As Expo Mom celebrates its tenth year, the longest running event of its kind pays tribute to #TeamMoms that have served as a lifeline for mothers all over the Philippines. Meet Feliz Lucas, a mom who found comfort and solace in her many communities as she went through a most heartbreaking challenge. The world is certainly what we make of it. Life can throw us a bunch of curve balls, but what's important is how we address the unexpected. From sadness, there could be joy. From anger, there could be forgiveness. From pain, there could be redemption. From death, there could spring forth life.
When Feliz Lucas shared her daughter Caitie's courageous battle with a rare form of leukemia, she did not expect her family's struggle to resonate with so many people. From friends and family to colleagues, acquaintances, and veritable strangers, Feliz was surprised at the outpouring of encouraging words and solid assistance. She says, “I never thought that people from work or people you don't meet as often or people you only know by name could become a created community because there was a tragedy that came.”
One of the first groups to come to her family's assistance was members of her church. More than helping raise funds for their daughter's treatment, they visited them physically and supported them emotionally. Almost instantly, the Lucas family gained honorary aunts and uncles, lolos and lolas, and brothers and sisters as they were wholeheartedly embraced by the community.
One other group which went out of their way to make Feliz and her family feel loved was Newlyweds@Work, the N@Wies, an online community providing assistance to married couples, wives most specially.
She says, “I'm not super active but once in a while I would comment. When they helped us, I was surprised. They would visit. If we needed milk, they would bring milk. They would send in toys. If they couldn't be with us, they would look for someone near us to help us or send things for us.”
When Caitie needed colostrum, communities responded immediately. There was the Breastfeeding Pinays and a group of moms who shared the same pediatrician as Feliz.
“My pediatrician just informed them, 'Oh, I have this patient who is still undiagnosed.' So what happened was all the moms of her patients started reaching out and helping. I don't know these moms and some of them just gave birth. But for five days, they would go to us, pump fresh milk, and give it to us fresh so that our daughter could drink the milk because we were looking for the colostrum.”
Even today, Feliz still marvels at how people instantaneously rallied together to work towards one purpose. She says, “There's just so much hope. I can't believe that a tragedy could show us the potential of people to help and to become a community.”
Apart from her circle of friends, Feliz was overwhelmed by the love and support of the families and communities around them. She says, “I wouldn't say it was #TeamMom, I would say it was a family thing – a #TeamFamily. Our kids grew up together, they're more or less the same age. My husband, the husbands are with him. Their wives, the moms, are with me. I think instead of a #TeamMom, it was a #TeamFamily.”
Taking stock Caitie eventually joined Her Creator last March 2016. While cynics may say that all the efforts of all those people seemed useless and futile, Feliz and her husband Jayjay prefer to think otherwise. As a matter of fact, they feel utterly blessed to have experienced such an outpouring of love.
“Yes, I am blessed and I do not really feel worthy of it. I don't feel worthy that so many people helped us,” she says.
“Honestly, sobra kong nahihiya kasi parang 'Shucks, they helped us so much.' Our daughter passed away. What now? How can I show how grateful I am? I think one of the reasons why we were able to cope better or move forward better is that we knew that the pain did not go to waste. Right after, we would receive stories of lives changed like parents being more intentional to share Jesus or couples getting back together. People from different countries messaged or emailed us. There were those who turned their backs to the Lord, and suddenly they are now serving. There were kids who were angry at their parents, and suddenly they went back to their parents' homes.”
“It's just amazing! Sometimes God causes our pain, allows our pain, even if we don't really want it. But she graduated making sure that she gets to impact. Our pain did not go to waste.”
When Caitlin passed away, Feliz turned to a few people to help her deal with her pain. She was angry. She was hurt. She was confused. She had so many questions, but not a lot of answers. Her friends allowed her to process everything. Her friends allowed her to be just herself, to feel whatever it was she was thinking and feeling in a safe space.
These days, Feliz has found her bearing. Her demeanor is calm, her voice steady. She says, “I've allowed my past to be my friend. I don't want it to be a stranger just because tragedy came and painful things happened. I have to understand that it is my friend. There are times when I want to visit my friend. Sometimes he would visit our house even if I don't want him to visit. There are times when we would decide to meet up for coffee. I want to name my grief as a person. I want to name my past as a person, talk and process things, process with my friend. That's how I have depth. If it wasn't for my failures, I don't think I'd have depth, or understand how I can live a simple yet complex life. I'm grateful for it.”
Having a #TeamMom, a #TeamFamily, certainly allowed Feliz to move forward with greater intention. She says, “Having a #TeamMom, I was able to process things faster. I had clarity. I feel like they're my umbrella. They won't stop me from experiencing the rain but they'll be there to be with me through the rain. Minsan sasaluhin nila yung ulan para sa 'yo. Minsan papabayaan ka rin nilang maulanan. Pero alam mo magkasama kayo.”
“A lot of people who go through difficulties want someone to look up to. I wanted someone to look up to. For me to experience that kind of support, it's something that I want to pass on, too. I am not perfect but I try to do the best I can. Sometimes it's not the best but I will try to try again tomorrow.”
Moving forward Life goes on. As Feliz still nurses her heart over the loss of her daughter, she has been given the most of precious task of raising another one. Last February 14, she gave birth to her second daughter Tabitha. Together with her three-year-old Ethan, the four of them now make up their little family.
“By God's grace, the baby is an easy baby. I think on your third baby, you're less stressed so she's more chill.”
It is with her second child, her son, whom Feliz is encountering some issues with. She says, “Now my greatest struggle is how to have a nice, working relationship with my son. With my husband, we're okay. When it's just the three of us, we're okay. But when we're with people, his yaya or strangers, he gets too excited or frustrated.”
“Siguro 'yun din, with my firstborn, I was intentional with teaching. Now, it's hard. It's hard for me to teach my son, parang it's painful. It tears up my heart because maybe I enjoyed teaching my firstborn. I love kids. I want to teach them. But after what happened to her, I felt regret that she was taken... I don't know. But I'm trying my best. We send him to school and then I try little things. I'm starting again.”
If there was a lesson that Feliz learned from all of this, it is the fragility of life. She explains, “The biggest lesson is not to be settled in this life. It's like you're an OFW. When you're working abroad, you enjoy your environment, work your best, but you know that it's not your home. It's the same thing. I'm here. I'm on this Earth. I do my best. I want to do my best. I want to enjoy the things, the little blessings. But at the same time, in my heart, I know this isn't home. It's like I'm in between two valleys but it's not a pit. It's between two valleys. I know I look forward to something but I know where I am. So I want to really excel in exercising my faith and using my voice to point people to Jesus. With Him, if you put Him first, all the other help will be provided for, all the emotional support, financial support, and physical support will be provided for.”
Every mom has a #TeamMom cheering her on. Share your #TeamMom story on social media. Join Expo Mom #TeamMom as it continues its roadshow in Manila at Alabang Town Center on July 2, 2017 and at TriNoma from July 15 to 16, 2017. Bring your #TeamMom along and connect with other Team Moms.
Join the Mommy Mundo #TeamMom Grand Giveaway!