Michael August 7, 2011 13:04 Room 303 Airport Road Abu Dhabi
I met Michael or Mike (as i’m more used to call him) in a college camp. He was in his senior year as architecture student at UP Diliman, while i was on my junior year in nursing at UP Manila. We were both delegates then in the said camp; but he was one of the counselors and organizers while i was a plain camper.
In one of those spiritual retreats (where we were asked to have our own “space” and to meditate and reflect on God’s Word) i came to know him personally. It was three in the afternoon. I spread my colorful malong under the mango tree, sat on the malong and leaned on the mango’s trunk and started reading the Bible. Just then he came from my back. I was really startled by his husky voice when he said “Pwedeng pashare sa mango tree?” Trembled a bit (as if i had an encounter with a ghost), i just nodded my head and said not a single word.
We sat back to back, yet i must admit it i was not able to concentrate that time.Not for anything else; but its been my habit to really be alone on my quiet time. So i decided and quietly stood, folded my malong and went far from distraction. Good enough i found another mango tree but it was not as shady as the first tree.
To my suprise, he sat next to me on our dinner time. Then with his “robust” voice he uttered “Kamusta naman ang SR mo?”. It was as if he was teasing me, as if he knew that i was not comfortable with him and that i did not concentrate during my SR. “Ok naman, buti nalang nakahanap ako ng isa pang mango tree, the Lord is indeed gracious”, i sarcastically replied back. I wanted to let him feel that i was displeased with his act.He was a counselor he should have known what SR is; a time to be “alone with the Lord” and that is really literal.
He has a good sense of humour. In fact loud laughs came most from our table. He made us laugh and laugh beyond our vocal chords could do. Such laughs made me forget my disappointment with him.
The following morning, we were assigned to our small groups or SG. It was our “family” for the whole duration of the camp. We had “mom” and “dad” from the counselors. Practically in this group, we will have most of the “sharing times”.
Yes, your right. He was my “dad”. I was assigned to be in his group.
During those SG moments, i felt more at home with “mom” and “dad” and my five other sisters and brothers, there was no dull occassion. We had the best group (well as far as i know) and we had the sincerest sharing and most serious digging-of-the-WORD. Our group was usually the last to break the night.We didnt want our session to end.
After the camp, i thought i will never see him again. But inter-school activities such as DOP or day-of-prayer, large group fellowships and our org’s anniversaries made our meeting possible. In most of those times, we would go out with other friends. We walked tru the green field of Diliman, played freesbee once in a while, ate “isaw”and other street foods infront Kalayaan Dormitory and walked tru the sunken garden, sat for sometime as we enjoyed the sweet breeze from the mingling of the wind and the dancing trees.
It was really a pleasure.
Days, months and years pass and we became closer as friends.
He wont miss a day without sending me sms or giving me calls just to know im ok.
Ive shared him alot; from small secrets to my deepest and from funny to the saddest stories i have.
He was the sweetest man i knew then. He never forget any of the special event and he will never miss making me feel special. He usually brought me flowers; in bouquet or in pots, sweet candies, cakes and chocolates, stuffy toys, funny to corny and cheezy cards and other presents he just felt giving me.
I remember the Japanese plant he gave me. It was the dearest of all his presents. He knew i love flora and flowers thus he even paid much to the custom just so he could bring home the said plant from Japan. When he was in Japan for the student convention, he never failed to give me a ring too, nor to send me emails.
Such a buddy!=)
During his graduation day, he reserved a seat for me. Her mom, being too sweet and generous, even allowed me to go to the stage and receive one of his awards with him. He was brilliant!-someone who could master english, math and science at the same time. Well rounded in short. And Yup!, fabulously artistic!
One day, he asked me to join in their church anniversary. I declined at first since i had many obligations being one of the youth leaders in my church then. But because he was persistent, i finally said yes!
His church is awesome; structure wise and the people itself. They were all smiling while they shook my hands. He introduced me to his pastor, cell groups, co-instrumentalists and to alot more people i could not even remember.
I sat beside her mom, tita Annie and her sister Michelle on the first pews of the church while he was on the stage as he was the churh’s guitarist. He sang while he played the guitar.He really sang from the heart and i was always envious of such talents.
As part of the church tradition, the Pastor welcomed me on the pulpit. I was astonished when he said ” Let’s welcome Michael’s special friend and the one he has been praying, Sister Che”. Then the congregation clapped and exclaimed.
Just when i sat down, i asked “What does Pastor Dave mean by that?”. Was Michael really praying for me? He never shared me such secret.
I came to my senses when Tita Annie put her hand on my shoulder and she smiled.
After the anniversary, i thought he will explain what his pastor has said, but he didnt. I too never had the courage to ask him.
One summer, i went with him and his family to their rest house in baguio. I felt as if im one of the members of the family. Tita Annie who prefered me calling her Mama was too approachable and too open. She treated me like her daughter. She was very good in designing clothes and she made sure if Michelle has newly sewn dress, I had too.
