A month ago, November 30, I updated my blog about the The Sunshine Award that a fellow blogger bestowed me. I promised to update my post regarding it SOON…but SOON lingered.
I never had a chance to update again since then due to busyness and unexpected circumstances. I was dying to share my musings while my late sister was on the valley of the shadow of death. Succumbed. Then, I was sustained with the introspections of the grand resurrection morn. Raptured epiphanies.
Yesterday, at past noon, Weanne Myrrh Estrada, a dear friend, sent an invitation for me to give a testimony for Sabbath School special feature at Philippine International Church (Last Saturday of 2012). I didn’t hesitate. How can I say no to her? I can’t say no to Jesus in the first place! It’s truly a great privilege to share the greatness of our God. Here’s the manuscript, I see to it I have something to look in case I get a mental block, especially when butterflies in the tummy attack. Grateful, instead of 7 minutes, I was allotted 10 minutes (I’m loquacious and I know it!).
“Oooouuucchhh! GOD did You SPANK Me?”
*We pray for blessings
We pray for peace
Comfort for family, protection while we sleep
We pray for healing, for prosperity
We pray for Your mighty hand to ease our suffering
All the while, You hear each spoken need
Yet love us way too much to give us lesser things.
Happy Sabbath beloved brethren! Truly God’s love is beyond our mind can fathom, and way too much to give us lesser things! My last rendition of Blessings by Laura Story was at AUP clinic during the closing scenes of my late sister, Leah. Me & my friend, Melissa Jacinto, sang it also at the ICU of Southern Luzon Hospital and Medical Center on Nov. 30 when she was admitted there for the 2nd time this year.
For those who were here at PIC the other Sabbath, Dec.15, you might have noticed that the Mother’s Room wasn’t used for the children’s program, but rather, for ate Leah’s wake. Our eldest sister had her deepest slumber, for she rested in peace in the loving arms of Jesus’ on Wednesday, 12.12.12. She expired at 9:56 AM in AUP clinic.
12.12.12 was the most remarkable day for our family because it was supposed to be a birthday celebration of my brother, Ivan Franz Oliver, who’s next to me; and on the 15th, another birthday of JR, my brother who stopped schooling here in AUP to be ate’s full-time care giver. God has endowed another year of life to my brothers, and endowed rest to my bed-ridden sister who suffered from a severe neurological disorder for 1 year & 8 mos. But despite of the mourning, we celebrated in a special way, for we considered it a blessing; for ate finally rested with assurance of that Blessed Hope – Jesus’ second coming and the grand resurrection morn. Death of a loved one might not have been a nice birthday gift, yet King Solomon’s utterance “There’s a time for everything, a time to be born and a time to die” had marked 12.12.12. — a package of surprise!
I can attest that ate Leah’s in the Lord when she died. On Monday afternoon she had series of seizures as if she was stricken with cerebral palsy. I was horrified witnessing her in that pitiful condition, but I trusted God that He will restore my sister. He did! But it was beyond what I expected, she regained her consciousness in the afternoon and for 2-3 hours, me and my youngest sister Blessie sang and prayed with her. When we were left only two of us, I sang our favorite Scripture songs, hymns and special songs she loved to sing tho’ it had been difficult for her since she had tracheotomy. While singing, she stopped for a while and smiled sweetly. I thought she’ll have another seizure, but without voice, she uttered: “MALI YUNG LYRICS MO!” (your lyrics are wrong) and we laughed together. I was so tensed I wasn’t bothered with some wrong lyrics, but that manifested the clearness of her mind – she noticed them. Then we had a long commitment prayer, only to realize, she’ll have comatose the following day; then have her permanent sleep on Wednesday morning.
Observing her and her monitor during her last moments caused me unexplainable pain, but God has been so faithful to His promise of peace and comfort of the Holy Spirit. He really prepared us for her passing away. One year and eight months ago, with similar scene, I was begging God not to allow ate Leah to die yet at Manila Adventist Medical Center (former Manila Sanitarium)’s ICU. I sought for His will to be done, but I just can’t afford to lose another sibling. On March 30, 2011, my younger brother, Ben Jathniel (BJ) suddenly died due to typhoid encephalitis, after my graduation. He was hospitalized simultaneously with my ate on mid March. He’s in our province, Oriental Mindoro while we’re here in Cavite. I never had a chance to see and to take care of him while he’s still sick.
