.
I feel helpless. I grow hopeless.
I was hugging Mama, imploring her to wake up, to fight the good fight like we always did—the way I always thought we would.
“Tulong!” I shouted.
“Tulong!” I shouted again, as loud as my lungs could permit.
Time had frozen still. Not even my loudest pleas for help could pierce the silence of the night.
Help would arrive only after five or so minutes. It was the longest five minutes of my life.
Then, the heartbreak unfolded even more. MJ and I watched Mama die, her limp, lifeless body being revived frantically by three nurses and that same doctor from ER. They tried. They did what they could.
There was no bringing back Mama.
I was crying the whole time. MJ was crying the whole time. We were crying the whole time.
Still Crying to This Day
It has been a year and change since Mama died, but I still cry. Oftentimes I cry either in silence or in solitude, in part because I don’t want anyone to see me at my lowest, at my weakest, at my most vulnerable. I had always thought that crying exposed me, that it made me look weak and soft and pitiful.
Maybe it does, maybe it doesn’t. I could care less.
I am in pain. It hasn’t gone away. Neither has it eased. It isn’t going away either—not tomorrow, not the day after, not soon, not ever.
How could it? Mama was my everything—my best friend, my confidante, my teacher, my biggest fan. She was my rock, my solace, my inspiration. She was the world to me, the perfect mom to a most imperfect son. And now that son is without his mom, and not a day passes that I don’t feel the pain.
I figure I’ll be in pain for the rest of my life, but that’s okay. I’ve accepted it, and I’m learning to deal with it one day at a time. Besides, grieving has no deadline. Longing has not timeline.
Someday, I’ll be at peace with my loss. It’s just not today. It’s not tomorrow either. Someday—and that’s okay.
Until that day comes, I will keep crying.
Because the pain never really goes away. And that’s perfectly okay.