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Saturday, December 09, 2006

Parting is never sweet!

We have cheated death once. When my friend, Arlene Lawson, accepted my invitation to come over to the country in 2000, little did I know that she had a prostethic heart valve. I only knew when we went swimming and saw the scar on her chest Little did I know that she caught a virus enroute and would soon be attacked with a serious case of pneumonia. Hence, on our way to Villa Escudero, she experienced chest pains and hardness of breathing. Alarmed, my wife suggested that we turn back. Having felt sorry for the postponed trip as we were with the whole family, and Redjie, a close friend, she suggested that we ought to have lunch in her hotel instead. We obliged but insisted that we take her to the doctor thereafter. (she said what she was feeling would go away and all she needed was to rest). After lunch, she asked permission to go to the comfort room to freshen up while we waited. It took her awhile until I asked my wife to go check on her. Suddenly, I heard my wife frantically calling my name. And our nightmare began.

There she was, all black and blue, holding her chest, crying for help. Redjie immediately called for help at the hotel's clinic while I took her outside and laid her down on the carpeted floor. A doctor and a nurse came rushing with my friend. He held an oxygen tank, put the mask on her and opened it. Empty! We rushed her to the clinic where two tanks were. Both were not functioning. We were already cursing the hotel, the doctor, the nurses. He decided we had to bring her to the hospital.

At the emergency room, I could feel the fright on her voice as she called for help. Imagine being at the brink of death in a foreign land with a friend you just knew from the internet. I would have been scared, too. She was administered medications while she continuously called my name. I held her hand telling her I was with her, assuring her that the doctors were good, that everything would be alright. My head was spinning. A lot of things ran through my head. What would i do should the worst happen? Who do I contact? How? I asked her who in Canada can I call? She wouldn't understand. Then I remembered she showed me a list. There was a friend who had an email address.

When the sedative she was given took effect, I was called to sign something. But before I did that, I was asked if she had any relatives here. I said no. They informed me that she would be taken to the ICU and that their ICU would cost around Php30,000 a day. I said I understood. I blindly signed the contract. My mind was floating. Where would I get the money, if ever? Added to this would be the doctors, the hotel...

Thus went Arlene's supposedly ten-days of fun in the country turned into a month's stay at the hosptial. Knowing how lonely she would be, we made sure we visited her everyday. My wife, sometimes, sleeping over to keep her company. On Sundays and holidays, we took all the children to her room for some sort of a get-together. In spite of all these troubles, this story made us very close. Too close, as a matter of fact. We began emailing each other practically everyday. Feeling that she owed me her life, she showered me with kindness and love. I kept assuring her that any Filipino would have done what I did but she would have none of it. When she was going back to Canada, she whispered to my friend, "Rolly's going to Canada soon. I wish you can go with him!" I brushed it aside when my friend told me that.

A year later, she invited me to come over. Nitz and I went. She also invited our American friends and we all gave out a poetry reading at Steveston. Since it was May, she decided to give us an off season thanksgiving dinner. The Americans went along with it and everybody contributed to make it as close to the original. She took us to different places like Victoria, Banff and Calgary. It was an experience that never occured even in my and my wife's dreams. And this trip to Canada was repeated again. Twice, as a matter of fact. Everytime, I would hesitate knowing that it is very costly. She argued that it would be just like her going abroad to see her friends and since she couldn't do that anymore, she asked her friend to see her.

Yesterday morning, as was my practice, I turned on the computer to while away the time, waiting to wake up the kids. I know she would have an email for me as it is not very likely that she wouldn't. There was none. Instead, I got a strange email from our mutual friend Gwen. The title read "horrible news about Arlene". I opened it and was surprised to learn that my good friend, Arlene, has passed away. I couldn't believe it. I gasped and tried to read it again hoping I read the message wrongly. But much as I try, the words would not change or go away. She passed away! "But I was just on the phone with her the other day.
I reasoned. She called because she was worried about the typhoon. She wanted to make sure everybody was safe. Since I was not at home when she called, I returned her call the following day. We talked a long time and she was her usual bubbly self, laughing at my jokes, exchanging banters. As she always say that my call would have caused me a fortune, it was she who hinted at saying goodbye. She never did that, though. She would say it might be costing me a fortune but still would wait for me to say adieu. If I only knew, I would have protested and suggested we talked some more.