That incident contributed to ate Leah’s severity; after his burial, she had three successive hospitalizations. Her attending neurologist gave her a verdict – “two weeks to live” on last week of April 2011 at MAMC when she was admitted there for 8 days in ICU. From Syringomyelia and Myelomalacia (Thoracic spine tumor formations – Calamba Medical Center MRI), her case progressed to Chronic Inflammatory Demyelinating Polynueropathy (CIDP) with cervical spine tumor (C2-C7). The doctor seemed blatant when he told us, her case was severe and rare. But God sustained her, she miraculously survived at Philippine General Hospital when she was transferred there. She stayed for almost a month, but with different findings — Myelopathy with metastasis in cervical spine and cranial tumor (pones area): astrocytoma vs. ependynoma. The neurosurgeons wanted her to undergo brain surgery to get specimen and to further study, since the MRI scans‘ impressions weren’t enough (cervical & cranial MRI: St. Luke’s Hospital-Global City, Cardinal Santos Hospital, PGH-FMAB). We opted not to have surgery because it’s crucial, ate was discharged, then she stayed in a wellness home for two months with an advanced reverse cancer program and thru God’s grace, recuperated. (Kindly watch this video Leah with Bro. James *not included in the testimony)
At ate’s ICU bed in MAMC, she told me that when she recovers, she wanted to write a book with the title: “Oooouuuchhh! GOD did You spank Me?!”. It isn’t about doubting God for the severe crucible He allowed our family to experience, but about God’s Fatherly LOVE: “FOR WHOM THE LORD LOVETH, HE CORECTETH” (Hebrews 12:6). He doesn’t spare His rod to the child He loves (Proverbs 13:24). It’s also about an emphasis that God doesn’t give trials for punishment. Like HIS SERVANT JOB, it’s not just about Job’s testing of faith, it’s about God’s faith to Job that he could triumph despite the pain and tears — only thru His grace. It’s comforting that since the Sabbath of ate’s death til last Sabbath, providentially, the topic of the speakers here were about JOB’s experience. The WOUNDED HEALER really provided a balm to our bereaved souls.
Ate Leah didn’t fully recover, she died due to complications: bronchopneumonia and sepsis. For 30 years, she’s been a living testimony of God’s grace; she lived to serve our family and others, even stricken with paralysis and excruciating pain. I believe, God allowed us to pass thru the fiery flames of trials not to hurt us, but only for the dross in us to be consumed. GOD allowed things to happen for a purpose, and now, we can see a bigger and clearer picture, thru the eyes of faith. “The Lord gave, the Lord has taken away, blessed be the name of the LORD!” (Job 1:21)
Our family is more than grateful for the support, encouragements and prayers of PIC family and numerous people all over the country and abroad – relatives, friends and even acquaintances who were there since ate’s first confinement. God provided everything, in all aspects. It had been easier to cope up with your presence and persevering prayers. Pastor Parulan, Pastor Mangiliman and Pastor Regio, were there even at the death bed of ate. We were comforted. They represented the big family of Seventh-day Adventist believers who were there during our bereavement. It would take a day or more to acknowledge the people who helped our family. May the Lord recompense thy work and reward be given thee!
2012 is about to have its dusk and 2013 is about to have its dawn. I envision another year closer to Jesus’ second coming with faith-strengthening experiences, with more gratitude and praises to our God who is too wise to be mistaken and too good to be unkind. Let me share one of my favorite quotations from EGW’s Life Sketches from the life of Paul, p.300: “The triumph of Christian’s faith is to suffer and be strong; to submit and thus conquer; to be killed all day long and yet to live; to bear the cross and thus win the crown of immortal glory.”
*’Cause what if Your blessings come through raindrops
What if Your healing comes through tears
And what if a thousand sleepless nights
Are what it takes to know You’re near
What if my greatest disappointments
Or the aching of this life
Is the revealing of a greater thirst this world can’t satisfy
And what if trials of this life
The rain, the storms, the hardest nights
Are Your mercies in disguise.
*excerpt from Laura Story’s “Blessings”. I sang the first stanza to begin, and the last chorus to end my testimony. This has been one of our favorite songs.
Kindly view the link of Jimmy Tagala’s Violin Rendition on Special Tribute after the necrological service on Dec. 15, 2012. Jimmy’s recent concert — Classical Champs
Our family is ever grateful for the blessings in countless ways: prayers, moral and financial support from loving relatives, church family, friends and concerned individuals. *there was a list of specific people in the acknowledgement, but I took the list on the second week of Feb., 2013 for privacy sake (they already read the post).
Note: Photo courtesy of Rovel Pablo (ate’s pic), Dempsy Fornal & Jimmy Tagala Jr. *photos and videos were not shown as part of the testimony at PIC.
© LAF 2012