A week has passed and the dust is slowly settling in. Each day is the same: I wake up and I see an image of her in my mind. But I dwell on the pain less and I cry less.
On Caitie as my daughter
I breastfed Caitie until 1 year and 3 months, practiced baby-led weaning at 7 months wherein you allow the baby to learn and eat with her fingers. She loved eating vegetables and fish. She learned sign language, the alphabet, numbers, colors, shapes, writing, reading really fast! She had great memory, good manners, great motor skills and a cheerful heart. I would say that she was beyond her age in IQ and EQ. Though I had issues with her eating so slow; it would take us 2 hours just to finish her food but thankfully she would eat neatly. People would say she was very demure but with the family, very jolly.
I allowed her very very minimal sweets or almost close to zero. Sometimes, she would only get a bite or or a lick of it and she would be fine. She had a great sense of self control. She ate healthy food and snacks. Breakfast, lunch, dinner and even snacks were carefully thought out and prepared. Some “cheat food” once in a while, but generally, she ate well-balanced meals.
She loved reading books, cutting, doing arts and crafts, dancing and simply learning.
I may be biased but she was simply perfect for me. The kind of daughter that I would dream of. She was independent but would ask for help when needed. Obedient but would speak her mind. I only had to explain and teach her things once or twice and she would immediately understand — even at a young age of less than 1 yr old. She wasn’t a robot who did everything we’d tell her. She would ask, negotiate and appeal but at the end of the conversation, she’d always submit to us, her parents, and agree that what we decided would be the best decision.
On Me as God's Daughter
As for me, as God’s daughter, I believe I was obedient to the Lord. A little rebellious and would sin several times, but I would repent and come back to him every single time. I served in ministry and loved Him with all my heart. I did all of these things with the goal of just pleasing Him and not for anything else. I grew up in a broken family: a daughter from an outside marriage, emotionally and physically hurt by my mother. I also grew up independent and would constantly seek ways to earn my own money. I grew up with a lot of pain and when I got married, I had an ideal image of joy. When I had my firstborn, Caitlin, I wanted to pour out so much love to her and be the best mom I could be. I tried to be the best wife as well.
Jayjay and I do have our marital issues, concerns, and even fights. There was even a time that we almost got separated. I had that tendency to leave when things don’t go well. Maybe because of my past but by God’s grace, Jayjay did not stop pursuing me. There was actually a time he almost did and when he did, I was the one who realized that I needed to make this right. That the enemy wants us separated and I shouldn’t allow him to win.
On Having Questions
Throughout Caitlin’s ordeal, I have to be honest, but I did have lots of questions or even doubts:
I don’t think God is real.
God could have prevented it in the first place.
Wasn’t I obedient enough?
Didn’t I already love Him so much?
Am I not His child that He should protect me from pain?
Can He not tell the enemy: “Okay, do whatever you want but don’t lay a finger on their lives”?
If I’m His child, shouldn’t I experience having an abundant life?
Where is the great miracle?
He can if He wanted to. If He is so powerful, then he can do it.
So many righteous people are pleading and praying fervently and unceasingly. Didn’t He say that ask and it will be given?
I know I can change His mind if I just continue to be obedient, if people continue to pray and if I continue to surrender to Him, I know He will rescue us and will make a miracle so great that people would be so amazed and believe in God.
I even asked: “What good will it be if she dies?” None! Because people won’t believe that God answers prayers. People won’t believe that He is powerful.
I believed Caitie deserved to live. I have been obedient and sacrificial. I always gave my tithe, I even gave so much to people that I was taken for granted.
Didn’t I deserve her?
She is the one that gives me joy. Do not take my joy away from me.
You already took away my mother in law last December and now my daughter? In just 3 months?!
But God answered NO.
During Caitie’s last few hours of breathing, I knew among everyone in the room that it was Jesus who wanted her to be healed the most. I could imagine Him crying and screaming and His heart being shattered because I knew this one was special. That more than anything, this little girl’s heart belonged to Him.
I could hear God say, “I know. I know the pain. Here is someone so innocent. Who simply loved, who has been so obedient and cheerful only to be whisked away by death. Of all things, a rare disease that doesn’t have a known protocol of treatment or cure.
