Looking for Falling Stars

Last summer, we learned that there would be a great opportunity to see meteors in our area. That is if we would look at the right time and at the right direction. And provided that we would have a clear sky.

The event is the Perseid meteor shower, a stream of debris associated with the Swift-Tuttle comet. This is an annual event, and they said that in a clear night sky you can potentially see 100 falling stars in an hour. A hundred falling stars in an hour? That’s a proposition that was just too hard to resist.

Even though I spent half of my life in Manila (can’t see much stars in a big city), I have seen meteors several times in the past. The first time was when I was in grade school during our school’s camping in Batangas. The last time was not too long ago when I was driving home one night here in Iowa and it streaked down the sky. Perhaps I am lucky to see falling stars a few times, or perhaps I’m just looking at the night sky an awful lot of times.

My wife who have not seen a falling star ever, except maybe Kris Aquino falling off the stage on live TV some decades ago, so she was really determined to see this event.

So one night last August, we went outside to watch for falling stars.

We live in a country side, which was a decision we made years ago, where our dark night sky still shows the stars shining brightly and not blurred by the city lights. However in the past 13 years we have lived out here, the city has been creeping closer and closer to us. The cornfields and open prairies that we used to pass by is steadily being gobbled up by construction of housing developments and commercial establishments. I am not sure if I would like to call that “progress.”

It was close to 11 o’clock at night when we went out, a time that ordinarily I would already be snoring. We stood in our deck and looked out in our backyard sky towards northeast, the direction we read it would be. After close to half an hour outside, we still have not seen any falling stars. Not even a single one! And they promised 100 stars an hour?

We were also getting cold, for even though it was summer, it was seasonably cooler than usual that night. Our necks were getting strained as well from looking up. We should have placed a mat in our lawn and lay there under the stars with our blankets. At least we would be comfortable while we eagerly wait and while we listen to the ‘sweet nothing’ whispers in our ears. I’m referring to the pesky mosquitoes buzzing around our heads.

After a long while, as I was looking at the sky in the direction we thought the meteors would appear, I believed I saw a light streaked in my peripheral field of vision. So I told my wife that perhaps we were looking at the wrong direction. So we trained our gaze to a different direction in the sky.

Sure enough, in less than a minute, we saw a bright star flashed across the sky and disappeared in the dark. Not much later, another one did. And another one.

Isn’t it like many times in life, what we’re searching for has been there all along, we just have not realized it, or we just have not looked the right way. Like your lost keys. Or the love that you’re waiting for. Or the happiness that you’re chasing.

Satisfied, my wife suggested that we can go back inside the house, knowing also that the right direction where we can look was in the full view of our bedroom window. So we pulled out a sleeping mat and placed it near the window, and there we laid for the night instead of our bed, and watch for more shooting stars.

They said that you should make a wish when you see a shooting star. Of course I did. That wish was already been granted: lying down here beside me.

IMG_5651.jpg

Happy Anniversary my dear. It has been 23 years of happy moments and fulfilled wishes.

(*photo taken in Mohonk Mountain House, New York)

 

Making Things Right

“I just want to make things right.”

That was what my patient told me not too long ago. Wanting to make things right. Don’t we all? Here is his story.

He was in his 50’s, and he presented to the hospital with leg swelling and worsening shortness of breath. After initial work-up in the Emergency Room, he was diagnosed with blood clots in the legs and lungs (veno-thromboembolism). Serious condition.

His chest CT scan also showed a lung mass. After further work-up, which includes a biopsy, it was found to be cancer. Cancer in itself is a risk for developing blood clots. Bad prognosis.

After further more work-up, it was determined that the lung cancer was far advanced. It has spread to the bones, liver, and lymph nodes. Grim outlook.

During his hospital stay, his condition deteriorated and was transferred to the ICU.

I approached him as he laid in his ICU bed. Knowing the severity of his condition, I asked him about his “code status.” That is, what he wants us to do if in case he cannot breathe on his own, does he wants us to place a tube down his throat and have a machine breathe for him? Or if his heart stops, does he want us to shock his heart or pound on his chest and try to resuscitate him? Or, does he just want us to let him go peacefully?

There was a long pause before he replied, as he breathed heavily under the oxygen mask. “I want everything done,” he finally answered. “I want everything done, until I have done one thing. I want to get married.”

Get married? Did I hear him right? Is he of a sound mind or is he confused and hallucinating?

As he continued talking, I ascertained that he was very alert and not confused at all. I did not ask why he wanted to get married, but he explained to me the reason why. Perhaps he saw the quizzical look on my face.

“I just want to make things right,” was his reason. Apparently, he was living-in with his girlfriend for twelve long years. He wanted to make their union legal. This would make her girlfriend the legal decision-maker for him if he becomes incompetent. And she would also inherit his estate without questions, when he dies. But more so, he just wanted to show her how he loved her over the years, but did not quite made it to the altar. Now, he was “making things right.”

Two days later, there was a wedding ceremony in our ICU room. A bride, a groom, a chaplain, and a couple of witnesses. That was all you need for a wedding. Of course there was a gown too. No, not a wedding gown. A patient’s hospital gown. And it was the groom who wore it.

