Across time, mothers continue to hold the power to mend our broken hearts, becoming our most trusted companions in times of loss and grief.
Love, death, and mothers
Learning from our mothers on how to deal with loss
At a glance
By mae LLorraine Rafols-Lorenzo
Photos Jovel Lorenzo
Love and death—these are two words you never want to encounter at the same time. While we all desire love in our lives, the mere mention of death instills the fear of losing those we hold dear. Death carries an undeniable finality, a prospect we often try to avoid contemplating, yet it remains an inevitable part of life.
But here’s another word that neutralizes the fear of having both love and death—mothers. Mothers are the unwavering presence we rely on, the only ones who can truly comprehend our pain and acknowledge our need to mourn the loss of someone we deeply cherish. Across time, mothers continue to hold the power to mend our broken hearts, becoming our most trusted companions in times of loss and grief.
Wading around this realization, I’d like to pay homage to two amazing women in my life who looked death in the eye and decided that despite the circumstances, love still wins. They are my mother, Mercy Rafols, and my mother-in-law, Cristina Lorenzo—both of whom lost their husbands almost within the same year.
Both my mothers have shown me the grace and strength of how it is to fully love and that no death can ever take that away from us. In the midst of grief, all I can really remember are the beautiful moments I spent with my father and my father-in-law because my mothers made sure that we dwell only on the things that are worth remembering: My father’s humor and gentle affection, and my father-in-law’s steadfast dedication to his wife and family. These are the lessons in life I will bring wherever life takes me and I owe it to my mama and inay for reminding me what really matters.
Today, in honor of love and mothers, I share with you two stories spun in the throes of death and illness, but concluding with the greatest gift my mothers have shared with us—that throughout the pain, the most important thing is that we have loved.
Papa’s last few days were focused on love. Love for my mom to be exact.
Mama spent tearful nights in the hospital, alone with Papa, ensuring his comfort and well-being, and making sure he knew just how much she loved him. Until the end, every action my mom took was driven by her love for Papa.
One lucid night, Papa woke up and asked my mom if they could have coffee. Over hot cups, he looked at my mother and told her ,“Buti na lang may guardian angel ako na and pangalan ‘Mercilita’ (my mom). Maski galing ka sa North, ako sa South, destiny tayo. Tatagal pa tayo ng 100 years.”
My father proved my mother wrong because a day after, he left us, left her, stretching his “hundred years” to eternity.
In the blur of his wake, the word ‘mercy’ kept on popping up in prayers and condolences from friends and family. I myself have prayed to God for mercy, at first, mercy to heal my father’s sickness and then after, mercy for his soul.
But then I realized that God indeed gave my father the greatest mercy of all—my mom, named Mercy, who is my father’s greatest love and I knew then that he has lived a full life, died without regrets, and somewhere in time, he will be waiting in the same spot he always had when he would fetch my mom, an OFW, at the airport.
He will be waiting until it’s time again to be with her—his North Star, his destiny.
This is another story about love.
I’ve always admired my mother-in-law, Nena, for being such a doting wife to my father-in-law, Avelino, for so many years. Her love and devotion has always been the anchor of their family but it has pretty much shone in the past few years when Tatay Avelino’s Alzheimer’s slowly caught up with his being.
One night, Nanay Nena was feeding Tatay Avelino, and like most people with Alzheimer’s, 98 percent of the time you just know that Tatay wasn’t there, probably trapped somewhere between the present and past, his eyes seeing memories instead of us.
Despite this, Nanay Nena would continue to talk to Tatay Avelino like any other day. And somewhere in the middle of his meal, his eyes focused on Nena, whom he has loved from the first time he saw her, and asked gently, “Kumain ka na?”
Tatay Avelino’s mind would slip to his new reality before Inay could reply. She simply chuckled and continued feeding Tatay. At the end of the meal, Nanay Nena decided to ask her husband one more question before they can call it a night:
“Abling, sino ang mahal mo?”
In a clear voice, Tatay once more looked at his wife and answered for all of us to hear:
Bodies may be broken but our soul, where love reigns, remain strong. It’s true what they say you know, the heart always remembers what the mind cannot.
This Mother’s Day, I hope we all honor the most important woman in our lives by spending more time with them and getting to know their own love stories. The world is beautiful because of them, and the stories they leave us are also heirlooms to cherish for the rest of our lives.