On November 8, 2013, the deadliest natural disaster in Philippines’ history, Super Typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan), stole the lives of over 6,000 mothers and fathers, grandmothers and grandfathers, brothers, sisters, and countless children.
More than 16 million people have been affected by this horrific tragedy, their world ripped apart with every loss—their hopes torn from tortured hearts.
Though we are scattered across the globe, we are connected to their anguish; we feel their sorrow as if it were our own.
Over thirty gifted composers hailing from sixteen countries have collaborated with twenty-eight authors to bring hope and support to those struggling through this catastrophe. For more information on the project, a master list of the composers and contributing authors, and how you can help, go to Composers for Relief: Supporting the Philippines.
I am honored to be included among those twenty-eight writers and chose Track 11, titled, The Best is Yet to Come, by Daniel Vulcano, featuring Fabiano Pereira. Enwrap yourself in the music while reading the literary work it inspired.
The Best is Yet to Come
The edges of the room become foggy as I watch my son pace a groove in the living room floor. “What’s taking them so long?” he mutters, pushing aside the curtains and squinting down the drive. He lights another cigarette, changes the damp cloth on my forehead and runs his fingers through my hair. “Hang in there, Mom—they’re on their way.” Although he musters a smile, I can feel his lips tremble when he kisses my cheek.
I love that he loves me so.
A flicker of light dances across the wall opposite the window—a metallic reflection of the mid-morning sun—and he stubs his half-smoked cig, leaving it to smolder in the overflowing ashtray that was nearly empty a few minutes ago. “Finally!” His relief is exhaled in a hazy grey cloud that lingers briefly before being pulled apart by the current of the ceiling fan.
From my recliner, I see him wave the ambulance through the gate while bracing the screen door open with a cast-iron stop. The rattle of the diesel engine gets louder and louder, clamoring for attention over the back-up warning beeps, and the exhaust reminds me of the Stuckey’s truck stop we stretched at one summer on a trip to North Carolina. I’ve always loved their Pecan Log Rolls.
Aromatic nuts and sugary nougat replace the noxious fumes, and for a moment, I’m back in the gentler days of my youth—back to the summer spent leaning against the mossy well in the neighboring pecan grove, reading Little Women and waiting for autumn to billow in.
The ambulance stops short of the porch stairs and all I can hear are doors opening and shutting, opening and shutting, opening and shutting, then harried voices and dull clangs of metal against wood. Seconds later, my son appears with some men and a gurney and speaks to me, but his voice sounds so far away, as if behind a thick glass wall. I see his lips move but can’t understand him. I can’t understand any of them. The foggy edges of the room grow closer and I begin to panic, until one of the men turns to me and clearly says, “It’s okay, Mary, don’t be afraid.” A calm fills the air and, although I don’t thoroughly comprehend the situation, I know everything will be all right.
“Mom…Mom…these men are taking you to the hospital, okay?” It’s my son again, his voice no longer muted. A tear rolls down his nose onto my cheek, he smiles another feeble smile, then brushes the drop away with his thumb and whispers he loves me. “I’ll be behind you in the car…don’t be afraid…I’ll be right there.”
And with that, I bump down our steps strapped to a gurney on my way to the hospital.
The ceiling lights are blinding, and the young man in the rear of the vehicle sticks needles and connects tubes that lead to various bags of fluids, yet here I am thirsting to death. My lips, parched and stiff, can barely form a word. “Thirsty,” I finally rasp. He keeps turning knobs and checking machines; I don’t think he heard me. Where is the one who told me not to fear? He’d give me water. I feel a hand on my shoulder—his calming presence—but am unable to see him. As he bends to offer a wet sponge, the lights silhouette his figure, creating a pleasing halo, and the cool liquid caresses my mouth.
“Water,” he offers. It’s not much, but it sates my thirst and plies my lips enough to give thanks before drifting off to sleep.
The dampness touches my mouth again and I open my eyes. This time, it’s my son giving me water.
“Hey, Mom…it’s good to see those beautiful blues again,” he says, dipping the sponge in a styrofoam cup and squeezing off the excess water. We’re in the emergency room now and there must be at least ten or more people around my bed, each performing their assigned duties. He brings it to my lips once more and says, “Open.” I open my mouth. “No, open your mouth.” Again, I open it. He looks at me, puzzled, then says, “Close your mouth.” I close it. He turns to the nurse. “Why is she closing her mouth when I say open and opening it when I say close?”
“It’s the ketoacidocis. If we could switch places, please,” she says, pulling him out of the way and shuffling him to the door, “the doctor needs to talk to you.” She jerks the privacy curtain around the bed, and through the gap between the curtain and the wall, I see my son speaking to a somber man in the hallway. After a few minutes, he nods, stops at the nurse’s station and signs a piece of paper, then goes to the black courtesy phone and makes a call. He leans against the wall and slumps slowly to the floor, resting his head on his knees and wrapping the corkscrew cord around his elbow. They give me another shot and I slip away, back to the summer in the pecan field.
It’s nighttime and I sit up in my bed. My son, who has evidently been reading me Little Women, is asleep in the chair with the book halfway open and propped against his chest. He knows it’s always been one of my favorites.
Another man waits in the corner of the room, and I recognize him as the one who assured me at the house, the one who gave me water in the ambulance. I rise from the bed and walk over.
“Is it really you? Are you the one I’ve been waiting for?”
He takes my hand and I look back at my son sitting by my bedside, rousing from his sleep by the drone of the flatline. One by one the staff rushes in.
“But…I can’t…my son. He needs me.”
“Don’t worry, he’ll be just fine. I’ll give you both the lives you’ve been yearning for—I promise. The best is yet to come.”
Have a blessed life and a Happy New Year.
ML Swift is a writer of Middle Grade, Young Adult, and Adult fiction, although he dabbles in many genres.
An Alzheimer’s caregiver for the past ten years, he has published several articles on The Alzheimer’s Reading Room, the largest online website catering to that community, and plans to write a novel about his experience in caregiving.
He resides in Florida with his dogs, Rameses and Buster, attempting to reclaim his side of the bed.