Michelle was sweet too, she made sure she kissed me goodnight and yes when she wakes up, she never forget to kiss and hugg me. She always want me beside her during meal time and even on her sleep. I really miss her.
In one of our sharing time on a cup of cofee overlooking the strawberry plantation in Baguio, i learned from Tita how devastated they were when her husband died of cancer. He was a great Preacher and a known architect during his lifetime. He even designed their splendid church in Quezon City. He was a good supporter, faithful to his fulltime wife and super thoughtful husband and dad. He never missed his family’s special days. That was how tita would describe him.
According to tita, being prepared of his father’s death, Mike at 16 years old tried his best to be the dad for them. He made sure he goes home on time after school to help Tita in the chores and to play with Michelle. He continued to have the daily Bible stories with Mich before bedtime and assisted Tita even in attending Michelle’s PTA meetings.
Tita was so greatful to Michael; for truly he was a big help on how the family adjusted to their lost. She was in tears while she was telling me stories.
Senior year was very hard for both of us. We rarely see each other. I was assigned to Nagcarlan Laguna for our community exposure. I went home once a week or worst every after two or three weeks. He was busy in his work too as apprentice in one of the architectural firm. Yet, we kept the communication open; daily sms and calls made the distance short for us.
One busy day, i sat down on a swing and i was contemplating on what to give my foster family as a token on how they’ve treater me well in my stay in their house. Just then, i received a call from Tita Annie, she was crying, but she never told me why. She just asked me to pray for them. I rang Mike right away, after i dropped Tita’s call. He said “Kamusta ang araw mo? I hope you had a great one as i did.” Hearing him, i was relieved. i told him about her mom’s call that bothered me, he said “Nothing to worry, everything’s under God’s conrol.” Such assurance made me more relieved.
Community Immersion’s over. I was so excited to go home, i will have more time to bond with him and his family. I missed Tita’s strawberry pancake and her own style of cooking “Pinakbet”. On my way home, i texted him “Pauwi na ako, see you soon!”. For the first time, it took him some time to reply. He said, “See you sa PGH, room 707”.
I was troubled by his message. Who was admitted and for what reason? I tried to calm myself and reasoned that maybe a churchmate or orgmate is sick. I reminded myself of his favourite mantra “God is and will always be in conrol”.
I dropped my bag in my dormitory and hurried to go to PGH. I dont usually ride a pedicab since they are expensive yet that time i had to, i didnt have the strenght to run and all i wanted was to be there the soonest possible time.
The line in the PGH elevator was so long and it took minutes for the elevator to finally reach the ground. I saw a good friend of mine who was a resident and asked him if i could join him in the employee’s lift. He grabbed me along and asked what’s the hurry all about. I just shrugged my shoulder and said “Wala naman po”.
Room 707. I knocked softly and Tita Annie was the one who opened the door. Just when she saw me, she embraced me tightly. My whole body shook and shiverred when i saw Mike on the bed with IV fluids on both hands. I wanted to ask why but i could not speak. Tears fell on my cheeks instead.
I went beside him and cuddled him. Then he whispered “He is in control” and held me closer to him. With his words, i regained my strength. I must trust him for he had been tru much challenges of life. He surely know what it is to entrust everything to the Lord.
When he was asleep, Tita Annie told me that that doctor confirmed that he is in his terminal stage of leukemia, just as his dad. She wanted to hide me such truth because that was what Mike requested from her; to free me from hurts and pain. Yet since she considered me as her daughter, she honesly shared me the truth.
Hearing that news, tears kept flowing from my eyes. They were bottomless. My lacrimal glands must have mourned too. I wanted to ask the Lord “whys” yet deep down i always remembered his mantra. I knelt in prayer and really asked the Lord to be in control. I told Him to help me maximize my time with Mike.
Mike chose to be admitted in PGH since he knew it will be easy for me to see him everyday. True enough, I committed myself to stay with him every day and night. I packed my things and brought them to the hospital. Whenever my shift and classes are over, i rush to his room. I assisted him in most of his activities. He was too weak to even perform them. Yet when he played the guitar, ironic as it may seem, he usually got his vigour back. He tried to play most of our favourite songs tho he had two IV cannulation on both hands. He sang softly and at times could not even complete the words or reach the note. He was very weak. Whenever he failed to reach the note, he smiled at us. Such smiles were encouraging. It made us expectant on what HE could do with Mike’s case.
February 23, 2005 Wednesday at 1800, prayer meeting at church. I texted our prayer coordinator to pray for Mike and for his family. I asked to be excused to our prayer meeting. I wanted to spend more time with him. After my last subject i went to Robinsons Manila and planned to buy him something special. I saw a band with engraved “Forever ’till Eternity”. I bought four bands, for me, Mich, Tita Annie and for Mike.
