It is Sunday and I am glad I am in church again with my wife waiting for the service to start. It has been an exhausting week, mentally and physically. My brother and his family are in town and I have been showing them around. At the same time, I have been constantly monitoring my sister in Naga who is seriously ill and confined in a hospital. To add to that, my vacuum cleaner broke down and needs replacement, the car’s NY emissions inspection is due, the cat’s insulin stock has run out--these and many other cares on top of one another.
As the saying goes, “when it rains it pours.” Because of this, I have learned through trial and error a bit of the art of multi tasking in dealing with both expected and unexpected events that happen at the same time. After all, experience has taught us that life goes on however hard “the rain poured.”
One goes through life with good and bad experiences. At one point in my life I was faced with serious problems of my own and in desperation I sought my father’s advice. Being an old soldier, his advice was simple and laconic: “Every man should have his own Bataan.” In life, I have always walked under the guidance of these words.
I believe that in today’s youth, every man should have his own “Bataan.” You may face physical, family, spiritual, or financial problems, but in this “battlefield,” overcoming serious issues with the skill and dignity of a soldier does make us better persons.
I have reaped the rewards of this mindset and a taste of what my father meant when I was young. And then it happened again in my later years, exactly five years ago today. The lessons I learned from that experience are priceless.
It all started when I’d suddenly be feeling tired every time I’d walk a couple of blocks. The discomfort would start in my chest then radiate to my shoulders and neck. I tried to convince myself it was nothing. The flu was in the air at the time, but when the symptom did not go away, I decided to see my primary care doctor to make sure it was nothing serious. He took my EKG.
“You better see a cardiologist immediately, Manny.”
It took me five days to decide whether or not to take the advice seriously. On hindsight, had I delayed another day, according to my doctor, it would have cost me my life.
The cardiologist took my EKG again. Before I could understand what exactly was the matter with me, I found myself at the hospital Emergency Room.
I was straight off examined for arterial and heart blockages. I braced up for a stent, but when the results came out, the recommendation was for triple bypass immediately. I had about 9 blockages!
The dizzying activity of hospital surroundings confused me. Everything was happening so fast, and the next thing I knew I ended up in a hospital bed in a spruce and sterile room which served as ICU room for heart patients undergoing the surgery.
In the meantime, former bosom classmates like Jun Quijano with his son Sam (my godson) and Nick Miraflores and other friends and close relatives quickly came on short notice. Bless their souls. Still my mind was preoccupied with so many “why’s.”
“What’s the worst scenario, doctor?”
“I do this every day, Manny. Don’t worry.”
Just then he uttered the words that put my anxieties to rest: “God is with us.”
That was a big deal for me. I did not expect that from him. A man of science who is also a man of God would be performing my surgery. I was in good hands. But the anxiety would not completely go away.
Just then came another message from one of my brothers telling me to hold onto Jesus’ hand.
“Jesus, please hold my hand,” I kept repeating, as the hospital crew wheeled me noisily through the corridor, bringing me to the pre-operating room. There stood my wife, my son, and my wife’s cousin who was also a doctor in the same hospital.
In a few moments, the hospital attendants transferred me to the operating room. At this instant I was prepared for anything. I was all by myself now. No family, no friends and relatives allowed in here.
“Jesus, please hold my hand,” I kept whispering before the last minute preparations for surgery. Suddenly, I felt a strange and soothing warmth rise over me which strangely brought a smile on my face.
“It’s great to see you in good spirits.” The operating surgeon greeted me at the operating room.
The surgical assistants tried to slide me onto the operating table, but I told them I can get down my bed and transfer to the operating table by myself. They were all smiling nicely, as I did this. But at the same time I kept whispering Jesus, please hold my hand.
I am not a religious person but believe me at very this moment I felt His Presence and His grip of assurance. Jesus did indeed hold my hand! and the peace I felt was so overpowering that I felt right there and then without the shadow of a doubt that I was going to be fine, that there was nothing to fear, for Jesus Himself was standing there right beside me holding my hand.
The next thing I knew I was awake and signaling my nurse to take away the uncomfortable device in my mouth which turned out to be a ventilator used in the procedure. The surgery was a success!
There are many things I learned from that experience. Physically, with regards to health, I learned my lesson now to avoid foods damaging to the body. I also learned so much about the preciousness of life I never realized before, and the value of good friends and relatives who sincerely care.
I repeat: I am no religious person, but Jesus was truly there holding my hand at the time when I needed Him the most. I did not imagine it. His Presence was as real and as tangible as this hand I see before me. As long as I live I will never tire telling this to everyone who asks how it was to be under the knife. In fact, when the husband of my wife’s first cousin was going to undergo the same procedure, he called me up for advice. I simply told him to ask Jesus to hold his hand and everything will be all right. And it was.
The congregation rises, as the service starts. The hum of the church organ and the crescendo of voices overwhelm me with the love of God, so real and so assuring, inviting me to join my wife and everyone else in church in singing “Great is Thy Faithfulness.”