Love comes in many ways

While vacationing in Houston, Texas a few years back, I heard a beautiful love story which I want to share with you for Valentines Day. It’s a story not many people hear every day, for it’s not a typical boy-meets-girl affair and voila, both fell in love after a while, regardless of length of time being together in dates and/or mutual living arrangements.. As we may know, Texas is home to many international oil companies. One of the bigger oil companies located in Houston employs an extraordinary man. I said extraordinary because he’s quadriphlegic, yet his brains work extremely well, so much so that only a handful other employees could match his wisdom, decision-making, and technical knowledge of the oil industry. This man has two undergraduate diplomas-- in geology and petroleum engineering--graduating at the top of his class in both courses, and a PhD in the latter. Unfortunately, a vehicular accident in his 20s left him paralyzed from the neck down and barely kept him alive. It’s amazing how he accepted his fate and went on with his life productively.

I could only think of Steven Hawking as probably the only person comparable to him. I will name him Thomas for this story. Thomas is well known throughout the company as its lead asset, despite being unable to even climb an oil rig or hike with other geologists or engineers to find black gold. To his company, Thomas has always been indispensable, such that they offered him a stockholder’s portfolio that he couldn’t refuse, and a salary rarely offered to able-bodied employees with similar educational background.

What many people do not know is Thomas’ secret for staying “happy” and satisfied with his life.

Right after Thomas’ accident, his parents contacted friends in the Philippines to look for a full-time, stay-at-home caregiver who’d be willing to make life easier for Thomas. It was difficult to find one willing to “sacrifice” his/her mobility in the United States, for Thomas needed someone beside him 24/7, providing ALL services to a quadriphlegic who could hardly speak. Thomas’ parents eventually flew to the Philippines to interview possible job-seekers, hoping to find the best match for Thomas. Their son needed a committed person preferably with some nursing or medical background. They have heard so much about Filipinos as exceptional caregivers, nurses and doctors in the U.S. They just wanted to get someone directly from the country, believing it would make a lot of difference, compared to getting a caregiver in the U.S. on a per-hour basis.

The search for the perfect companion/caregiver was tough. Thomas’ parents took time to really know each candidate not only through direct interview but also through talking to some people who knew their interviewees. Their search started in Metro Manila, and when they felt they didn’t find the right match there, they decided to go to the province of one of their closer friends then residing in Palawan, a beautiful island province west of Luzon mainland and the Visayan Region. Their first few interviewees failed right away, mainly due to inability to speak English fluently, or having small children that leaving them in the care of relatives was quite unacceptable to Thomas’ parents. If chosen, the woman would take care of their son while there’s no assurance that her children will be really taken care of by others.

A week or so passed and the couple seemed disapointed for not finding the right match to Thomas’ needs. Then a day before their scheduled departure for Manila, a young lady came over and presented her credentials. Linda Navarro was 20 years old then, a third-year nursing student who dropped out from school due to financial problems of her family. Linda has six siblings, two older ones already married, while the remaining four were younger and in school. Her parents were both farmers, and her hands and over-all look seemed to indicate Linda’s hardworking nature and simple style. Thomas’ parents looked and smiled at each other specially when Linda spoke in fluent English and described how she could help Thomas live a healthy, happy life despite his extreme disability. Linda’s confidence in her nursing skills and experience as caregiver of an old lady in Manila for two years added positives to her resume. The young lady also spoke truthfully about her dream to help send her younger siblings to school so they can get higher education and altogether lift their family from poverty. Linda said she could only do that if she worked abroad, like other Overseas Filipino Workers. She was also willing to sign a contract of work that stipulates every single service detail required of her and length of years they’d ask of her. Linda got the job, and in a few months, she flew to the U.S., ready to work hard for the future of her family.

When Linda saw Thomas, tears rolled down her cheeks, knowing fully well the hardships he must have undergone after his accident and the mental anguish of losing almost everything in his young body except his brains! Linda held his hand firmly, kneeling and looking at his eyes, she knew right away that she’d do everything in her power to be the arms and legs of this man. The spark in Thomas eyes and the tight lips forcing a smile told Linda that Thomas was a good man and deserved a beautiful life.

That was year 2000. And the spark in Thomas eyes never faded away. After 10 years, Linda and Thomas got married, and the happiness in their union was evident in every way. Linda indeed became Thomas inspiration in his work, and she truly served as his arms and legs, while he taught her a lot about the intricacies of his job as the brainy geologist and petroleum engineer who uses a very specially made computer exclusively made for him. Thomas’ collection of knowledge books in his library became Linda’s “school” as well, and her presence in all of Thomas’ activity made her a specialist in his line of work, too. Linda also fulfilled her promise to her family, sending off her younger siblings to finish their degrees, and making her parents life much better than ever before.

Today, after 22 years of being together almost 24/7, Linda and Thomas are still one of the happiest couples in Houston. When in their company, one would always wonder how beautiful their love story evolved, how God makes miracles when all other things seem hopeless or gone.

Isn’t God truly love?