In the world of live entertainment, many performers subscribe to the hoary saying, “The show must go on.”
To them, it is not just a saying. It is an unbendable rule to follow to make sure that a show pushes through no matter what the condition of the performer is.
I am one of those performers who subscribe to this self-imposed rule. I always thought it was a mark of professionalism to go on with the show even if I’m not feeling well, not in the mood, sick or simply biorythmitically out of whack.
Thus last week, I performed five of my shows while nursing a bad case of colds and running a fever. The clients did not even notice something was amiss with me.
However, there was a time when I think I overdid the “The Show Must Go On” bit.
In 2005, my mother was hospitalized because of a chronic heart condition. She had been in the hospital for almost a week already. On the fifth day, I had a show in Storyland in SM Southmall. I was all loaded up with doves in my body, ready to step into the stage when my sister Beth texted an urgent message.
I forgot her exact words, but I thought she said, “Mama has difficulty breathing. Please come to the hospital now.”
I hesitated. Inside my head “The Show Must Go On” blared like the horn of a passing train.
Then came another text message: “The doctors are in the room now, and they are trying to revive her.”
In my mind ran the scene I saw countless times in movies. Doctors and emergency hospital staff putting tubes into a patient, shooting medicine into the arm with large syringes and then shocking the heart with a defibrillator.
She would be all right, I thought. I switched off my phone, stepped on stage and did the show.
After my performance, I switched on the phone right away. Another message from my sister was waiting in the Inbox: “Mama just passed away.”
Backstage, I cried secretly. Nobody even noticed my grief.
I packed my stuff and went to the hospital to join my sister. When I got there, my mother’s caregiver told me a secret I’d rather that she did not tell me.
“Your mother called for your name,” she said. “She wanted you to be at her bedside during her last moments.”
Being the eldest of her children, I understood why mother would want me to be at her bedside.
Though she didn’t have to tell me about my dying mother’s wish, the caregiver did and seemed to enjoy looking at me in pain.
So now, every year, when the whole nation remembers its dead, I am in torment. Did I do the right thing? When my sister’s text message came, would it have been better had I slipped out of Storyland, left the show without performing it and rushed to my dying mother’s bedside?
I have read somewhere that most people find that their greatest regrets in life are not the things they DID but the things they DID NOT DO.
On the day mother died, not leaving the show was something I DID NOT DO that I regretted more than the other sins I’ve done in my life.
If I could only turn back the hand of time, I’d do it differently. The torment is not worth going through year after year.