On my way to PGH, i pondered on what has been engraved on the band. Am i really ready for this; to accept the idea of eternity for Mike? I whispered a prayer and said “Lord, tulungan Niyo po ako.”
When i reached the unit, i saw gloomy faces from the nurses especially when they saw me approaching. Oh noh, dont tell me he left, i told to myself. As fast as i could, I ran to his room.
Good thing! He was still there and even smiled and recognized me. He asked me to lie down beside him and i did. I gave him the band and i saw from him, the most beautiful smile I’ve ever seen since he was sick. He pinched me on my cheeks and said “Sweet naman!”
I mean what was engraved. If his dying is unavoidable, I’m left with a choice to learn to move on. Nevertheless, i will never forget our memories together. He will forever be cherished till eternity (if that is indeed possible).
While we were lying, he looked at me face to face and said, ” I love you and have prayed for you since the first time i saw you in the camp. But i know it would be inappropriate to let you know of this, for soon i will leave you. i wanted to spare you from more aches. Yet somehow, i hope i was able to show you how much i care about you. i hope you felt them.”
I nodded. I did. I felt them, all of them.
I had mixed emotions that time. Happy for finally he had the courage to tell me what he feels about me, yet grieving for soon, it will all be over. I thought that he was unfair too. Why did he not tell me ealier, i should have freely expressed how i feel about him too. I was always in restraint since i didnt want to pre empt him.
Yet that day, i said “Mahal din naman kita e, pinigilan ko lang ipakita.”
He smiled foolishly as if he won something. Then he kissed me on my cheeks and hugged me.
After that, the next thing i saw was his last breath at 21:47 pm. Tita Annie agreed with Mike’s request to have a DNR order (do not resuscitate).
Off course we cried. Mich was the loudest. Seeing her hug her brother tightly while she uttered “Wala na akong ka-bedtime stories,di pa natin natatapos ung book a.” And she cried again. Tita Annie and I were more silent. Yet deep down it was very painful, too unbearable.
He was cremated and his ashes were placed on an urn. Tita decided to keep them both. He placed Mike’s urn beside his dad.
When the service was over. Tita handed me a letter. She said she found it beside Mike’s guitar when she was fixing the things in the hospital.
My heart had the fastest lub-dub. I ripped the enveloped and read the letter. Enclosed was a lyrics of the song Friends by Michael W.Smith and a CD. Mike recorded his own rendition of the song.
Words: Deborah D. Smith
Music: Michael W. Smith
Packing up the dreams
In the fertile soil of you
Can’t believe the hopes He’s
Means a chapter in my life is through
But i’ll keep you close
It won’t even seem I’m gone
‘Cause my heart in big and small ways
Will keep the love that keeps us strong
friends are friends forever
If the Lord’s the Lord of them
And a friend
will not say never
‘Cause the welcome will not end
Though it’s hard to let
In the Father’s hands we know
That a lifetime’s not too long to
live as friends.
With the faith and love God’s given
the hope we know
I will pray the joy you’ll live in
Is the strength that
now you show
But I’ll keep you close as always
It won’t even seem
‘Cause my heart in big and small ways
Will keep the love
that keeps us strong
and at the bottom of the letter he wrote:
“You will always have me beside you. Kausapin mo ako lagi a. Share me everything as you did. I will always look at you from heaven. Sorry, tho i wanted to spend more time with you, The Lord said its my time. Syemps, iba parin pag kasama na si Lord, incomparable. Yet, you will always be treasured. Take care Mom and Mich for me a. I love you so much!” PS: stop crying na please, you will make me pout in Heaven, kakahiya kay Lord. c”,)
Tears flowed again……It was as if he was there telling me those personally. I really miss you Mike, sobra!, i whispered.
Incidentally the Japanese flora died just when he left earth. I went to my dorm to drop my things and to get some newly laundried clothes for the funeral services, there! I saw in my table a whitered plant which i totally forgot to water.
The Lord held me in those days i lamented with his loss. Whatever challenges i face, i reminded myself of Mike’s mantra “God is in control!” That was the precious lesson Mike’s life thought me.
Truly, when the Lord, closes a door, He certainly opens a new and better door.
Two years later, i met Mac. He was not like Mike for no two person are the same; not even Mac and his twin brother John.
Mac was unique in his own special way and that is one of those i love about him. And all the more I’m excited to know him better. Very soon, yes! very soon my Groom!=)
*For those who had been led and intigued with the story, i want you to know that Mike was just the product of my mushy brain. He did not exist in real life. He was my dream guy since my college years. I created him with my nifty brain.
Such guy was too good-to-be-true for you, the Lord said. Wait and see how I’m moulding My perfect gift for you.
True enough on July 13, 2007. I met God’s perfect gift. And that’s no other than Mark “Mac” Sotelo Edralin.=)