There was many well-wishers too, courtesy of the ICU staff.

The patient’s son was also present. I believe he was his son from a previous relationship, and he came from out-of-state to visit his very ill father. He was probably expecting to attend a funeral, but was surprised that he was attending a wedding instead.

A few days after the wedding, our patient’s condition improved that he was able to be transferred out of the ICU to the Oncology floor. Perhaps, getting married gave him hope and a different outlook in life, and willed himself to get better.

He was started on combined regimen of radiation therapy and chemotherapy. Hope springs eternal.

Two weeks later, his condition started to decline once more. He grew weaker and weaker. It became more and more difficult for him to breathe. This time, he told us, he does not want to be resuscitated if his heart stops or if he cannot breathe on his own. I guess, he already accomplished his one wish, and now he was ready.

Then one day, he quietly faded in the break of dawn. And he left a newly wed bride, a widow.

Cancer stumps hope. A so familiar scenario, sadly to say.

Yet love conquers all.

Magandang Panaginip

Ibinukas ko ang aking mga mata. Pamilyar ang lugar na aking kinalalagyan. Sa paglipas ng panahon ay nakabisado ko na ang bawat sulok ng silid na ito. Nag-aagaw na ang dilim at liwanag  sa aking kapaligiran. Panibagong umaga na naman. Ngunit sa likod ng aking isipan, ay may nagsasabing ang araw na ito ay natatangi at hindi pangkarinawan lamang.

Aking binalingan ang aking katabi sa higaan. Mahimbing pa ang kanyang pagtulog. Nababanaag ang kapayapaan sa kanyang mukha – isang kagandahan na aking masayang kinamumulatan sa bawat umagang dumarating. Siya ang pag-ibig ng aking buhay, kabiyak ng aking puso, at ina ng aking mga anak.

Mahirap paniwalaan na labing anim na taon na pala ang nakalilipas mula sa takdang araw na ito, nang kami ay pinag-isang dibdib. Marami na ring mga karanasan ang aming pinagsamahan. Mga masasayang yugto, at may ilang malulungkot. Mga kaginhawaan, at mayroon ding mga paghihirap. Mga matatamis, at may mga mapapait na yugto. Ang lahat ng ito ay lalo lang nagpalakas ng aming pagkabuklod.

Magkatabi kami sa pagtulog kahit sobrang maalinsangan ang gabi (sa Maynila at Florida) o maging saksakan man ng ginaw (gaya ngayon). Mula sa pagtulog sa matigas na lapag  (ng kami ay unang manirahan sa New Jersey ), hanggang sa malambot naming queen bed ngayon. Mula sa maliit na studio-type na apartment, kasama na ang panandaliang panahon na kami ay naging “homeless” (sa New York) at nakitira lamang sa mga kaibigan, hanggang sa aming matahimik na sariling tahanan (dito sa Iowa) ngayon.

mapayapang tahanan

Naranasan din naming matulog ng hindi magkasama, nang kami ay sandaling nagkahiwalay. Namagitan sa amin ang malawak na dagat ng Pacifico. Mga ilang buwan din akong naunang tumulak dito sa Amerika, bago nakasunod sa akin ang aking asawa. Malamig at malungkot ang mga gabi, at napakahaba at nakaiinip ang mga araw noong mga panahong kami ay magkalayo.

May mga ilang yugto rin na ako’y na-‘outside ng kulambo’ at natulog sa sofa dahil sa mga tampuhan. Mga tampuhang pururot na madali naman naming nasasaayos. At kahit hindi ako inubos ng lamok, at kahit pa malaki at komportable ang aming sofa, ay hindi ko nais matulog pa uli doon.

Bahagi rin ng aming karanasan ang matulog na napapagitnaan ng isang sanggol, o kaya ay may katabing bata sa aming kama. Mga ilang taon din kaming natutulog na magkakasama sa isang kuwarto, kasama ang aming dalawang anak. Hanggang nasanay nang matulog ang aming mga supling sa kani-kanilang sariling silid ay doon lamang uli kami napag-isa at natulog na walang mga katabing alipores.

Kahit pa ako’y parang karburador sa paghihilik, o parang dalag na pumalag at sumisipa, o parang asong ulol na tulo laway kapag natutulog, ay mahal pa rin ako ng aking asawa at nais pa rin niya akong katabi sa gabi. Dahil mabait naman ako, kapag tulog. O marahil ay dahil mainit naman akong yumakap. Tunay naman talagang matatamis ang mga gabi, at kaayaaya ang mga umaga ng aming pagsasama.

bagong umagang tanaw mula sa aming bintana

Ako ay namalik-mata at naaalimpungatan lang yata. Kinurot-kurot ko ang aking sarili. Kung ang lahat ng mga karanasang ito ay panaginip lamang, sana ay huwag na akong magising.

Ako’y napabalikwas sa aking katabi. Mataimtim ko itong pinagmasdan at marahang yinakap. Buhay at tunay nga. Hindi ito panaginip lamang.

Labing anim na taon. At bumibilang………..

Hanggang sa ako’y mahimlay na sa aking huling hantungan, ay doon lamang ako mahihimbing na hindi sa iyong piling.