“But we have this treasure in jars of clay to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us. We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed. We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body. For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that his life may also be revealed in our mortal body. So then, death is at work in us, but life is at work in you.” – 2 Corinthians 4:7-12
In the Filipino parlance, “Nanay” is an endearing term we use to call our moms. As with other languages, it is one of many variants of references for mothers – one that conveys not just respect and admiration, but love.
As many of you know, Nanay Belen, the mother of our dear sister Lisa Sabinosa, has been in the care of our hospital system since February of this year after having undergone surgery and a heart problem thereafter that caused her to be immobile. She is now at the EW Bickle Centre – a rehabilitation facility for those requiring complex physical care. My wife and mother joined me in visiting her last Sunday after having recovered myself from an abdominal pain that kept us away from church that morning. Lately, I’ve been feeling vulnerable under the weight of my own frail, human physical condition.
Rupert, Lisa’s husband and a dear friend, cautioned me against going as he knew what I was going through early that Sunday morning. Somehow, though, God was prompting me to go – as if there was a presentiment of relief and comfort coming my way. We decided to go through with our plan to visit her. It turned out to be quite a leisurely drive in what is typically a busy portion of the Toronto downtown area. The gentle breeze was a steady, soothing source of reprieve from the hot, humid day.
I had parked the car a distance away from the actual building where Nanay Belen was staying, so we had to take a bit of a walk to get there. But even that walk was an appointment by God that day. We passed along families tending to their sick loved ones in a small park outside the premises while the ambience of the resounding clap of pigeons’ wings around a water fountain provided mystique to the whole scene.
Our souls stilled as we entered through the front entrance while thoughts trekked through our minds. We were greeted with that familiar hospital whiff that brought me close to my own experience with my father, who also had a prolonged stay in the hospital several years back. After going through a series of pathways and halls that seemed more like a maze, passing by some screaming patients along the way, we ended up at Nanay Belen’s room.
She was there near the door—which was already ajar—when we came in, propped neatly in her wheelchair. We found out later that it was customized personally for her particular frame and condition. Her head lay back, supported by some padding on either side to protect her from sudden, involuntary movements. I came near her and softly spoke her name, “Nanay Belen”. It seemed like she was lightly sleeping, but the slight movements we made alerted her to our presence. She started moving her head from side to side and opened
her eyes. She still had that glassy look that gave me the impression that hearing is the stronger sense for her at this point. My wife and my mother started to speak as I introduced them one by one. She knows them of course, especially my mother, who had struck a friendship with her the first day we started coming to GCF Peel. Her head started to move from side to side as if trying to get a bearing on where we are. Her mouth started to quiver while she tried to mutter some sounds in an attempt to speak.
I glanced at my mom and wife who had decided to sit down, holding her hands. Their eyes started to get moist and red with emotion at this whole experience, and we had just been there for a few minutes. I can tell that questions ran through our minds and much of it was “why” – questions that are not easy, nor have ready answers for. We struggled to see her in this condition.
Not too long after, Rupert and Lisa arrived, and we greeted them with hugs that came with a quick breath of prayer for their own encouragement. Lisa told us that she had asked the attendants to prep her in that wheelchair, as Lisa planned to move her around for a change of scenery. We moved together with Nanay Belen to the family lounge not far from her room. We settled in our chairs surrounding her and engaged in supportive conversation. During that time, I sense God directing our tête-à-tête to something light-hearted and fun with the injection of good-natured laughter interspersed here and there. That’s when we noticed Nanay Belen was laughing with us. Even her whole body shook from her chuckle. It was not involuntary at all. It was a regular reaction to something she found funny enough to giggle about. I knew then that, at the core of Nanay Belen’s inert frame, is the presence of a strong soul that the Lord will keep nurturing until the day He exercises His sovereignty over her condition – whatever that may turn out to be.
We left for home that day with her laughter embedded firmly in our thoughts. If Nanay Belen can laugh in the midst of her infirmity, it seemed insanely senseless to me that we cannot do the same in God’s strength under the encumbrance of whatever it is we are dealing with in life. While laughter has not done anything to release her from this condition, it was her laughter that cured me that day. Her laughter was God’s gentle reminder for me that I can always find refuge in Him who delivers us from all things that assail our spirit – even uncertainty over my own physical concerns. We came in there seeking to comfort Nanay Belen. Instead, it was her laughter that tended to our souls that day.
“Don’t fear the unknown. God’s already been there.” – Jarrid Wilson