I knew she was going to try a new medication for Rheumatoid Arthritis as she had suffered from this ailment for a very long time. She had been under every new medication that is being tested and none of them seem to work. I knew that she told me there were risks involved, even deadly, but she decided she's going for it anyway. But I never expected news like this would come - and real quick. I immediately called her daughter, Trudy, to confim it. She was about to call me and was just waiting for the proper time as she knew I would have been still asleep.

Arlene is not just a wonderful person to me. She meant a lot to me and my family. The children love her very much. She was Lola Arlene to them. They would always be excited when we call her up to greet her a happy birthday every December 22nd. They would be excited writing down little notes on a huge Christmas card we are sending her way. My daughter Kim cried the hardest at the news of her death. She was very special to her lola Arlene. When she came over, I asked my children to perform for her. Kraiganne sang her a song, Mickey played the violin, and Kim recited a poem. Unbeknownst to Arlene, Kim would be reciting one of her poems. She was surprised when Kim uttered the title and the name of the poet. She listened intently on every word the very young Kim recited. By the end of the poem, Arlene was already in tears. "I've never heard my poetry being recited before," she quipped. She gave Kim a huge hug and Kim wiped out her tears.

My children adored her. I adored her. She meant a lot to me. She was my mentor, my muse in poetry, she was my confidante who always listened when I whined, laughed at my antics, my source of energy everytime I felt so-so, my fan who believed in everything I do, my patron who had taken me to places I would not have dared go. As she always say that because we think alike, we were probably bobsey twins. She was my angel. With her passing, I know I have lost all these but most of all, I have lost a cherished friend. She surely has left an empty void in our hearts, the same void she had left in every heart she had touched with her kind soul. Today, I opened my email and true enough, there was no message that came from her. I would miss that terribly. Her emails are my morning breakfast. Like we always say in its closing of each mail, I say to Arlene, "with a lot of love and kisses,", I end this post with "We all love you very much and you shall always be in our hearts."

;Posted by Picasa

Arlene Lawson
December 22, 1935 - December 6, 2006

Buella's Rite of Passage

Here's a rite of passage when
I'm allowed the privilege of toddling
to the privvy

I traipse on wobbled, weathered
boards laid down by the last hobo who
pleaded for sandwiches in trade for work

growing up means sitting on a hole
wide and deep
full of tentacled arms raised to grab me
bared and vulnerable

a pitiful candle protects me
from a fall into the well
I grasp edges of the hole
created for an adult

business done
in a hurry to scoot the thirty feet
from outhouse to back porch

I fall

tripped by loosed boards
the stick I carry in my hand
imbeds itself into my chin

a reminder in white of an
evening I'm big enough
to abandon
"the thunder mug"

Privy enough to traipse the boards

Arlene Lawson

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Blogger ipanema said...

Oh, my thoughts are with you and your family. I understand how it is to lose someone who had touched our lives and make living even more meaningful.

You are a good friend indeed and your family as well. Seldom we find kindred spirits that we can connect with.

That's a beautiful poem she penned. My prayers.

10:36 AM  
Blogger {illyria} said...

my condolences, love. she still lives in the people she left behind, though. i can see how special she was through you and your words. xx.

12:21 PM  
Blogger ting-aling said...

So long Arlene. Our meeting was short but I could tell how much she took cared of you Tito Rolly. My condolences to her family and to you.

2:41 PM  
Blogger cathcath said...

I am sorry to hear about her demise.
My prayers for her.

5:59 AM  
Anonymous bayi said...

I know how close you were to her, having read all your posts earlier about her and your trip to Canada. I am sorry about your loss.

My deepest condolences.

10:15 AM  
Blogger Marie said...

