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.
68 thoughts on “The Best is Yet to Come”
With each new entry I am astounded! This was lovely, and sad, but so well told it’s uplifting and beautiful! Thank you!
Thanks, Yolanda. The music provoked the memories of loss, but more so the hope and promise of more to come. I appreciate your coming by.
How beautiful, Michael. Such a quiet strength here in your story and the promise of a new beginning, even in death. Your mother would be proud of this.
Thanks for that, River. I think so, too.
Beautifully written. That must have been quite cathartic. Hugs and here’s to a better New Year.
Each day is difficult, but working through the pain is indeed cathartic. I appreciate your taking the time to read, Jenny. Have a happy new year.
Experiencing something similar right now…you had everything perfect. A most beautiful piece that I’m privileged to have read. You brought me to tears, but that’s good!
I’m glad you found some truth and beauty in the piece, Lisa, and sorry that you’re also having to go through a time like this. But times like this are indeed a fact of life. I hope it also brings you comfort. Take care.
You’re such a good writer.
Thanks, Melissa. And did you notice that I correctly used “there, they’re, and their” in the SAME sentence? Not everyone can do that, you know. 😉 Have a great new year. Thanks for your friendship these last 365+ days. It’s meant the world.
Such a moving story, and beautifully written.
Thanks, Annalisa. Something tells me that 2014 is the Year of Sadie. 😉 Have a good one.
A beautiful tale Michael. Thank you.
No, thank you, Nick. I appreciate your coming by and am anxious to read your contribution, as well as all the others. Have a blessed new year.
That’s beautiful. Wow.
Thanks, Rebecca, and have a most blessed new year!
What a wonderful passage, I could feel your love dripping off every word. If your goal was to bring me to tears, then your mission is accomplished.
Happy New Year!
That was my mission, Rob, and I chose to accept it. May you and yours have a very blessed and prosperous new year. Thanks for coming by. 😉
A heartbreaking tale of love and loss–a beautiful reflection of the music. Love the promise of adventure beyond the life we leave behind. You’re incorporation of the lyrics is flawless and the message in your words echoes that of the notes.
Thank you, Samantha, for the honor of contributing to this project. I’ll have to admit, I shed more than one tear when coming up with it. The music inspired a sense that there truly is more beyond what we know…that the best is yet to come. Thanks again, for your words, and for this opportunity.
You are gifted, my friend. A beautiful way to share your journey.
Thanks, Julie. It was a sliver of a moment captured in words. I really haven’t been able to write anything about the experience before now, and I’ve tried. It’s only now that I can look at it enough to convey the emotions through story.
This is amazing. Beautiful.
I appreciate that, Renae. Have a blessed new year!
Articulate, thoughtful and the way the music blends with your words, an astounding achievement. Thank you, my friend.
Welcome to 2014 and a new hope.
With each new day, new hope springs eternal. Thanks for coming by, and for your friendship this year. Have a blessed 2014.
Somehow, this is such a peaceful story, even though there’s loss. Haunting.
Thanks, Shannon. There is a peaceful resolution, isn’t there? A feeling that all is well…or the best is yet to come. I appreciate your visit.
Really beautiful, Michael. This left a lump in my throat.
There’s loss and sadness, but the feeling of hope shines through… and I do believe the best is yet to come…
Thank you for sharing this moving story.
I wish you a peaceful and prosperous new year…. 🙂
In the end, I wanted to show the hope of a world and life, albeit in different form, beyond this one. That the best is indeed yet to come. A life of light and peace.
Many blessings to you, as well.
Mike, you are a thoroughly good soul and it is my privilege to know you. Ready for 2014 and inspired by artists like the composers you have written about, and yourself. I stand by you in believing that the best is most certainly yet to come.
Suze, it has been a pleasure and privilege to get to know you the latter part of this year. I wish you the most success in the near and distant future, as I will be looking to you for continued inspiration.
