Nobody said it was easy.

“I’m home!”

The voice of Paul resonates all over the house – but he got no response. It was an unusual scenario for him. Whenever he’s back from a whole week of work out of town, a joyous reply normally comes roaring back at him.

“Welcome back!”

Slowly, he entered the house through the unlocked door and gently placed his bags to the floor.

“Hello? Mom? Dad? Anyone?”

Still, no answer. He walked around the kitchen and the bathroom and still no sign of life. When he got upstairs towards his bedroom, he caught a glimpse of his mom fixing his bed for him.

“Mom? Why is no one else at home? And why were you not responding to me earlier?” asked Paul.

“Oh! You’re already here! I wasn’t done cleaning up here – maybe I was a bit over-concentrating.” replied his mom.

“Or tired, you say! You look pale today. Did something happen?” asked by Paul worryingly.

“No, not at all. You’re father has an errand to attend to, as well as your brothers.”

Paul responds with a deep sigh and helps her on the task at hand, “Mom, I think I’ve always told you I can do this. You don’t need to worry yourself over a trivial task like this one. Why don’t you just lie on your bed and take a rest.”

“But you still haven’t eaten yet! Let me go and prepare you some food at least.”

“Well, now that you mention it, I’m actually looking forward to it now!”

And just like that, Paul’s mom felt some relief. Paul continued to clean up the dust in his room as it was untouched for the whole week. His job required him to be out of town so the only time he gets to go home is during weekends.

He doesn’t usually clean up his room though. In the past, he always used to go home with everything looking spick-and-span. However, a couple of months ago, his mother got terribly sick and was advised to take lots of rest from thereon. With that in mind, Paul tries his very best to go home early during weekends just to tell his mom to stop doing the chores and just rest.

The past week for Paul hasn’t been very easy though – there were lots of work to do in the office coupled with a host of things that just wouldn’t leave his mind. He decided to lie down in bed and think all about it, but fatigue got the better of him as he dozes off.

***

Paul suddenly opens his eyes after realizing he had fallen asleep and immediately went downstairs to check on everyone. He checks on his clock and he estimated that he had dozed off for about thirty minutes.

As he gets to the dining area, a breakfast meal has been prepared but again, no one was in sight. Everything was overcooked though and the rice looked like it had been poured over by water, so he just set it aside and took another cup straight from the rice cooker.

On the table, he also saw a necklace he has not seen in ages. It was given to him by his mother when he was still young and would only let him wear it during special occasions. After the season’s over, his mother would get it back and only give it to him during the
next occasion. He always wondered why she wouldn’t give it to him right away and the response he’s always been getting was “Soon, when you’re old enough to handle yourself.” It eventually stopped one Christmas when neither of them remembered about it several years ago, so it was a pleasant surprise for Paul to see it.

“How nostalgic.” His teary eyes left him wanting more of the past memories, but he decided against it. “Now’s not that time for that.”

After enjoying half of the meal, he was just about to get a glass of water when someone knocked at the door.

“Hello? Is there anyone here? Paul, could that be you?”

As Paul opens the door, he is welcomed by their neighbor, Susy. “Hey, what’s the matter? And what’s with that face? You look like you’ve seen a ghost. It’s just me! Though no one else is around.”

“Oh… I was going to ask about… That’s strange.”

“Strange? What is?”

“I’m not really sure… You might want to check it out yourself. Your Dad and your brothers are in the local hospital. They might be waiting for you.”

“For me? And who’s in the…”

Before he can even finish the question, he stopped for a second like a thrown stone hitting a wall, and immediately grabbed his bag, closed the door, and ran as fast as he could. There is nothing else going on his mind right now aside from the words “Oh God, no.”

***

He enters the emergency room after taking the advice from a nurse, although it made him even more confused than ever.

“Yes, there was a patient of that name that was admitted to the emergency room about 4 hours ago.”

Before he could even react to anything, Paul and his brothers’ eyes met and they immediately ran towards him and hugged him tightly while crying. Paul was still at a loss for words. He just stood there refusing to accept what seems likely the cause of all this. It was not meant to be that way.

His younger brother, Keane, looked at him after a few seconds and noticed his brother just staring at the wall, expressionless. He and his youngest brother held both Paul’s hands and walked him towards the corner of the room. His mother was lying on the bed with her eyes closed as if sleeping deeply – except that only her head can be seen as the rest was under a white blanket.

“No… No.. No.. No!!”

Paul’s face remained blank, but the tears started flowing out of his eyes non-stop. His father, who was just beside his mother, stood up and hugged him.

“It was God’s will. You know how she’s been in pain for the longest time. God decided it’s time to give her some rest.”

Paul hugged his father back very tightly, then repeatedly punched his father’s back as he weeps.

“He was just with me earlier.. How could this happen?”

His father looked him in the eyes and asked “Did you really?”

“She was preparing my bed and my breakfast not more than an hour ago.”

His father wiped away his tears and tried to smile again as he sits back on the bedside of his wife.

“You see, not long ago, your mother… Before she breathed her last, she said farewell to all of us and that there’s one more thing she needed to do… Because of disbelief, I couldn’t even ask what that was. I just told her to stop saying those things before we realized she wasn’t responding to us anymore.”

After hearing this, Paul kissed her mother’s forehead and prayed to God to bring her in His arms. He then hugged his father and brothers as they all cry in pain and disbelief while the pendant on his necklace that he just wore shines brightly, reflecting the morning sunshine.

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