Thursday, June 7, 2012

One Morning in St. Joseph Chapel

"Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love." -- 1 John 4:7~8

He drags himself out of his car.  He feels that day is no different from yesterday and the days before it.

As he enters the St. Joseph adoration chapel their eyes meet.  Once he recognizes her, he forces a smile, faces the altar, genuflects, and settles quickly to a pew far away from her. She is squatting on the marble floor at the back holding her rosary.

Once he is seated, he glances at his mobile phone – it is still 7:15AM. He wonders has he arrived to the chapel for his daily devotion a little later, say 8:00 AM, would he still find her there. Silently he wishes he has arrived a little later. When he looks around and saw that there are already a number of people inside, the more he wishes to have arrived a little later. He always feels that silence is necessary to be able connect to his god.

He pulls out his prayer book and kneels down to begin his daily ritual of prayer. Why is she always wearing that red scarf over her head? He can see that she uses the green scarf around her neck to cover the very huge lump, but he cannot see the logic behind the red scarf. Then he remembers why he is there so he opens his prayer book, and get on with it.

Every time the chapel door opens he would look into that direction. He knows that something would happen soon. A few minutes later, it does. The lady with the red, and green scarves goes out of the chapel and sits on a concrete that is a foot above from the ground just outside the chapel. I knew it, he says to himself. She's will wait for me.    

He pulls out his wallet to look for P20 or P50 peso bills, and found a crumpled P20. He convinces himself that it should be enough for a breakfast for someone like her. But he feels that his heart wants to give more. He groans. For a moment he stares at the lone orange twenty peso bill leaning against a thin layer of purple one hundred peso bills inside his black wallet. He reasons and wrestles against his heart. What does she need more P20 or P50 for? It's just one breakfast. For a few moments more, he continues to struggle. Finally, he pulls out a bill, folds it and stands up. 

Just outside the chapel, the lady with the red and green scarves looks at him, their eyes meet. She lets out a shy smile while her eyes reflect a certain amount of doubt and fear. Donation, sir, please, she pleads. He smiles at her dryly as he hands over a crisp one hundred peso bill. He looks away about to take off when he feels both the lady’s hands grab his hand that is still holding the purple bill. Thank you SO much, sir, she says smiling with deep gratitude in her face.  

 He looks at her and smiles generously. He feels lightness in his heart. But before he could say anything the lady goes on. Thank you so much for the P20 you gave me last time, sir. You know, sir, this huge lump in my neck is cancerous. I was taken by ABS-CBN to Cebu Doctors Hospital in Cebu City for check-up, but the doctors there declared me as untreatable. They even took me to Chung Hua Hospital for a second opinion, but still the finding was the same.
He can’t find words to say as tears well up from her eyes. He doesn’t know what to do either except to listen.  

You know, sir, the pain in my lump is so excruciating, she continues. Sometimes I lost my breath. That’s why I’m so thankful to people like you who shares your blessings so that I can buy my pain medication.

How much is your medication, he manages to ask. P500 every week, sir, she answers. Unfortunately, it's so strong that my hairs are falling down. She removes her red scarf slightly to show her severely thinning hair. Then she breaks into a smile. You know, sir, tomorrow is the schedule for my next injection, but so far I only have P400. And now, you give me this P100….

He doesn’t hear what the lady said after that. The world loses its voice as he remembers what happened inside the chapel. Then he looks into her eyes still moist with tears; he notices how gentle and clear they are, and how they twinkle with pain and joy.

After their conversation, they exchange smiles and goodbyes. Today is a beautiful day, he says to himself as he walks toward his car.