Raissa Laurel: Not fear, but FAITH.

* This is a re-post from an article on The Philippine Star newspaper.

Raissa Laurel is 23-year old law student who lost both her legs from a bombing during the bar examinations in the Philippines last September.

 

By all accounts she should have simply crumpled and died.

Given what she lost she had every reason to be angry at the world and at the Creator himself. But she didn’t. Like a mangled lamb spared from the slaughter, she said “I was just at the wrong place at the wrong time”. But was she?

How could she seem dismissive of the violence that victimized her and some 30 or 40 others? How could she seem fully “recovered” and chirpy given that 2 COWARDS had directly caused the amputation of her two feet?

I first heard about her, when I caught the video of her anguished father crying, begging to understand how absolute strangers can toss a bomb at her daughter’s feet and cut them off.

Like many fathers who saw “Bob” on the news, I felt the pain and the deep anguish he was going through. We need not go through the actual experience, in order to feel the actual pain. We simply need to be human and to be fathers, then, the hurt becomes familiar.

I was destined to learn this story on a personal basis because it is a story that the devil does not want told. He threw every obstacle in our path to get to the PGH: the MRT train stalled in its tracks, then we couldn’t get a cab, we climbed seven floors to get to the room, then on the way back, after hell, came the high water in the form of a thunderstorm and partial flooding in front of PGH.

But we got the story.

As it turns out “Raissa” is part of the family; my “Victory” family of Christians, where she is part of the worship volunteers for the youth church. I learned that “Raissa” being the compulsive volunteer, had yet again volunteered to be part of the welcoming committee of sorts for her schoolmates, who had just gone through the Bar Exams.

That’s how our visit at the PGH ended. Donita Rose was there, Rica Peralejo-Bonifacio was there, but they were not the celebrities. Instead they were the fans of a real celebrity, a person who celebrated God and a new life: “Raissa”, the girl who is now at the right place at the right time.

Unfortunately her goodwill was what placed her “At the wrong place at the wrong time”.

She saw the bomb land at her feet. She caught a glimpse of two guys running away and then the explosion. In seconds she knew the extent of her damage. What used to be her feet were just shattered bones on the pavement, pieces of flesh and blood. What remained was a small piece of skin and flesh stubbornly holding on to a toe and a bone. She knew with absolute clarity that she had already lost both her feet.

In an instant, “Raissa” knew she was about to lose her life.

There on the pavement she became a lawyer before the fact. As she lay mangled, bloodied and bruised, she pleaded the case of a lifetime: her life. There she offered a deal: “ Lord, please give me a second life and if you do I will accept “what I have”.

In the face of terror it was not fear but faith.

“What I have” in “Raissa’s” case would be a life without feet. But we all know so many people walking around without a life or the living dead. Given the options, she knew she got a good deal from the turn around king.

At the PGH, Fate and faith conspired. While “Raissa” and her boyfriend held tight whispering worship songs to keep her from slipping into a coma, her relative happened to be on duty and swept aside every obstacle and every challenge that would have robbed “Raissa” of her very life. A total of 15 minutes of delay was all it would have taken to kill her.

When I met “Bob” face-to-face and listened to his tale of this tragedy and I wondered who hurt more: the father or the daughter?

When “Bob” and his wife “Reggie” reached PGH, their primary concern was for the doctors to do everything to save “Raissa’s” feet. That seemed the logical and normal concern. But in hindsight it served as a life-long lesson.

While they were focusing on “Raissa’s” feet, little did they know that “Raissa” had already seen the “light”. Her pulse and her blood pressure were almost none existent and in a matter of minutes she would have been in a coma and perhaps to the other side.

The great irony was that a choice had to be made: Life or limbs?

Inside the ER they presented “Bob” the waiver and consent form to amputate “Raissa’s” feet. As “Bob” told the story I realized that no one else in the audience of three seemed to understand that being given the waiver and consent form was like asking a father to cut off his daughter’s legs.

Yes it was a medical emergency and yes her life depended on it. But that is my daughter, who someday I hope to walk down the aisles. It was not just a form and he could not sign it and I understood why.

Tragedy often raises the ghost between what is and what might be. In “Raissa’s” case I am reminded of the warning: Those who love their lives, will lose it, and those who lose their lives for my name’s sake will gain eternal life.

In becoming a Born-Again Christian, “Raissa” gave up control of her life, in the bomb blast she lost a certain life she expected to live, In the face of terror she chose faith over fear and got another lease on life. You can’t kill what has been reborn. You celebrate it.

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