by Mutya Manalo
I thought I was the only one who’s hurting when I lost him, but when I looked at my mother’s sad eyes, I know I’m not the only one grieving over my late father.
Almost two years ago, I saw how a gunman fired two bullets through my father’s head. The first thing I heard after the shots was my mother’s scream, followed by endless cries.
It was just like the movies – everything is in slow motion and I just stood there watching and trying to make sense of what was happening. My eyes were glued on my mom’s kneeling figure, caressing my father’s body, calling out his name again and again as if it would somehow bring him back to life, but it didn’t.
I had a great family. My mom has always prided how my father did nothing but bring her happiness. But that one night, as my father’s lifeless body lay on the floor, my father, my mom’s greatest love, broke her heart for the first time.
Their love story started in a cruise ship. No, they were not tourists. They were employees.
My mother was a nurse and my father was an oiler. She liked the typical tall, dark, and handsome boys. He is short, white, and handsome. She liked one-woman men. He was a playboy.
“They say converted playboys are for keeps,” says one of my friends. And I have to agree, because ever since my mother gave my father a chance, she never got her heart broken.
My mother never had to work since I came into their lives. It was my father’s request that my mother should stop working. His reason was he wants to give his children everything, especially a mother’s love.
They supported each other. Even when my father had to stay away for months at work, their love never faded. They even gave me siblings.
We had a happy life. It was all because my mother chose the right man to be with her, to be her everything.
Left with Nothing
It’s true that when you give someone your all, you will be left with nothing.
“Don’t let your mother see you cry. You’re her only source of strength,” my mother’s sister told me during my father’s wake. And I did just that.
Life after that night was no joke. We were suddenly lost at sea because our captain is gone. So I had to stop being a spoiled princess and start being a brave knight for my mother.
I saw how lost she was trying to find the pieces left, if there was any. I hear her soft cries before drifting off to sleep. I see her sitting alone at the balcony, staring at nothing. I see her looking at my 6 month old brother with sad eyes, knowing that the baby will grow up without his father. There was even a time when she said, “I wished God took my life instead.” And it breaks me hearing her say that.
I did what I had to, even in just little ways. I learned how to be selfless and care more for my younger brothers. I learned how to be tough enough carry the weight of my family when they feel like giving up. I learned how to show my strong face in front of everyone even if I was empty inside. I learned how to live when I’m left with nothing.
A bit of Something
Days passed and they came in like a blur. There was a sudden shuffle in the family, a change of roles. From a housewife, my mother became the breadwinner, taking over my father’s job in the family.
I, the eldest, became in charge of managing the house and also devised ways to contribute in the family income. I know I was too young but I cannot let my mother carry all the burden alone.
“I am still fortunate because I never encountered any problem with my children ,” she said. And I’m glad that somehow my efforts helped ease her pain.
In the middle of all the struggle, I realized that not everything was taken from us. We still have each other. We can rely on each other, and be the source of one another’s strength and happiness.
It will never be the same, but seeing my mother smile while looking at me and my three younger brothers is enough for me.
Almost two years ago, as my father left us, I saw how my mother got her first, last, and greatest heartbreak. Now, I see her picking up the pieces of her shattered heart as she struggled to be both a father and mother to her children. And as I marvel at her strength, I become happy for I know – that this is how my father would have wanted to see her.
Maria Cecilia Manalo or “Mutya” is the eldest of four children. She is a freshman in De La Salle Dasmarinas. A Campus Journalist and Feature writer, she balances academics, family and still continues to pursue her love for writing.