BEFORE I share with you the concluding part of a previous post I wrote about my Dad’s final days, I’d like to share with you first a letter I received yesterday from a good friend (I’ll call her Carmelita) who seemed to have forgotten me during one of my darkest hours.
Well, as Carmelita herself admitted, she did, but has made amends for it by writing me this beautiful and touching letter. Indeed, you won’t know what a bereaved person is going through until you yourself experience it.
My good friend Ivy, who lost her Kuya to cancer in the early ’90s, and I agree on many things. Having experienced a recent death in the family, I now know more or less what she went through during that time.
Immediately after someone dear dies, you try your best to deal with it while you latch on to every kind word and thoughtful gesture that comes your way.
These gestures aren’t to be taken lightly because they’re often the only things that keep you from keeling over yourself from sadness, fear, uncertainty and sheer exhaustion.
I’m willing to bet that you would remember more to your dying day the people who went to your parents’ wake (or at least sent their sympathies) than those who, say, graced your 18th, 40th, or even 50th birthday. It’s when you’re down that you appreciate more the company of other people.
True, no amount of money, kind words, sympathy cards, flowers and even Mass cards can bring the dead back to life. But knowing that people, both friends and near strangers, came out of their way to condole—even through texts and Facebook messages—means a great deal to help soothe the bereaved family’s pain while they face up to their loss.
As I slowly come to terms with what happened to me lately, I look back with fondness on the days immediately after my Daddy’s passing and recall people, especially those who came to far, far, far Bacoor to personally extend their sympathies. Thank you.
Your time and gas weren’t for naught, as my family and I appreciate and will never forget what you did.
But at the same time, now that the dust is starting to settle, I’m also wondering why certain people whom I respect and hold dear didn’t even bother to text or PM me: “Uy, condolence, ha.”
It was as if my pain didn’t matter to them. It was as if I didn’t tell the whole world about it. It was as if they didn’t merrily go about stalking and posting stuff about themselves on social media not to know about it.
I did get a text message from a supposedly dear friend extending her condolences. I ended my thanks by reminding her that Daddy “knew you by name.” In short, it was my way of saying that my family and I would appreciate her presence during my father’s wake. Hindi ka na others.
Unfortunately, she failed to take the hint since she didn’t bother to show up. Baka naman mahaba ang pila sa MRT.
At the same time, though, I was heartened and pleasantly surprised many times over by people whom I didn’t expect the least bit to come, but came anyway. Some simply popped up unannounced.
Again, to all those who extended their sympathies to my family and I in whatever form, thank you! No, you need not bother saying “welcome,” like one fellow whom I thanked through text message did. Your presence, kind words and heart-felt tokens were enough.
“Hi Alex! I sincerely apologize for not having condoled with you sooner. The last few days of February saw me juggling several work projects that I was not keeping track of social media except for occasional random posting.
“I only found out about your dad’s passing. This is my fault for living the life of a hermit. I’ve not really seen any of our friends for weeks nor have I kept contact, so I totally missed out on this and I am truly sorry.
“I lost my own father in 1998. So while I would not be so presumptuous to say that I know how you feel, I can sincerely say that I understand the loss.
“During these times, those who love us and mean us well would try and give us consoling words and thoughtful gestures. Often, we who are grieving appreciate but could not fully “feel” their healing effect. But we are grateful for the kindness anyway.
“From my experience, healing truly takes time. We heal from the pain gradually, replacing the feelings of sorrow with memories of gladness. Replacing the emptiness of loss with the recollection of a life of blessings shared.
“Sometimes, the hardest part comes when we are back to the routine of daily life. From my experience, this is the fear of forgetting.
“Many times, my siblings and I would ask each other—do you remember Dad’s voice? Do you remember how he laughs? How he smiles? How he smells? The sparkle of his eyes and the texture of his hair? Can you picture him in your mind without looking at photographs?
“I didn’t grow up with my parents so I am at a disadvantage. And for a long time, I shuddered at the thought of what little memories I have to be taken away… But that’s me. And that was the struggle I had to go through.
“You are lucky to have spent your entire life by your parents’ side. You have a treasure trove of memories to keep for a lifetime.
“In my case, I overcame the fear of forgetting by reminding myself that every time I look at myself in the mirror, I see my father. He continues to live in me. He is in every drop of blood, every cell on my skin, every waking thought whether I dwell on his memory or not. Because I guess that is what the bond between parent and child is like. Indelible. Imperishable. Interminable.
“I don’t know if any of this makes sense to you, but I write as I am inspired. And I hope somehow, no matter how late, this brings some measure of consolation to “you. Please accept my sincerest sympathies and prayers for your dad and your family.
“Life goes on and what a beautiful life it is!