When I was six or seven, I remember telling you that I’d like to see you, Mama. My young mind thought that you would magically appear to children if they ask of it. I waited, actually. It made me pray to you more. It was that fascination that made me memorize the mysteries and pray the rosary whenever I could. But you never appeared.
How that desire to see began is actually a candid story to tell. It all began when, at an assembly for kids in my community, my favorite candy was up for grabs for anyone who could recite the mysteries of the rosary. With my eyes set on that bag of Tootsie Rolls, I declared: “Joyful, Sorrowful, Glorious!” The prize did not go to me. It went to an older kid who memorized all fifteen. Devastated, Mommy brought me to the parish bookstore and got me a copy of the Rosary book for kids. Thinking the question will be asked again in the assemblies to come, I memorized the fifteen and prayed it too. At the back part of that little Rosary book, there were three stories that I liked reading over and over: Guadalupe, Lourdes and then Fatima. Of the three, I liked the story of Fatima the most. The youngest of the three children who saw you was nine. I was seven. Was it possible that you would also show yourself to me in the secret of my room if I prayed harder and did good more? I tried doing those two. You never appeared.
Fast forward to the year 2011. I was 23. The desire to see you returned when the application for World Youth Day – Madrid was offered to me. Not knowing how I would be able to go there, I prayed again to you. You said, “I will see you in Madrid.” Was that the sign that I would finally see you? That the childhood desire of you appearing in front of me will finally be fulfilled? And so to Madrid I went. How I got there was another miracle story to tell. I remember stepping out of the plane, tearful with the idea that I was stepping on “The Land of Mary,” Spain. I was able to visit you in many churches. I was able to pray the rosary again like I did when I was a kid. And then to end that first week in our host diocese, came the surprise that was 17 years in the “waiting;” My feet stepped on the holy grounds of Fatima, Portugal. We, the delegation in Valdefuentes, were supposedly heading to Lourdes when there was a change in the plan. I was glad for that change, Mama. Will I see you here? I asked. Will you ever appear?
On that blessed day in Fatima, I had three wishes: 1. That God show me the life He wants me to lead, 2. That my Dad would land a job and 3. That I will finally see. I remember standing in front of where you appeared, feeling grateful, overwhelmed and greatly loved all at the same time. I knelt, prayed the rosary, and then finally granting my third wish, I was so sure you said:
You know I do not have to appear to you to let you know how much I love and care for you. You know I do not have to appear to you to make you feel that all your life, I have been a mother to you. You know I do not have to appear in order for you to understand that my mantle has always protected you from all harm. And when you told me before, you wanted to see me, I made sure this day will come. It took a while but it did. Know that you do not have to always see with your eyes. Know that I am always in your heart, beside you wherever you go, holding your hand when it hurts, rejoicing with you when you are happy. I am your mother and I will always be.
You never appeared in the way my childhood self wanted to but you did make sure that you have always been there for me. You made sure you made a statement when you did “appear.” In the many times I whispered the word, “Mama,” you always made sure I noticed.
Those two other wishes at Fatima? The second was granted right as I stepped out of the plane in Manila. Dad called me to say he finally got the job he wanted. The first? I am currently living it out now.
So thank you, Mama. Thank you for making me see that I am greatly loved by the Mother of the One I love the most. I will never run out of “Thank you’s” for the many times you held my hand and embraced me before I slept at night. I will never run out of “Thank you’s” for the many times that you explained to me how I should love your Son and others. I will never run out of “Thank you’s” for the many times that when I did not understand a thing about what God was doing in my life, your presence consoled me greatly.
As today unfolds, the 100th year of your appearance in Fatima, I pray that you “appear” to me in a special way. You know very well what I am going through at the moment. I think now more than ever again, I’d like the constant embrace of a mother too. But I know I do not really have to ask, Mama. You know very well who I am because I am your child. Without a word from me, you know.
I end this letter with the same hope that I will see you face to face. I still never gave up on the idea that you will appear one day. One day, I know that when I reach the final leg of my journey in this life, I will see you, finally and as always, leading me to the Lord. Your hand will stretch out to me, your lips will curve in the most beautiful way and you will say:
You did well, Lee-an. You did well.
I will finally be able to touch and embrace you and maybe in Heaven, the first thing that you will give as we walk to see the glory of your Son is a bag of good old Tootsie Rolls. We’ll munch that on the way together, laughing as we recall all the pains of the past that will be no more. We’ll share that bag of candy that led me to know you, that led me to love you and that led me to dedicate my life to your Son’s service.
And Mama, that would be, indeed, such a sweet end I will certainly wait for.