Hi tito Rolly! It was so nice having met you for lunch today. Mind if i link you up?
Btw, my condolences, it showed how special she was to your family and it's sad to hear her passing away.

8:20 PM  
Blogger rolly said...

ipanema I know. You have just lost a loved one yourself.
I lifted the poem from her chapbook. She was a very good poet.

illyria Very special, indeed. Thanks.

ting-aling Of all my blogger friends, it was only you who got to meet her and saw how she took care of me while in Canada.

cathcath Thnaks


Marie The pleasure is all mine. I enjoyed every minute of it. Let's do it again sometime. Yes let's link up.

She was very special to us all.

3:11 AM  
Anonymous sachiko said...

i'm really so sorry for this great loss,rolly. i'm teary eyed reading this. please send my condolences to nitz and the kids,too.

9:00 AM  
Blogger Toni said...

"God gave us memories so we can have roses in winter."

Arlene came alive to us when you told stories about her. We came to know her as a wonderful poet, part of the family and a very good friend. In your description she was like a soulmate. She already was beautiful through your words.

I cannot imagine the sorrow you must feel. She will surely be missed. We can feel how much you treasured your friendship.

My thoughts and prayers are with you, Tito Rolls.

2:00 PM  
Blogger Chet said...

Haven't visited your blog for a while and came by this morning to find this piece of sad news.

I knew her briefly and spoke to her on the phone once when I was in Vancouver.

8:26 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is my first time to visit here and I am so saddened to read your post. Arlene is indeed special as you described her. My prayers are with you and your family as well as Arlene's.

It is hard to lose someone you care for so much...

May This comfort you

3:23 PM  
Blogger vernaloo said...

I'm so sorry to hear about your loss. May your good friend rest in peace.

3:41 PM  
Blogger VICKY said...

very sad indeed to lose a caring friend. She is 71? My heart goes to you and family who will dearly miss her. She had left for you great memories of which you will all remember with fondness. My condolences, Rolly.

8:58 PM  
Anonymous may said...

the news was a real surprise. and i wanted so much to blog about how i felt when i read your email, but i am still trying to resolve the guilt i have for not being able to respond to her last email soon enough.

i will miss her too.

10:51 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What a beautiful tribute for a beautiful woman. I had heard the story before, and yet it is touching everytime I hear you talk about your friendship with Arlene. You two really are opposite sides of the same coin. Both artistic, both soulful, both gems of a friend.

May she rest in peace.

2:06 AM  
Blogger Kat said...

i'm sorry to hear about your loss. you've mentioned her before and i know you were kindred spirits.

my condolences to you. you were certainly a very good friend to her.

her poem was beautiful.

5:36 AM  
Blogger hoop said...

Sir D,

My Sincerest Condolence on Your Loss.

4:44 PM  
Blogger rolly said...

Sachiko Thanks a lot. It's very sad indeed.

Toni What a lovely quote. Who's that from? Did you make that one? Yes, I am fond of telling stories about her. I just hope I didn't get to be boring. Thank you.

Chet I know you knew her. We were all in WVU for one time or another. She's a terrible loss. Thanks for coming over.

Leah Welcome to my blog. My posts are not always sad. Thanks for the lovely thoughts and thank you for the prayers.

That was indeed comforting!

vernaloo Thanks and thank you for dropping by and leaving a comment.

Vicky So true. We have a lot of memories we shall cherish for a lifetime. Thanks.

May You know she was very fond of you as I am. We can never forget the lovely prayer you offered for her while she was at the hospita. And the tender, loving care you offered. She spoke highly of you.

JMom Yes, in more ways than one, we are kindred spirits.

I know you're in the country now. The question is, when do we meet?

Kat Thank you. She was a wonderful poet, especially with haikus.

hoop Why do I have a feeling you are a former student of mine. Most of my students during the 90's used to call me that. Thanks for coming over and the kind thoughts.

6:08 PM  
Blogger hoop said...

Sir D,

You are right, I am a former student of yours ;-)

11:06 PM  
Blogger eden said...

my condolences with you and family ,she maybe out of sight but memories wil always linger forever.

bloghopped from ate marie:)
kind regards po!