There’s just no other way. I know because my only Son, much like your little Caitie, died willingly and went through so much pain of difficulty in breathing, of water retention, of so many whips and piercings, of blood shed, of blood stain eyes, of having an enlarged spleen, of having enlarged liver, of zero platelets that would cause Him to bleed profusely and who couldn’t even have a decent toilet break because He was being beaten and hanged on the cross. I know what you’re feeling, I know the pain.”
And I cried so much and told God, “But isn’t Jesus enough to go through all those pain? Didn’t He die on the cross to save us from our sin? From sickness? From disease? From death?”
I was in the worst battle pit. I didn’t know how to get out of it. I was struggling so hard with God.
And then I remembered the moment in church when I stood up and said, “Jesus, I love you more. I choose to love you more than Caitie. It’s so hard but okay, yes.”
I wanted to take that moment back. I wanted God to do something.
Then I remembered Hannah in the Bible and how similarly I decided back then to dedicate Caitie’s life for God’s purpose.
I remembered Nick Vujicic, the guy without limbs, speaking in church. I remembered crying because I said, “Lord, use Caitie like Nick too. I know her deformed ears and her life will be used to bring so many people to you like him because everything happens for a reason. I know how much you love each of us that despite not having a perfect life or what we want, You are gracious and You give in abundance, but not always in a way we can understand. Lord just like Bethany Hamilton, the surfer girl who lost her arm from a shark attack and because of that attack, more people came to know you as compared to when her arm was whole, okay, Lord I surrender Caitie’s deformed ears and may you use all of her for Your glory.”
I then realized that surrendering Caitie when she was alive was the same as surrendering my heart now that she’s gone.
At the end of it all, I needed to echo what my daughter would always say: “I love you Jesus more than most.”
On Choosing the Abundant Life
After her passing, the media would always ask us if she were still alive, what would we want for her to be. I really didn’t have an occupation in mind. All I wanted was for her to be the best she can be so that she could fulfill the occupation or calling that God wanted her to be.
A week has passed and a lot of things continue to run through my mind. I realized it is indeed true: you shouldn’t live with a goal of studying, working, getting married and having a family. Because you can leave this earth and be so empty.
You can die in your sleep now, you can die of food poisoning, you can be walking healthy then suddenly a nerve snaps and then you die. I saw a wake when we left Loyola Columbarium and I saw a grand casket, a bunch of body guards but the room was empty. It was 5pm and at this time you expect a dozen people already. It looked like an expensive casket; I would know since I’d been choosing caskets so many times already in less than 6 months. But this particular wake looked so empty.
Then I realize that my daughter lived a life so full. She was like a 40-year-old soul in a three-year-old body. During her wake, the line of people who visited reached from Arlington to the corner of SM Sta. Mesa. We embraced so many people from 9:30pm to 1:00am without pausing. So many tears were been shed. I’d never felt so comforted in my life knowing that Caitie touched so many lives. People she didn’t know. Between the Singapore and Manila wakes, I’m sure there were more who were blessed by her life but couldn’t make it to the wake.
I would always say that a full life lived for only three years is better than being filled with anger, bitterness, resentment, selfishness and personal satisfaction for 60 years, because at the end of it it’s going to be empty.
Caitlin lived for 3 years and 7 months but because of the way she obeyed, loved, believed and desired for only the best in a humble manner resonated beyond the hospital room.
“Don’t let anyone think less of you because you are young. Be an example to all believers in what you say, in the way you live, in your love, your faith, and your purity.” (1 Timothy 4:12)
Caitie’s mission on earth is finished. She reached her perfect state. Meaning there was no need to add another hour or day anymore.
Yes I still have the “God could’ve done something in the first place” moments. While everyone else’s kids would grow up, I will only be able to swipe through photos and videos of a three-year-old.
It’s so painful but at the end of every emotion, I still choose to love God still. Because looking back, He has indeed been faithful. We are living in a fallen world and this is not our home. I would think of it that I am an “overseas foreign worker” and I shouldn’t settle in this world because this is not home.
My perspective of living and of life after death has changed. I no longer fear death and no longer wish to live the grandest of earthly lives. But to live life here on earth abundantly.
By “abundantly”, I don’t mean having a perfect life or a complete life. It’s about the wise choices and decisions that are put together. It’s about choosing hope. Choosing joy. Happiness is momentary but joy is deep down. That joy is possible even if you have pain. Even if you cannot breathe. Even if you have spurs-of-the-moment realizations that you have experienced death.
