She did not expect me to come to her place in San Fabian, Pangasinan. She did not recognize me for a second when she turned to see who her visitor was; but when she finally did, she walked towards me, I met her halfway, we hugged and we cried- she, crying the most.
Babelyn and I were co- workers before, both field researchers of a marketing research agency for Northern Luzon. We were assigned in different provinces, and only saw each other during monthly meetings and company events. But we managed to be close friends after meeting the first time. We exchanged messages and called one another that made us much closer even if we seldom meet.
We also call each other “tseb” until now, the reverse of “best” in best friends.
She resigned first from work in 2006, she just got tired of doing field works. I came next few months later. Since then we did not see each other again, we led different lives and lived in different places far from one another. However, we did not lose our communication and we retained our friendship for a decade now- and counting.
When we knew about Facebook, it served as our link to be more updated about us.
We are both in our early thirties now, she is a year older than me. We already have our own family and set of kids. Her husband is an overseas Filipino worker in Riyadh, KSA for a year now and they were blessed with two sons- Zhawn, 8, and Redrev 6.
A few times before, she invited me to come over to her place, and vice versa, but we did not get the chance to do so because of many reasons.
I remember on the baptism of her first child, I was supposed to be a godmother. Since I could not attend because I was many hours away from San Fabian and was pregnant with my first son, she was a little upset and removed me from the list. But on my last child’s baptism, I asked her to come over to be a godmother. She and her kids were not able to come yet I did not remove her from the list.
We have different personalities but we attract.
At the back of my mind, maybe we will meet again given the right circumstances.
But neither of us had anticipated that the fateful day of January 18, 2016 would force us to see each other after ten years.
Early this month, Babelyn posted on her social media account at around 8 in the morning that her son was suffering from flu and that she was having a hard time coping with the situation being left alone with the kids. It was just few days passed when her husband flew back to Riyadh, KSA for work after spending some time with them.
I sent her a message when I read the post at around 9 in the evening. She replied that she already sought the aid of a private doctor in their area later that day because it’s been four days that her son was nauseated and vomiting, having stomach pains, and suffering from fever. The doctor suspected at first that it was a dengue case, but lab tests showed a negative result yet positive in urinary tract infection. Her son was instructed for home medication for UTI.
On January 13, Babelyn made another post asking for prayers because her son was comatosed. I was shocked! I was like What? It was just a UTI!
I called her immediately and she told me that the child’s condition worsen and had a convulsion which was associated with his high fever, so she and some close relatives brought the child to the nearest hospital a day before he was in coma.
She said, according to the doctor attending to her son, the infection had spread to the bloodstream, also, CT- scan result showed a fist- like numb in the brain of the child creating a dent on his skull where it was located, which caused him to be comatose.
I heard her crying on the other line so I did not get the chance to ask her what caused the numbness in the brain’s child. I sobbed silently with her, hardly believing what I just heard. Oh, my God! He was just eight years old!
I felt sad like she was. I just listened to her hoping it would lessen her burden. In the end, all I could say was ‘Be strong and keep praying. Everything will be okay.’
I was not able to check on her the following day because my first child got ill too, and needing home treatments for some days.
On January 18, I decided to call and check on her after dinner. Few minutes before we were supposed to eat, I checked on my social media account. I saw a post from her again saying “Maraming salamat sa mga nag pray (para) sa anak kong si Zhawn… Masakit sa dibdib pero kailangang tanggapin. Nasa piling na siya ng ating Panginoon. Mahirap magpatuloy pero kakayanin.” (Thank you to everyone who prayed for my son, Zhawn. It’s hard but I need to accept it. He’s with the Lord now…)
I jumped out of my seat and quickly ran to the telephone and called her. I felt cold, and suddenly, didn’t know what to say. Her son was dead, I didn’t know how to comfort her that moment. I wanted to just hug her and to cry with her but I was on the other side.
Until finally I uttered “Okay ka lang?” (Are you okay?) I didn’t know if those were the right words to say then but they were the only words I knew I could say. She answered in a cracked voice, “Wala na si Zhawn, inuwi na namin siya dito sa bahay.” (Zhawn’s gone, we had brought his body home.)
I sobbed over the phone, loud enough for her to hear, needing for some comforting too. I felt like I lost my own son that night. She broke my crying by saying “Parang wala na akong mailuha…” (My eyes seemed dry of tears now…)
I overheard her other son saying he was hungry, he was getting her attention, so we hung up.
