January 27, 2012
When my grandmother died, my world stopped. I just woke up and was about to take my shower for school when my mom sent me the message. I wanted to dash home to see her. But I couldn’t because it was in the middle of the school week. I had to suck it up and continue with my week even though it was killing me that I couldn’t go home.
She was a constant in my life. She’d come over our house to see my little brother, or just to have a little chat with my mom. Two weeks before that dreaded day, I saw her come in our compound just as I was about to leave for the city. That was the last time I saw her healthy, the last time I saw her smile.
When I got home I didn’t want to look into her coffin.
I didn’t want to erase that memory of her in our place two weeks ago, smiling and laughing like it was a normal day for everyone. I didn’t want my last image of her as someone lying inside a coffin, emotionless and…just not there.
Everyone was mourning and minding their own but we forgot the very person who suffered the most out of the loss. My grandfather. Her husband.
When my grandfather died two Saturdays ago, I was about to go home after training in Manila. My mom told me to go home in Hagonoy instead of Malolos. She told me dad’s father passed away that afternoon. She didn’t tell me earlier because I was busy with my class and shuffling back to Manila for the training.
The last time I saw him was during Christmas. And it was a shocking to see him that day. Before that I saw him going to a checkup for his eyes. He was quite lively and fine during those times. But when we entered their house, he was sitting on his bed and he was just…he looked like he was going to fall apart if anyone touches him. He was so far from the last time that I saw him and that was in the same year. He was like a hollow shell and my grandfather wasn’t there anymore. My cousin said he was waiting for us (our family) to come over during that Christmas morning.
I wanted to blame and point people who let him deteriorate in such a condition. I wanted to lash out and say that he’d been better if he lived with us or with my uncles, far away from that house and he might actually have gotten more care. He still might be with us, and I wouldn’t have to be angry with anyone.
But that house is where my dad grew up. That house is where he and grandma took care of all their children. It is the house where he and grandma spent their entire lives until Lola passed away two years ago. He never wanted to stay away from the house because I guess he just wants to be where Lola’s memories are.
At least, that’s how I want to think of the whole situation. Because he did stay with my other uncles, and one time with us, during his recovery period from the laser surgery he had a year ago. But he just kept coming back to the old house no matter how dilapidated it was and no matter how ignored he was in that house with the occupants.
Before he left us, my last memory of him was that Christmas day— sitting on his bed, hollow, lifeless, helpless. I wanted that to get erased from my head. Maybe because of guilt, of regret, or mostly because I just feel like I could have done more, like my Ate who still went to visit him even if she was ready to deliver her son.
Yes, mostly the guilt.
When I first saw my grandmother underneath the glass of the coffin, I wanted to reach out to her, and try to wake her up. It was surreal that after two weeks, she was…not there anymore. And her face wasn’t that of the happy smiley face I always see. She was inside the hospital when she finally gave in. She died fighting, and the last fight in her was reflected on her face behind the glass.
That was one of the main reasons why I didn’t want to look at her in the first place. I knew she passed away in pain. I knew she passed away knowing she’d be leaving a lot of people who love her. And even after two years, tears still spring from my eyes whenever I blink and see her inside that box. She passed away suffering, but she knows in her heart that when she finally meets Him, He has a room for her waiting. It is a calming thought to know but still, the pain was there, is there.
It is painful, because she’s a big chunk of who I am.
But when I looked at my grandfather in his coffin, his face was…at peace.
He was suffering most of his remaining days. It was how I felt when I saw him that Christmas morning. It was like he wasn’t just waiting for us but mostly he was waiting for the day that my grandmother would come and fetch him. He suffered when she passed away, and I think, he never really got over it.
Or maybe I’m just assuming.
I never had a lot of time spent with him, even when we lived in that house when I was younger. He was always inside the house or in my uncles’ houses as long as I can remember and I don’t have a lot of special memories with him. He was part of that missing puzzle in my family picture.
During the burial mass, I decided to not cry. I knew I can survive the mass without crying, not that I wasn’t remorseful, but the feeling of being at peace, the peace that resonated in my grandfather’s face when I saw him came into me, like he was saying that he is fine and with grandmother and we can all move on with our lives. Although I knew that under the Barong was a big Y- shaped stitch, from his body that looked more skeletal than a body belonging to someone once living. That alone made me want to cry for the loss of someone who took care and raised my dad. And loved my grandmother all of their lives.
I was mourning, but I was happy too. I’d remember his peace rather than his pain during Christmas. I will remember him, always.
I hate that word.
It’s the saddest feeling on earth, the feeling of being orphaned. Or it is to me I guess. I was raised by both of my parents and the thought of losing them…is too much pain that I don’t want to seriously contemplate about right now.
Even though he’s finally found his rest, my grandfather’s death still left a powerful impression to my uncles and most especially to my dad. He was the youngest, but contrary to the usual dynamics between a dad and the bunso, his relationship with his dad was a bit strained. They had a very complicated relationship and both had only appreciated each other when dad grew up to be a man. Dad’s so unlike Amang but so similar in many ways.
He only got to talk and bond with him when dad was able to stabilize everything and when my grandfather was able to do the same with his own demons.
Six children are now orphans. Their mom, dad, and their second sibling are with Him.
You can never be too old to become an orphan.
Title from Coldplay’s song, Death and All of His Friends