Joy is the response after that spur. Joy is knowing what the pain is for and embracing the hope and potential of the future.
Yes, conflict and pain are present but what do you do about it? What’s your response? That choice either produces joy or self-affliction. That response is what you call abundant life.
Caitie’s mission is done but ours is not yet. I’ve encountered people who have lost a loved one, who have fallen into so much debt, who have lost their limbs, who have an incurable sickness, who think singleness is a curse, who still don’t have a job, who aren’t as rich as they wanted to be, who aren’t as beautiful as the way they wanted to be, who have or come from a broken family, who have an illegitimate child, who are abandoned, neglected.
We all want perfection and the best. Who doesn’t? But I realized that in these imperfections, we change our perspective and become the best version of ourselves with the goal that in the life after this world, it would be perfect. With Jesus in heaven, it will be.
So yes, life is not always perfect. So yes, there’s a lot of pain and “I deserve it” moments, but that shouldn’t be goal of living on earth.
If we’re talking about an “I deserve it” mentality: Caitie deserved to have a lollipop as a prize, she deserved every toy for everything she went through. She deserved to live.
But it’s not always about what we deserve.
On What I’m Learning
The lesson Caitie imparted is that it’s not about what we deserve or not about us just being thankful for our family, of good health or good things our way. It’s not about just being selfless, being courageous, or becoming the good persons we could possibly be.
No, the lesson I continue to learn is that it is better to choose Jesus than to do things on my own strength. because in Him there is hope.
And with Jesus, we need to be the best of what we were designed to be. Our experiences, our past, our present, shape who we will be. If we become the best of what we are called to be, then that’s how we become good, selfless, brave and courageous. This, put together, is the abundant life.
At the end of it all, it’s really all about Jesus.
Whether you think He’s the most cosmic KJ, I would rather still put my trust, faith and grow in Him and have hope than lose myself in my own strength. He has been tried and tested by so many people and even in my own life. And yeah, looking back, the things that happened made sense. The enemy may intend to use everything in the past to harm me but God intended it for good. I did not always choose to be or fall into certain “messes”: family life, finances, relationship, career.
The things I tried to “manage” and fix with my own strength didn’t turn out quite nicely. But when I chose Jesus and became the best of what He wanted me to be — being rooted in His word and promises from the Bible — I understood what grace was. I now have a wonderful relationship with my family, I’m financially smarter, and developed wonderful relationships with different people.
At every small or big turn, there are indeed two things I needed to grasp. And these are the two things that kept Caitie going and helped her be the best version God intended her to be.
1. Delight in your parent
2. Seek the reward
With Caitie, the only thing that mattered was that we, her parents, were with her and that we were pleased with her. In the same way, I need to make sure that only Jesus matters and that He is pleased with us.
Because we were pleased with her, she got her reward. She enjoyed the reward but she loved us more than the reward. This is also how it should be between me and God. I may enjoy the rewards but keeping God pleased is a reward in itself.
A parent-child relationship is such a wonderful representation of God-child relationship.
In these two things, there is abundance in life. And I can move forward joyfully with a smile for tomorrow because in Jesus, there is hope.
It still blows my mind when in the hospital, Caitie would be satisfied by just having a cracker or just have one Yakult, or one sip of buko juice, or one lick of a lollipop whenever she would need to undergo a procedure. If I were the one who got sick, I would want to be compensated big time. But Caitie always showed contentment in the simplest of things.
Our conversations would always be the best because I would always think I was talking with an adult. I remember that she would dictate the sequence of food she wanted to eat. She was patient to wait for Uncle Wing to bring her daily meals. She would request to eat the “bad stuff” like fried food, but all it would take was for us to explain to her that she should trust us that the good food will help her body more and she would obey.
There were times also that she didn’t like to talk much. All she wanted was for us to be just beside her. She would paint and we would just assist. She would need to go to the toilet, and she would just need a shoulder to rest her head in until she was done.
Until the very end, our presence was all she wanted. And we were there for her as much as we could be.
You know I realized… When I’m moving forward already, I fall back again because I’m so full of myself… I’m having self pity. I realized when I talk to Jayjay and cry the words that come out of my mouth is just full of myself. Focused on what I have lost and wallow on it. So one step forward wherein I noticed is effective is to think less of myself and more of others and more of how I can share Jesus to others. In a way it’s like talking to myself and helping myself when I help others.
( to be continued..)