And if you do well, I’ll be more inspired, and in turn, do well myself. Or at least that’s the logic I’m using. 😉
Wow. You brought tears to my eyes. Definitely one of the most beautiful short stories I read in a long time. 🙂
Oh Misha, thank you for that compliment. And thank you for crying! Two birds…
It has been a pleasure getting to know you and read your journey this year. I’ve been so happy for your success and know more is in store. Blessings.
Very beautiful. I am comforted by the idea of being greeted as you cross over; makes it easier to say good bye knowing they are not alone.
Amen to that, Elizabeth. Knowing that there is family, friends, comfort and light…makes it so much easier and gives hope to those left behind.
May you and yours have a blessed new year.
This is so poignant.
This has been a year of loss for me, and I have to believe, as this story does, that the Best is yet to come.
Wish you a very happy new year ahead.
Honestly, Damyanti, that’s the only way I can get through it. Reading a recommended book right now as well…just cracking into it, so I can’t say yea or nay, but from a highly regarded friend, so I expect a little more insight and acceptance.
I’ve gone through Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression. I’m looking for Acceptance still.
Weird how human grief can be so universally analyzed. I used to think I was so unique.
I have lost people before, and looking back on it, went through some variation of the above stages. I’m just glad I’ve got my writing to keep me going from one day to another.
I have no words to console you, because I don’t believe words can really offer consolation. I can just send a hug across the seas and hope you’re given healing and acceptance soon.
Thank you for your kindness…and yes, the words did offer some consolation—a unity, of sorts, in the experience of grief.
For awhile, I couldn’t—no, didn’t want to—be around people. I was inconsolable, and didn’t want to be gracious and nice to those who offered it, and I know it’s only human nature to do so. I had to isolate. It was a little easier to come back online, but I’m still not back in full force. I’m just now making cameos in real life. 😉
But…I’m writing through it, and coming up with some pretty deep stuff that otherwise might not have been tapped.
Then there are the days when I thought I was over it, only to be bombarded with sadness again. But it’s gotten better…actually because of the writing and music (music is important to me and provides much insight and rhythm to my creativity).
Sorry to talk your head off. Good conversation. 🙂
I can identify. I went for three haircuts in a week, chopped off almost all my hair in the end. Went through complete radio silence for some time. Lost touch with friends.
We’re lucky if we have music and writing, others have much less to help them cope.
And talk as much as you like– I find talking to online friends soothing because I carry no baggage to the conversation other than the things we discuss, nor do they.
I have a blog friend I still connect with after 8 years. We’re not the same age group, nationality, or gender, but there is friendship– and that’s enough.
What’s with grief and hair? I’ve grown my beard back. 🙂
I had a good online friend. Same thing: different gender, large age difference, different state, but there was a wonderful bond, and we were friends for over ten years, meeting IRL once for a week visit. She passed away earlier in the year, like in late January, then my Mom in June. And my twin sister diagnosed with breast cancer two months later (she lives with me since her divorce). We’re currently getting her through treatments. It’s been a doozy of a year. The best is yet to come. It’s got to be! Goodness knows, I don’t want to weather any worse.
I think we want to change the face in the mirror after we’ve gone through such grief.
So sorry to hear of your losses.
April was a hard month, I lost my SIL and MIL in the same month.
I wish your sister a speedy recovery, I lost my SIL to cancer, too.
I can agree about 2013 being a year the like of which I don’t want to see again.
We’ll have a much better 2014, we will. Look forward to keeping in touch with you and your blog.
Swiiiiiift… dude, you’re killing me. Killing. This was so beautiful. Truly—a gift of words here, sir. You should be proud of this piece—such emotion–I love haunting pieces like this. Thanks so much for your time and effort. You have a wonderful soul, friend. 🙂
Killing me softly with his words, killing me softly, with his words…Sing it Roberta! Thanks for swinging by and the kind words, Morgana. We wonderful souls have to stick together. 😉
This is what writing looks and feels like when it comes from the heart. May 2014 be the year of health, healing, and peace. Hugs to you my friend. ❤
And hugs back to mon ami. It’s been a pleasure getting to know you better this year, Elise, and may the same well-wishes extend your way for 2014.
