Mother and Son: A Story

           Let me tell you a story. A true story of a mother and her son , her only child. This happened  about twenty years ago. She  was  a Filipina who belonged to the lower stratum of society . Life was hard . As a single parent, she tried  to make both ends  meet  for  her son , her mother and herself. With her limited schooling,  she could only do menial jobs . And no matter how hard she tried, there was never enough  food on the table—let alone sufficient clothes on their backs  and vitamins which her baby needed.  Every time she imagined the future , she saw only a  bleak life for her son. Probably , she could send him up to elementary school in a public institution . But nothing more than that. And what life would he have with just an elementary school diploma  in his hand ? The same sorry life as hers ?

            She mustered  her courage and  made  a very difficult decision . She accepted a job overseas as a household helper. Kissing her son good- bye , she made a silent promise of escape from their wretched  existence .  The mother  left as a migrant worker  in the  mid-1970s .  ( Nowadays , she’d be called an OFW. )  That time , her son was just a baby , about a year old. She left him in the care of her mother. In Saudi Arabia, she worked her hand to the bones , doing household chores for almost 18 hours a day. She scrubbed floors , washed the laundry , brushed toilet bowls  and took care of her employers’ children . The poor woman  was always exhausted at the end of the day . At night , as she laid her worn out body on her bed , she would press  her baby’s picture close to her heart and  dream of the day when she could hold him again.

This drudgery  went on for a decade . She was not able to go home for a vacation during those ten years. Not even once .  She was  a  victim of illegal recruiters and  had no legal documents in Saudi Arabia. Thus , it was very easy  for her employers to abuse her   and deprive her of her rights.  

           Because there  was  no internet and cell phone at that time , she rarely got the chance to communicate with her mother and  her growing son . Anyway , at last , after a decade ,  someone offered  to help her  get out of Saudi Arabia . She  also got a job  offer   for a  caregiver in Israel.  Without hesitation , she accepted the job . So , from Saudi Arabia —she went straight to Israel  where she  worked  for about seven years .  There , she took care of elderly people —- fed them, gave them their medicines , bathed them  and  washed  their laundry soiled with urine and feces .  She did for them what their own children  could not do.

              As before , she sent almost  all of her   salary  to her family in the Philippines. For some reasons again , she was not able to go home for a vacation during those years. Most likely ,  she  had legal problems  again  and  did not know what to do . Or maybe , she  took advantage of every opportunity to earn money—thus , opting not to have a vacation . Maybe  she thought , the  faster she earned  money , the sooner she could go home  for good. 

            Meanwhile , her son had grown into a young man. Because the son was just a baby when the mother left , he had no memory of seeing her face to face . He only knew  his mother’s face through  old , faded pictures . While in Israel , the mother was able to communicate with her family from time to time , by phone. Eventually , they were able to exchange a few pictures— and this only intensified their hunger  and  hope  to see each other again.   This was the  late 1980s  and early 1990s.

                One day ,  this woman  was  in a bus on her way  to work . It turned out , terrorists  had planted  a  bomb in that bus. It exploded and  killed almost all of the passengers—including this Filipina. She died instantly . Her body sustained gaping wounds and her face — with the flesh severely torn —   had become unrecognizable . Her body was shipped back to the Philippines in a metal casket which  was welded to prevent  anyone from opening it .  Israeli and Filipino authorities decided it was best to seal the casket so that no one else could see  the mangled body  and face of the  poor woman . Outside Israel —the gore  , they correctly decided , should be  concealed  within  the four corners of the coffin.

            So , finally, after seventeen years, this Filipina  went back  home. At long last, mother  and son were  reunited , with the mother in a sealed casket. All those years , the young man longed to see  and to touch  the face of the  woman who brought him to this world.  But now , he could only touch  the cold metal coffin that hid her cadaver .  And all those years in foreign lands  , the mother cried herself to sleep, yearning to cuddle her son . But up the  end of her life , she was denied that chance.

               Could   life  be crueler than this ?  

          Maybe , somewhere … in a  world better than this   …in another lifetime not decayed by violence  ,   they would meet again . The mother  singing  a lullaby and  the son falling  asleep in her arms…

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