(By Joanna Blanding, mother to Mateo)
"You'll probably bring that 'adventure' into his life."
This was a good friend's candid remark when I asked, "Do you think Mike will be ready for the kind of life I'm used to?"
We had been dating for over a year, and I was feeling "unfit" for the kind of life that Mike has been comfortable with.
He grew up in a nurturing, honoring, and highly functional home. His parents, as all my family and friends would attest, are two of the most lovable people you'd ever meet.
Mike has always been blessed in a way that allows him to thrive from a culture of love and prosperity.
Meanwhile, I felt that my life growing up was blessed in a much different way.
My parents were never married, which makes my sister and me illegitimate children. My mother was mostly the one who raised us, something that I often fall short of thanking her for. We had witnessed heavy fights from our parents throughout our lives until my father passed on less than two years ago.
The instability at home when I was younger caused me to respond in different ways. I had gone the way of over achievement especially in academics to prove to people that I can be someone in spite of being illegitimate. I've also taken a trajectory of helplessness by running away from home countless times but eventually coming back. I also had lots of attempts to cut myself to bleed to death.
We had a vacillating move up the steep socio-economic ladder—from the lower middle-class tier constantly eating instant noodles for breakfast, to middle-class taking taxis when budget allowed it, to upper-class with bodyguards sending my sister and I to the top two premier universities in the Philippines. And then somewhere in the capricious temper of our life, we moved up higher and suddenly dropped so low when our family lost its businesses and went bankrupt.
I'll spare you from the stories of our family being taken hostage, our house being robbed, and the same house and everything else in it drowning in floodwater, and many other dramas fit for the movie screen.
In my mind, between Michael and I, I would have to be the one lifting our emotions up if we were ever to face troubles in life when we get married.
Little did I know that it's not about the number of adversities in life that we've experienced that will take us through the challenges. Instead, it's the depth of faith we have regardless of the abundance of difficulties or the lack of them.
Mike has a very calm and positive attitude. He prays simple prayers like a child would to his doting father. He has always been sure about God's goodness in his life and in others'. He looks at facts but depends on the truth of the Bible when making decisions. He sees the possibilities of experiencing the impossibilities. He kicks worry on its face. He can enjoy his favorite peanut butter and jam sandwich over a good R&B soul playlist with feet up on the armrest of the couch, all while life throws him uncertainties.
I've seen this posture in countless of instances in our married life:
He can be shaken, for sure (Read his blog post about his thoughts on losing control of situations.). But he always chooses to not dwell in despair.
Sometimes, his strength overwhelms me. It takes me a bit of time to be grateful for his character. I envy his faith in God and his relentless love for me in times of adversity.
Once when we were both beside Mateo's bed at the ICU, he wanted me to tell him about my day. I got a little bit annoyed. "We've pretty much spent the day inside the same room," I brushed his question aside. He was too nice to still ask about me.
Another day, after Mateo had already been pronounced brain dead, he planned for us to record videos for Mateo's godparents to honor them. I was not in the mood. He persisted, encouraged me to say a few nice things about our friends, and carried on with such cheerfulness I couldn't find in my body at that point.
I've heard plenty of times that sickness in the family and losing a child often give marriages a hard hit. By the grace of God, through an abundance of prayers from family and friends for the protection of our marriage, our marriage is standing stronger than ever. I can confidently say that. It is one of the miracles we're experiencing through the life of Mateo.
Today, we celebrate our fifth wedding anniversary. We didn't make plans. And I'm totally fine with it. I'm actually enjoying just sitting here across Mike while André takes his nap. He's laying on the couch while reading from his kindle. Like I do many days lately since Mateo passed on, I watch Mike quietly as I talk to God, "Thank you for giving me a man whose whole life is anchored on You. Thank you for building his character. Thank you for giving him confidence that he's shared with me that we can relax in life while you fight our battles."
The #MightyMateo Legacy lives on.
Our little Mateo was highly involved in our efforts to fight online sex trafficking of children in the Philippines during his seven months of life. We believe that he'd love for us to continue this legacy.
#MightyMateo's parents document their journey through grief towards healing.