2:43 AM  
Blogger TinTin said...

I am moved to tears by the eviden connection you and your family shared with Arlene. What a special woman. My sympathies are with you and your family. ((HUGS))

3:27 AM  
Blogger bugsybee said...

I know that for such a special friendship like this, there can never be enough words to console you and ease the pain of your loss. Just the same, I am sorry, Tito Rolly. My prayers for her.

8:37 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm sorry to hear about your dear friend. I noticed the caption on the picture you used in your blog...it was taken in her hotel the year she came to visit ...it tells it all...a very close part of the family... my deepest sympathy

1:20 PM  
Blogger cbs said...

this is the magic of the internet. we get to know our friends' friends, and we get to feel the pain of our friends' pain.

God bless Arlene.

11:34 PM  
Blogger rolly said...

hoop sabi ko na nga ba eh. Anong batch ka? Pakilala ka naman. You can email me.

eden Saw your photoblogs. Ganda. Thanks for coming over.

Tintin Very special indeed. Thanks.

bugsybee Thank you very much.

Rey A Oh you noticed that? Yes, she took that picture. She is family! Thanks.

cbs Magical indeed. Thanks.

5:44 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sir, that was very touching. I know how it is to lose a very good friend. A few months ago, it was Joji, and now, Arlene. Sad to say, their time has come, but their purpose for happening in your life had been completed. It's time they went home too.

I'm sorry for your loss. My sincerest sympathies.

10:17 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's been a great year for bloggers. May you prosper in the new year!

Wishing you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

--Nostalgia Manila

5:56 AM  
Anonymous Michael said...

Very Touching Story Tito Rolly.

Merry Christmas to you and your family! =)

2:54 PM  
Blogger VICKY said...

Dear Rolly,
Since you have not posted yet, even though it looks like it's not appropriate here, I just want to wish you and your family and loved ones a very MERRY CHRISTMAS AND A VERY ABUNDANT NEW YEAR! Have a blessed one and may all your wishes come true from this day onwards. Lots of love from downunder- vicky and family.

5:34 PM  
Blogger Dr. Emer said...

"True friendship is like sound health, the value of it is seldom known until it is lost."
- Charles Caleb Colton

Let 2006 close with all your hurts and pains with it. Happy souls go to Heaven. You need not worry too much about them. They're in good hands.

1:00 PM  
Blogger VICKY said...

30th Dec 06
learnt from Ate Sienna re. the passing on of your dearly beloved Mother-2 tragedies are too much The Lord would have bestowed such great strength in you to handle allthese. Plus it's also the Christmas season. My heart and thoughts is with you and your family and am sure that your mother had left a lot of great memories for you to last till eternity. My heartfelt condolences, Rolly and family. Vicky Brisbane Australia

8:40 AM  
Anonymous Harry said...

What a beautiful tribute to a wonderful WVU friend. You've said what is close to the hearts of us who knew her first online and then as a friend.

3:23 PM  
Blogger rolly said...

Harry What a surprise to find you here. Yes, Arlene is a very special person and giving her a tribute on my blog is the only thing I know how o repay her kindness.

4:00 AM  

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Twenty years of teaching must sure amount to something. A new friend in cyberspace suggested I ought to have a journal by now. I agree.

Taken by my friend Arlene Lawson in her room at Century Park Sheraton in May, 2000.
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Location: Bambang, Pasig City, Philippines

Jack of all trade, master of none. First a disclaimer. My students have discovered this blog and they might think that what I write is gospel truth. Worse is they might find an argument that they think they can use, for some reason or another, against their teachers. So, to set the record straight, it is NOT. As a matter of fact, I write and open it to feedback to get another view in the hope that somebody would tell me if I am wrong and reenforce my thinking if it is right. Not that I will accept anything thrown my way, though. Just so I can think about it some more and decide whether my original stance is right or definitely off tangent. So there. I hope that clarifies everything. Now, on to blogging.

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