A tribute to my first wife,
Margot “Tingting” aka “Swato” Pelaez Linsangan Roberto
October 8, 1962 – January 5, 2013
It is the eve of January 4, 2020 and seven years ago, on January 4, 2013, I had no inkling that my first wife, Tingting, would die the next day. We had some visitors that day who lifted her spirits, prayed for her and gave her hope…and then we enjoyed dinner together at her hospital room. We were happy that we were not in the ICU anymore.
After dinner, she started coughing and there was blood in her spit. I alerted the nurse, who then alerted the doctors. And next thing I know, we were being moved back to the ICU again. I looked at Tingting as they put an oxygen mask on her, and she gave me the thumbs up sign. “Everything is going to be all right.”
Last night, I was at the wake and memorial service of a brother in Christ and friend, Marc Cabrera. He was a faithful servant at our local church, CCF Alabang, a devoted Dad to only son, Enzo, and very loving husband to co-worker at CCF, Carla.
Last December 23, 2019, he passed away with a smile on his face after a heart attack. The past six days before he died, his wife, Carla, said that Marc was so happy. March is already a joyful person to begin with, but he was just extra happy. He was smiling all the time (Carla posits that it must have been the almost six days of eating lechon paksiw and the “morning, noon and night” husband and wife labidoo time during the holidays that made Marc extra happy.)
He was rushed to the ER of Asian and they tried to resuscitate him, but Marc was already mercifully home with his saviour. He left quickly and happily. The way he had prayed and wanted to leave when it was his time.
King Solomon said in the book of Ecclesiastes: “A wise person thinks a lot about death, while a fool thinks only about having a good time” (Ecclesiastes 7:4). King David said in Psalm 90:12,
“So teach us to number our days,
That we may gain a heart of wisdom.”
That Psalm was my favorite verse when I was counting the days when my Swato—that’s what I called my first wife—was in the hospital. (I mean, aside from counting the mounting bills.)
Carla said in her eulogy last night that we should “love our spouse like there is no more tomorrow.” I looked at my new wife, Miriam, and smiled and did the Pinoy eyebrow thing to make her laugh. True, I thought. Because, one day there won’t be a tomorrow.
I write this piece to salute and honor Tingting, on the eve of her 7th death anniversary—and 7th year in Heaven (do they even count the years in Heaven?).
“Away from the body, but present in the Lord” is my wife and Marc, enjoying eternal pleasures forevermore in the presence of Jesus. That’s the only thing I can be sure of.
Why so sure?
Because that’s what Jesus promised. He said that God, the Father, loved the world SO MUCH, that he GAVE His only Son—Jesus. So that whosoever chooses to believe in Him, would not perish and go to Hell, but instead enjoy eternal life in Heaven. (That’s my paraphrase of John 3:16, look it up in your bible.)
My Tingting was a believer. And she believed fiercely and shared what she believed in. That Jesus is Lord and that anyone who cries out to Jesus would be saved. Tingting shared this with the nurses, the orderlies, the doctors, her visitors. That was her bilin to them. To believe. (Because the sin of the world, Jesus said, is “unbelief”. And the wages of sin is death. But the free gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus. See Romans 6:23).
One bilin that Tingting gave to her dearest BFF and sister in Christ, Carol Roa, was to make sure that when she was gone, to make sure that I married a Godly woman. A woman who loves God over anything and would love me even more that she could love me.
Tingting made Carol promise this at her bedside when I was away taking care of Joshua at home that day. We were approaching the 40th day of our time in the hospital, and Tingting must have realized by then that her death could be nearing.
So, as I mentioned, on the eve of January 4th, 2013, Tingting was coughing blood. We were back in the ICU that night. I regret allowing her to be intubated because after that we couldn’t talk. It was one more discomfort upon her. It broke my heart to see her struggle and want to communicate, but only in vain.
I would have wanted to spend our last hours together talking with her. But by the time they took off her tubes on the morning of January 5, her strength was sapped, her blood pressure dangerously low, and she could only whisper to me, “Uwi na tayo, Dong.” (Let’s go home, my love.)
And all I could say was, “Oo, uuwi na tayo. (Yes, we will go home.) And when you see Jesus, hold on to His hand and don’t let go. Go with Him. He will take you home…”
On January 5, 2013 at around 7pm, Tingting took her last breath as I held her in my arms. I imagined her holding hands with Jesus as she walked with him to Heaven. And there she had a new resurrected body—no more pain, no more regrets, no more worries, no more tears.
Actually, I envied her. There were times when I became depressed with intense grief and broken heartedness that I wanted to drive off my car off the skyway to join her…. But God assured me everytime grief attacked that He would turn my mourning into dancing.
And He did. In His time. Of course, He did. Our Father is a promise keeping Dad.
So, thank You Lord for everything. Thank You for the gift and privilege of loving and taking care of my beloved first wife, Tingting.
Thank you, Tingting, my Swato, for loving me the way you did. We had a great 17 years together. I am so grateful for that.
And now thank You, Lord, for answering her prayer and her “huling bilin” (last will) that I would marry a woman of God, who loves God more than anything else and would love me more than she could ever love me.