It’s fiesta time in my hometown of Naga. Bicolanos are paying homage to Our Lady of Penafrancia who devotees say has done miracles in their lives.
An old lady said in a TV interview that she is asking the patron saint to give her a longer life–the same words I uttered in silence inside a friend’s car last night.
One side of my face was badly swollen and smarting from hitting the bathtub of the hotel. I had slipped while in the shower. My left cheekbone took the entire fall. It was loud. It was scary.
I stood up immediately and took a peek in the mirror. My face looked like it had been rearranged. I watched as the left cheek began to swell and a dull pain enveloped my head. I called my friend who was staying several floors below me. I needed help.
She and her husband took me to the hospital in their car. I felt cold. I was still wet from the shower. But I was really shivering at the thought that I could die. My skull could be splitting into pieces and pretty soon maybe my brain would get crushed or something. I could end up like that workmate who bumped her head and slipped into a coma and then into nothingness.
Was I ready to die?
It’s probably the only moment in my life when I felt completely not in control. Freefall–like that second when I slipped and there was nothing I could do but let gravity take over. I didn’t know what was going on beneath that swollen mound on my face. Even if I already did know and needed surgery to repair the damage, my life would be in the doctors’ hands. I realized then that maybe I was some kind of control freak.
I began to understand why people need to believe that there is ‘someone up there’ who is in control of everything. Because at moments like this, all you can do is surrender and believe and accept. I wasn’t ready to go, but if it was my time, I decided to accept everything that had happened in my life and believe that it was all worthwhile. I surrendered to whatever would come next.
I’ve always thought that if it was time, I’d want my last words to be of love. So I sent that message to the most important person in my life. If something happened, I told him, tell my family I loved them.
Well, nothing happened. I’m still here and the initial tests showed my bones are intact. The cold compress has miraculously reduced the ugly swelling. I almost look normal. It’s just as if the left side of my face has gained weight. It’s a little difficult to eat and laughing is almost painful. ‘Demure’ is not a word I would attach to myself, but right now it’s how I would describe the way I smile and laugh.
The memory is still a little scary, but I’m somehow thankful for this experience. Now I have that moment in the car to go back to every time I’m afraid to do something.