Signal Fire

Friday, January 06, 2017


My story begins – like most things do – with a cataclysm. To say that all this – all that I am – was a result of chaos is the truth. I am an aftermath.

The year was 2014. The day: 13th January. I was unemployed. I was broke. I was broken. From the waiting area of an outsourcing firm, right after an interview for a call center agent position, I got the one call that would forever change my life.

That call carried with it the dread of the Big Bang. Its looming threat relentless, sweeping me to the emergency room of a hospital in Mandaluyong. As the curtains were pulled away, revealing to me what was behind, I remember my breathing coming to a stop. Sucking away all the air from my lungs, using my life-force to feed its blast, I couldn't move. On a gurney, wrapped in white cloth, was my Mama. Gone. Snuffed out. Like a quick but devastating explosion.

That was two – almost three – years ago. Even now, the full range of that detonation is still unknown to me, but its wake seeped into every crack in my being until I was made of nothing but. I am an aftermath.

Yet with the storms of tears and the torrents of doubt, that catastrophe had also brought me a gift: motion. Its momentum, however hurtful, compelled me to move. A hundred steps forward. Twice as many steps back. It didn't matter. After what seemed like a lifetime of inaction, I was finally moving.

That movement took me to places. Figuratively and, of course, literally. Not long after that tragedy, I started traveling. A compulsion to see as much of the world accompanied every labored and exhausted breath. And, slowly, the exhaustion alleviated. Perhaps also because the constant moving kept me grounded, reminded me of what's real and what's gone. Mama's sudden departure had confused my logic, and the traveling and the adventuring helped me made sense of things. Each mountain I climb, every new horizon I gaze at, brought me comfort. It wasn't immediate. It was hurtful for the longest time. A random quiet moment still led to remembrance; the remembrance unfailingly bringing quiet tears. But the thrill in the new provided some sort of unguent. And in time, I found that the entire affair was healing me.

"In the confusion, and the aftermath, you are my signal fire."

My mama's absence, ironically, remains the greatest presence in my life. My conscience speaks of her whispered words. The limit of our time together opened up my heart and mind to boundless opportunities; to transcendent experiences. The vacuity she left in my heart allowed more room to care and to be kind. Try as I may to separate the pain of her death from the joy of my triumphs, the successes always echo her loss and how it eventually led me to follow my dreams. She still is my signal fire.

It's not too late, I'm sure. I know I will be heard. I just want it to be known that all that I am now is because of you. What you did for me, for us, when you were alive was immeasurable; what you've given me in death, even more so. More than the gift of life, you gave me the will to live. I realized this much belatedly, but it has been realized. The need to make you proud gives me a sense of purpose. And for this light, love, and the beautiful in-betweens, Mama, I thank you.

I guess I would never learn how to quit romanticizing your death. It's what makes me move. It gives me courage. I've learned to live with the devastation and, now, it's a bit easier. The debris, piece by piece, have been put away. Out of the detritus of my grief, I continue to hope and try to create something beautiful.

I do it all mostly for you, Mama. I hope you're proud.

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