The gift of life

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By Gretchen Varela

Breathing Gratitude

Thursday, May 8, 2014


LAST Sunday was a day of celebration for me. It was the baptism of Zanjo Lacson-Balatayo, six-month-old son of my good friends Leo and Sarina Balatayo.

The baptism to welcome baby Zanjo into the Catholic Faith was held at the Sta. Clara Chapel after the 10 a.m. Mass. Reception followed at Bascon Café.

That day, we also celebrated the 8th birthday of my nephew, Anton Lopez, son of my eldest sister, Margot, and her husband, Marc Lopez. Being the youngest member of our family, Anton’s joyful and helpful nature has been such a blessing to us.

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These two celebrations have again gently reminded me to be grateful for the gift of life. Many times, we take it for granted but really, I believe the miracle of childbirth and children is one of God’s greatest gifts to us.

This brings me back to the memory of my own childbirth and early parenting years. I admit that it was the most challenging, yet it was also the most fulfilling years of my life. The joys and the meaning of life are magnified a thousand times when a child is born in the family.

My eldest child, Gabe, was born prematurely at 7 and a half months. At that time, I was working at Rustan Coffee Corporation in Manila, the company that owns and runs Starbucks Coffee in the Philippines. I had planned to give birth in Bacolod so I can be in the comfort of family and friends, but my very premature childbirth changed all the plans.

Since he came too early, I was not ready with a caregiver and with all the things I needed for a newborn baby. I had to learn to do so many new and intimidating things in such a short period of time: like how to handle a skinny, slippery and fragile baby when bathing him, and having to feed him via NGT (nasogastric tube) as he was too young to know how to feed from the bottle.

I remember the nurse telling me “you’ll know when the tube is not in the right place because he will turn blue.” As a mom, you can just imagine the horror I felt with that statement. It was a terrifying experience, yet the love and joy I felt as a mother outweighed all the fears.

Psalm 127:3 says, “Children are a blessing and a gift from the Lord.” Truly they are and I have received and fully enjoyed these gifts as I received my own two children, and in the countless children that the Lord sends me in the classrooms at Lamblight.

These little ones are my role models as I humbly learn the values we all must aspire for: openness to learning, curiosity and wonder towards the beauty of life, honesty in freely expressing emotions, humility in accepting fault, and gratitude for life’s simple joys.

Sadly, as we grow up and experience pain, we tend to put on masks to try to protect ourselves from more pain but in the process, we lose these precious character traits.

I believe that the way to experience the fullness of life and true happiness is when we can go back to having these childlike qualities.

This is why I experience great joy and blessing when I surround myself with these little ones. Little do they know that in reality, they are my teachers and "Teacher Gretchen" is joyfully their eager student.

Published in the Sun.Star Bacolod newspaper on May 08, 2014.

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