I hugged my husband, who was just sitting beside the phone, then I cried over his shoulders. My chest felt heavy, but I knew my friend felt heavier. My husband hugged me back tighter and kept silent. Maybe that was all I needed that time.
I knew I should go there, so I made one last call the following day to check on her. She said, her husband was granted with just a week’s leave from work so the burial will be done on January 21, only three days after her son’s death, then her husband will be going back for work the next day.
I decided to go on the day of the burial. I had no intention of telling her about my plan, I just had this feeling of wanting to surprise her. I asked my mother to come along with me and we left Baguio early in the morning.
I knew the death of her son was hard for her, but I never realized how hard it was until I saw her.
She cried almost everyday since the confinement of her son.
She suffered her husband’s wrath when the latter arrived from overseas. He blamed her for what happened to their son, until now they have some misunderstandings about it.
She faced the queries of her younger son with controlled emotions because it’s so hard to explain to a 6 year- old- child about a death in the family, specially somebody he was used to be with all his life, without breaking down in front of him.
She faced the hardest decision about the fate of her ill son.
At first, she doesn’t want to pull the plug yet, because it’s only been five days since her son was comatosed. She’s a mother, of course she wanted her son to get well soon and be out of those different apparatus connected to his tiny body, that everytime she looked at him in his state, her heart was crushing. So why pull the plug so soon?
She wanted to take his son home alive, and not the otherwise.
The doctor started convincing each and everyone of them, on the third day of being comatose, that the child was already brain dead.
The doctor also warned them about their swelling hospital bill if they would prolong their stay at the hospital, but she didn’t mind a bit, all she cared about was her son’s life.
By then, the doctor could not convince her, she was the only one left unconvinced. She was not ready to lose her son yet. She kept her faith up, she was waiting for a miracle.
But after a long and sincere talk with the doctor and her husband, later on that fifth day, she finally nodded, she finally accepted her son’s destiny.
I stood beside her as we walked the wake of her son to the church. We held hands, sharing strength and comfort.
She told me in between her sobs how her two sons enjoyed playing on the street that we were walking on, and that Zhawn was a sweet child, although the kid was closer to his father than to her. The memory of him really pained her.
She also told me that Zhawn was a smart kid, a consistent honor student. He was also a quiet type of kid according to his grandfather, although playful. He enjoyed playing with his younger brother a lot and with close friends at school.
Babelyn recalled that Zhawn, being the smallest among his classmates, had always been bullied. She complained about it constantly to her son’s teacher but the bullying did not stop. Babelyn suspected then that the numb found in his brain was caused by bullying because she could not think of anything else that can cause it when the doctor asked her if Zhawn bumped his head hard or something hit his head with a hard object. However, there were no proofs to conclude that, specially that Zhawn did not complain about it before.
During the doxology, Babelyn said that Zhawn wanted to be an engineer because he wanted to build a cozy house for her. At a very young age, Zhawn already had a dream for his future. Babelyn somehow felt guilty because that dream will not come true anymore, and it’s so heartbreaking for her. Even though everybody told her that it was God’s will and not her fault, she could not get rid of questioning herself like where did I go wrong?
She knew she did everything to protect her kids but still, something as tragic as this slipped her hands unexpectedly.
I felt her agony, as I am a mother myself. She only held him for eight years- a very short period of time. She loved him very much, like a mother should always feel for her child. I told her comforting words, it was the least I could do that time.
But I know she will be okay someday because I have known her to be a strong woman. I know her faith will help her survive all these and will keep her going.
San Fabian is quite known for its beaches, and Babelyn’s place is sitting on the seaboard.
I was looking at the sea after the funeral, but I could not see it’s beauty. I could not feel the happiness of the people having fun swimming and playing by the sea.
I realized, maybe when my friend Babelyn was the one looking at the sea, at the beautiful sunset perhaps, maybe she’s seeing her son smiling and waving to her as he goes up and away to find restfulness, and I could just hear her whisper ‘Fly away… My angel.’
Before me and Babelyn separate ways again, she thanked me for being there with her, for being the friend she needed. She told me she appreciated what I have done that day.
I knew I did not do anything much for her, but my presence did.
She told me too, the next time I will come visit, we will go swimming at the beautiful beach just across her home. I smiled, I knew then that by that time, she was over with the pain of losing her precious son.
And I will not turn down the invitation.
When I went home later that afternoon, my kids were enthusiastic upon seeing me.
I hugged them all tightly, because suddenly, I felt like I missed them very much.
Silently, I thanked God for my children.