This is wonderful work. Serious stuff handled with both realism and delicacy. You hit all of the right emotional buttons and end with a lift. Very nice.
Thank you, Jeff, and I must say how impressed I was with your piece as well. Truly a delight. Thanks for coming by to take a read.
Oh Michael. I couldn’t read through the tears…this is so close to what I went through before I lost my Mom.
Your writing is so beautiful. I felt the pain in the minute details.
Thanks so much for coming by and reading my “story”.
Honored to be here.
Thank you, Vidya. I admit, if you’ve gone through this loss, the story is probably more relevant and touching, but any loss is difficult. It’s comforting to hope for a different and better existence beyond this realm. Thank you so much for coming by.
Reblogged this on LARA/TRACE (author) and commented:
Song and story are married so beautifully here (part of a program COMPOSERS FOR RELIEF: Supporting the Phillipines) by ML Swift
Amazing, beautiful story Mike, although it doesn’t surprise me, I’ve always thought you’d be an incredibly talented writer.
Aw, shucks, Charmaine. You flatter me, but I appreciate every word of it. 🙂 I’m glad you came by.
Over at fb I’ve already told you I thoroughly loved your story, but hadn’t gotten around to telling you here. Now I have.
Thanks, Lee. I appreciate you making the trip to do so…been in and out of FB and haven’t seen that yet. Good to see you.
Hi Michael, I am just today seeing this and it has left me in gentle tears this morning. You captured a beautiful journey from here to there. As you know, I lost my Mom 3 years ago and it still feels like yesterday sometimes. I love this great collaboration for a wonderful cause! Just lovely. 🙂
Thanks, Susie, for your touching words and kind heart. Although this is slightly fictional, as my own mother was in the hospital for a couple of weeks, many of the details are drawn from life. Life, however, was much more heart-breaking.
Your story is so touching, Mike. I loved it so much I read it several times. I certainly feel your heart there and hope too. Dragon hugs, my friend. Nice job.
Al, thanks for coming by! I’ve missed you over the holidays. Your story was also a wonderful addition to this cause. Dragon hugs right back to you!
AMAZING TALENT! I knew it the first time I laid eyes on your work in 2012 at your other blog (the Fishbowl/Alzeheimer one). Whenever I read you I’m always delivered right into the midst of the story; carried there by well-written prose, excellent dialogue, and a myriad of emotions. I LOVE YOUR WRITING! You are a rare talent the world is waiting for, so what are you waiting for….. GET PUBLISHED, or SELF-PUBLISH. You, my friend, are more than talented, you’re gifted. Use that gift!
This is an awesome short story. If I were a publisher, I’d publish you right on the spot.
Hope you had a lovely New Year. I’ll be back later to read your current post.
I’m framing this comment. 😀
You flatter and humble me, DFG. Oh…and my current post is a big ol’ can of worms. Proceed with caution.
Beautifully written, Michael. And I liked seeing this other side of your writing.
Ugh…a battle is waging within. I write what’s put on my head and heart, the way it’s dictated. I know that sounds…I dunno, crazy…but it’s little scenes, with dialogue and everything. And I write it down. I know it’s the subconscious, and perhaps I should decide on a style, but for the time, I just get the story out the only way I know how—the way it wants to be told. That sounds so cliche, but that’s how it is. My writing goes from one extreme to the other! 🙂
Absolutely embraces me down through the depth of my soul. I love you my brother.
Well, isn’t this a unexpected surprise! Welcome to my blog, Sis.
Did you read it while listening to the music? I tried to keep the pace the same, the energy, the feelings it conjured—the climactic ending.
You know as well as I, the reality of losing Mom was ten times longer and a hundred times worse. My mind still can’t go back and rehash the details of those last few weeks. But this was a start.
Things will never be the same. They will forever be changed, but I have to believe that the best is indeed yet to come.
I love you. And Mom did, too. Thanks for checking out my place.