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Thursday, December 30, 2010

The Fourth Queen (How I Played Poker with God)


By: Carlos Tan Fiel

(Carlos Tan Fiel wrote the following story in Toronto, Canada shortly after he learned that he had inoperable cancer of the lungs. He received this life-shaking news on November 4, 1995, his birthday. Published with permission from her sister, Sr. Teresita Tan Fiel, RGS)

My doctor didn’t even mention the word, but I knew what he meant. “It’s the kind that spreads rapidly.”

For several nights, I couldn’t sleep. Kept tossing in my bed with tears in my eyes. “How could you do this to me, Lord?”

Kept thinking hard where I could go for help. Thought of my three sisters who are nuns. “Bombard heaven, bring in the heavenly artillery,” I asked them. I also asked help from my saintly Mama who went to heaven thirty-three years ago.

But somehow, I felt everything would be useless.

Then, the unexpected happened. An angel (he wasn’t dressed like one but I knew he was) appeared to me and said, “Come, He wants to see you.”

“Jesus Christ,” I could not help but exclaim, for indeed it was Him.

He was seated in a simple chair. There was a bare table. He bade me sit down across Him. He looked at me gently, but there was no smile in his face. Then He spoke.

“I see your time is up.” I said yes almost inaudibly.

“Your relatives, both living and dead, are pestering me to give you another chance.” Then He said something about me having so many relatives while He only had John the Baptist.

“I don’t have to listen to them,” He said. “However,” and this time I could detect a twinkle in his eyes, “just to silence them, I’ll give you a chance.”

“Thank you, thank you, Lord,” I uttered as I prepared to rise. But it was not easy as that.

“Let’s see. What have you been doing aside from a lot of sinning and a little praying?” My answer was to look at the floor.

“I see you play poker?”

“Just a penny-ante, Lord, and only with close friends.”

“All right, let’s play poker. If you beat me, I might give you another chance. But if I beat you, nothing else can help you, not even your relatives.”

“Oh no, not poker,” I protested. I wanted to tell Him I was a born loser in that games. Oh well, He probably knew it, that’s why He chose the game.

“Bring me a deck of cards,” He motioned to an angel. I noticed the cards were out of the usual earthly cards of the Bicycle or the Vee brand, but only with a plain letter “C.” I thought maybe the “C” stood for Carlos, my name. Or maybe, for “Christ.” Then, a morbid thought, “Hope its not “C” for “Cancer.”

“Let’s play the Lord’s deal.”

The Lord’s deal? What kind of a deal is that? I know the Lord’s prayer, but I never played the Lord’s deal.

“We will not play for money, because there is no need for money in heaven,” and, after a short pause, “if you get there.” That’s when I realized we were not in heaven. I was probably in a way station and after judgment, I’d know where to go. As if to remind me, He said, “Money is taboo in heaven since that man Iscariot ran away with thirty pieces of silver.”

He explained the deal. Every card would represent a wish. Its value would be weighed by the cards gotten. Two of a kind will increase the possibility of the wish being granted, and more with three or four of a kind. “But,” He said, “we’ll borrow one of your rules. A higher card beats a lower card. So, Ace is the highest, the King is next, followed by the Queen.”

He dealt each one of the five cards. In the meantime, a crowd was gathering and I saw a beautiful lady in blue coming out of a room. She glanced in our direction but continued on her way.

I looked at my first card. It was a queen. The second was also a queen. The third was a deuce, the fourth an ace. But presto, the fifth card was a queen. Three queens! My spirit soared.

“Okay, you declare,” He said.

I showed the first queen. “This queen represents my sister, Sister Anne, a Good Shepherd nun who will celebrate 50 years of service to you this year.”

Then the second queen. “This one represents my sister, Sister Milagros, a nun of the Holy Spirit. She is also celebrating her golden jubilee in your service this year.”

“And the third queen,” I said somewhat triumphantly, “stand for my sister, Sister Celina, also of the Good Shepherd, who has been there for 42 years.”

