Of mothers, love, and death

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My mom in yellow. She is beautiful inside and out. Tonight she cooked me a simple birthday vegan meal. It made a world of difference to be with her and my dad during the quarantine and my 50th birthday. The photo was taken four years ago, during my dad’s 80th.

Dear friends, part of this post is a bit unsettling, and all of it is deeply personal. But I have decided to post about this to help me confront one of my oldest wounds that still shake me up to today and hope that someone reading this who is in the same space would realize that it is possible to rise out of dejection. If you feel in any way the same and need to talk to someone, please reach out to me through my Skype at Shiela R Castillo.

I’m pretty sure my mom saved my life last night. I’ve been really down the last few days. There were times I felt like I was drowning. I pick up myself every time as I didn’t want my parents to worry about me. I close the door of my room when falling again in the cycle of despair. But I resolved I could not go on like that. My dad is stressed, and my mom has enough to worry about. So a day shy of my 50th birthday, I rearranged my room and placed a table by the window, hoping it would help me focus and get me working.  I liked my arrangement. The morning sun would fall warmly on the desk, which I thought would be pleasant. Since I use the comfort room outside of the bedroom, I had my bed block the bathroom door that linked to my parents’ room.

But before I slept, I felt really uneasy. I realized I was actually scared, and I haven’t been scared like that since I was a child. It might sound irrational but I almost felt a presence. I didn’t want to turn off the lights. I thought I would sleep with them on. I was watching something on Youtube when Mommy opened the main room door and was surprised to see me awake. She said she thought she heard me dreaming and calling her. She said she heard me fainty calling “Mommy, mommy!” So she got up and went to check on me. When she told me about it, I had goosebumps and didn’t want to sleep alone. Could it have been an impending nightmare that she was able to avert? I’m sure it was. She said maybe she was the one dreaming. But I thought it was her gut feel and intuition. So I pulled out an extra mattress from another room and camped at the side of their bed in the masters’ bedroom. Half a century old, still sleeping with parents. Funny now as I look at it.

But I really don’t know what could have happened to me if she didn’t check on me first. In the last few days, when I felt like I was hanging on a thread, she was there for me.  She never ceased to pray for me. It’s no wonder she heard my call for help before I even did.  I’m positive it’s another lease in life for me. Of course, she heard me, she is my mother. We are connected in a way that mothers and daughters are supposed to be connected. The only difference was that she didn’t give birth to me. But she raised me. All my life, before I turned eight, she has always been there for me. Always accepting, giving, and forgiving despite my misgivings. Always present. She tells me what I have to hear, no matter how difficult sometimes.

This brings me to my biological mother, may she rest in peace, with whom I never really had a functional relationship. She was a fair-skinned feisty Waray.  She was a street-smart, strong-willed survivor of life’s worst battles. She must have been smart or my dad would not have been smitten. She had a lot of skills under her belt which allowed her to tide herself up. But if there was something she didn’t know what to do, it was to be a mother. At least to me. In fairness to her, she was probably a good mother to my elder siblings. And I know they have a certain fondness for her that I never really had, having been away from her at such an early age.

Her life was tremendously difficult mostly because of her decisions, yet she owned them. Even in her worst, she was authentically unapologetic. I didn’t really know her apart from a short semester I stayed with her when I was a university freshman. If I hadn’t stayed with her maybe I would have a more romantic view of what she was. Sadly, it was not as I expected. But I’m not saying this because of vindictiveness. I have no anger in my heart. It’s just that I never really knew her outside of my own experience and she never had a chance to make it up with me. At the end of her life, she suffered so much, and I deeply pitied her. But I wished I have felt more than that. I wished I felt love for her, and I regret that I never had a chance to make it up with her.

I am Mama’s daughter. And on the eve of my 50th  birthday, confronted by unfounded fears, I wondered about how my deepest and most vivid childhood memory was linked to her going away, and how I remembered that particular childhood incident last night when I realized mommy saved me from an impending nightmare, maybe even death. So much of my fears and triggers are rooted in that one incident when I was a child. Or maybe many others I am not even aware of.

Many times since I became a mother, I confront myself with my own ineptitude. I know I am not the ideal one that my sisters and Mommy are. I beat myself up whenever I could. Even in other areas of my life, I sometimes find myself hostage in victimhood, and I tell myself that I have to own up to my mistakes and stop the blame game. Sometimes I succeed, sometimes I don’t. Once in a while, I become aware of subtle self-sabotage. I arrest myself and start again. Trigger, arrest, reset. I wish life was as simple as a thousand-word blog post, but it is not. So I thought it would help to go deeper and face my shadows head-on with the courage of my tragic mother and the temperance of my comforting mom. Because ultimately, I am their daughter, and both of them are my mothers.


I thought I had forgiven Mama a long time ago. I uttered a prayer for her last night and thought that if she ever is anywhere, I hope she would know that I have forgiven her. And I hope that she has forgiven me and that my children could forgive me in turn. I don’t want to struggle anymore. I don’t want people who love me to suffer because of the wounds I took so long to heal. I want to come from a place of deep, unconditional love. Even transcendental. For everyone in my life. But most especially for myself. I want to be grateful and courageous and authentic and present and persevering. Loving others unapologetically, while loving myself fiercely.

Some people say life begins at 50. And I don’t want to die before I do. So happy birthday to me. Ready, reset, go. #src

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