Thursday, December 21, 2006

Kids in heaven

"Why do they say it's a tragedy if the father outlives the son?" my son asked me a few weeks ago. I put down the paper, took a deep breath, and told him it's because children usually outlive their parents. Sometimes it doesn't happen though, and parents are left mourning and grieving the loss of their son or daughter.

This year, my friends Gina, Lizette and Vim mourned the loss of their children. Gina lost Trisha, 13, to leukemia; Lizette lost Lauren, 8, to brain tumor; and Vim just lost his son Awit, 4, to pneumonia last week. Of all the wakes I have gone to, these three wakes were the most painful to go to. As a mom, I feel their pain.

I was talking to Gina, my former officemate at Lifestyle Asia, at the wake when Trisha's classmates came in single file to the church chapel. Gina hurried out--I thought it was to meet them. She told me later that she had to cry and take a moment to compose herself. When she felt better, she went back in to meet Trisha's classmates and bravely told them how Trisha put her arms out as if to embrace someone just before she died. "I believe she saw Jesus," Gina said, as Trisha's classmates were in tears. "She was ready."

Lizette was my classmate back in high school. Lauren was her only daughter. At the wake, everything was white, from the casket to the flowers, even the whole chapel was white. Lizette told me how brave Lauren was enduring her chemotherapy sessions, and how they would go to the mall right after a chemo session, just the two of them. As a stay-at-home mom, she spent much time with Lauren. And it was all worth it. At her deathbed, Lizette told Lauren to go ahead, don't worry, it's ok, and she'll meet Lauren in heaven some day.

I've known Vim since college when we were both part of The Varsitarian, the school paper. After college, we'd bump into each other in reunions, art exhibits, and book launchings. I found it cute that he named his children uniquely: Psalma (after Psalms), Wika (after Proverbs), Awit (after Song of Solomon) and Sulat (after Epistles). Of all his kids, it was Awit who looked most like him. At the wake, Vim showed us a video of Awit's photos, saying, "Gusto naming ipakilala sa inyo si Awit." Aside from the video, there were Awit's favorite toys around. There were also pabitins and balloons. From the first night of the wake (Saturday) until last night (Wednesday), there were "parties" at 7pm: Ony Carcamo the ventriloquist held the stage one night, and the Alitaptap storytellers took over the other nights. "It's Awit's last party," the SMS message said. Today, as I write this, his remains are being cremated. "Vim and I have committed Awit to God," said Ellay, Vim's wife.

It's so close to Christmas, so why am I writing about this? When you really think about it, Christmas is about giving up one's son. "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life." (John 3:16)

Amidst the partying, feasting, shopping, and merrymaking, may we take time to thank God for giving up His Son Jesus. And may we all take that gift of eternal life that comes by just believing He paid the price for all our sins. That's really all it takes. "For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith--and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God--not by works, so that no one can boast." (Ephesians 2:8-9)

May you all have a meaningful and blessed Christmas.

BOOK OF THE WEEK: Faith That Goes the Distance by Jud Wilhite. What does it mean to have faith? It's not enough that you believe that God is near. Using the heroes in Hebrews 11 as examples, the author encourages us to go for the faith that rides tides, leaves a legacy, walks with God, obeys God, follows God's vision, chooses God's will, transforms, and goes the distance. "Live far above mediocrity and experience God's ultimate best--a life of extraordinary faith."