While I was talking, He opened four of his cards and I saw two aces. But I was not alarmed because I had one of his aces and the chances of his last card being an ace was about one in forty.

So, I readied for the kill. “Look, Lord,” I said, “My three sister nuns have served you for an aggregate of 142 years. And they are pleading for me. I’m only 67 which is less than half of their faithful service to you.”

“Very good speech,” He said. “But before making any decision, let’s take a look at my fifth card.” Slowly, He turned the card.

It was an ace.

“I got three aces. They beat your three queens and your wishes are of no value.”

He said it was time to proceed with the judgment and called St. Peter, asking for my record. St. Peter gave him two sheets of paper. One was very long and the other very short. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw that the long paper carried the heading “Sins.” I supposed the other piece carried a list of the good things I did in life. It was no contest. I didn’t have to be told of the verdict.

“Well,” Christ said, “I’m sorry but…”and there was an interruption.

“I am the fourth Queen.” The interruption came from the lady in blue who was suddenly at my side.

Christ was dumbfounded at the unexpected turn of events. His own mother was on the opposite side. He was speechless.

Finally, He was able to say, “But Mother, I am your son.”

The lady in blue nodded. Then, resting her right arm upon my shoulder, she told Him, “Son, he is also my son.”

There was a moment of silence. Finally, Christ said He wanted to go to another room to study the matter. He gave Peter the two sheets of paper. Then they went away, leaving me alone with the Lady in Blue.

Left alone, I asked her what I did to deserve her help. She smiled and said, “Your rosaries.” I felt guilty since although I had been praying the rosary, I would pray them as if by rote, so mechanically.

But as they left, something shocking happened before my very eyes. As Peter put the two sheets of paper in his back pocket, the Lady in blue so deftly picked up the long sheet. I could never imagine that she would be capable of doing that, even if it was meant for my benefit. The Blessed Mother stealing? As a matter of fact, I could not help myself and blurted out, “You stole my sins. You broke the seventh commandment.”

With the sweetest smile I have ever seen. She reassured me in a conspiratorial tone, “Son, sins can be stolen…if you pray the rosary.” All I could utter was “Blessed art thou among women.”

It’s been some time now and Christ hasn’t come out yet with His decision. But I’m no longer worried and I don’t care. Because standing beside me is the Blessed Mother, with the crumpled list of my sins in her left hand and her right hand resting on my shoulder.

And oh, yes, in my right hand is the rosary!

(On June 11, 1996 in Toronto, Carlos went gently into the good night. He died peacefully, surrounded by his sister, wife, nieces and nephews who were praying the rosary).


Carlos Tan Fiel is the son of Agaton Fiel.

Agaton Fiel, the first lawyer of Ormoc, is the son of Simplicio Fiel.

Simplicio Fiel is the first mayor of Ormoc.


Susan Fiel said...

A very moving article. Writing seems to be a second nature to the Fiel clan. I vividly recall reading the articles of Corito Fiel and heard that the late Charlie Fiel (my father, Felix Fiel has personally met him) used to be the writer of Nemesio Yabut, former Makati mayor. I could only relate with his painful cancer experience because my father also died of lung cancer. This article touched my spirituality by going back to praying the rosary. Been remiss of praying the rosary. I was in a way influenced by some of my born again friends who frown at our practice of repetitive prayers. Thanks for sharing the late Carlos' spiritual thoughts and beliefs. am sure he is now at peace with our Creator.

Rose Nakpil said...

Thank you for sharing my Dad's article. Fr. James Reuter loved this article so much that he must have mentioned and reprinted it in his article more than thrice already. We miss him a lot and I'm sure he's smiling up there, holding his rosary, beside Mama Mary.

About Me

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I am the son of Silvano Fiel, who is the son of Feliciano Fiel, who is the son of Julian Fiel, who is the son of Elias Fiel from Sibonga, Cebu. Elias Fiel has only one brother and his name is Isaac Fiel. My name is taken from my grandparents Feliciano and Marcelina. I am a religious missionary SVD.