I will never forget what my lola recounted to my mother about her close brush with death: that it was literally, “hinahabol ang hininga.” (Literal translation: running after one’s breath.) As with most metaphors, I’ve always dismissed it as a trite expression, but after hearing lola’s story, the phrase had taken a profound meaning for me: I imagine, as I’ve never witnessed it firsthand, a dying person struggling to inhale that last breath, gasping for air that gets elusive for each second she exhales, until finally, it never comes. (My lola would later have another bout with breathing but lose; she succumbed to lymphoma in 1996.)
I was reminded of this story last night because I finally heard it. I was in a hospital, visiting a friend, when I heard the labored breathing and (what will now be) the haunting moaning of the old man in the next room. It went on for the next five minutes until he stopped—and then there were hysterical screams in the hallway from his daughter.