(This is Part 2 of Saranghamnida, Sayonara Papa series. If you’re new to this site, please scroll down to read the first part of the story. Thank you.)
Whenever I hear the song “Dance with my Father” by Luther Vandross, it never fails to bring tears in my eyes as I remember my Pa.
He passed away last May 12, 2013 at 6:10 in the evening but he was pronounced dead at 6:30PM after succumbing to heart attack due to enlargement of the valves, blocked arteries and pulmonary edema.
At that time, I was in Davao City busy preparing for May 13 Midterm Elections when I received a call from my sister Jane informing me of his demise.
While I was busy browsing the internet sites on election-related materials, Pa was already fighting for his life. I could have been there for Pa, for them. I could have held his hand while he was still alive.
Part 2: With a heavy heart
Fearing for my Ma’s emotional state, I tried to lighten up the situation and told a joke about Pa.
“Maybe, when we go to the morgue, he would suddenly spring up and say “joke lang! Practice lang!” just like in the movies!” I chuckled.
“Yeah, just like in the movies,” I repeated. My brother just smiled at my lame attempt of joke while my Ma stayed stoic.
I smiled back but gripped my emotions tighter. I didn’t want to cry but a few traitorous tears escaped. If this was a movie, the director would have shouted “cut!” already for my badly delivered line.
But no, this wasn’t a movie at all, nor a nightmare that has a chance to be erased from memory once I wake up.
After a while, the people from our commissioned Funeral Home arrived in the hospital to retrieve the body.
Ma was crying non-stop when we accompanied the body on its way to Panabo City where he will be embalmed and dressed for his wake.
When we reached the St. Peter’s Chapel, his remains were carried to the embalming room by the staff then they gave us time alone with Pa.
I am not a squeamish person save for a dead man’s body. I can’t stand looking at their wrinkled and pale skin, but when Ma reached and pulled the blanket that was covering Pa, I immediately started crying. The defenses I built inside easily crumbled at his sight and the dam of tears broke down.
I reached out and held his hand. I didn’t care if he’s dead or if his skin was slightly cold to the touch… All I wanted was to hold him and tell him that I’m sorry for being away for so long, for trying to avoid him even though I miss him a lot and for not telling him how worried I was whenever he was rushed to the hospital.
My tears went rolling down one after the other as I stared at his brown eyes I envied so much but were now glassy as he gave up the ghost. Seeing him bit his lip with his head slightly bent upward seemed he was trying to take his much needed breath but his body won’t let him get it anymore.
It must have been a very painful time for him when he was having a cardiac arrest because his fists were slighly clenched and he wore a pained expression until his last breath. He must have been crying while he was fighting futilely for his life because of the crust of dried tears on both sides of his eyes.
As I stared at Pa’s face, my Ma said, “nagkita rin kayo, Gie. Nagkita rin kayo ng anak mong matagal mo nang hinahanap. Hindi mo na siya nahintay, alam mo namang uuwi siya pagkatapos ng eleksyon. (You finally saw each other, Gie. You finally saw your daughter you’ve been asking for a long time. You didn’t wait for her when you knew she would be coming home after the elections.)”
My heart felt like it was squeezed and stabbed in a million ways upon hearing this and I held his cold hands a little bit tighter.
I am not the kind of person who easily say sorry but at that moment, I’ve never felt sorrier than ever. I am so sorry, Papang. I am so sorry. Can you hear me? Can you still forgive me? I am very sorry, Pa. I kept on repeating in my head.
“Ge, salamat sa Dios at pinagpahinga ka na niya after a long time of battling your sickness. Alam kong hindi ka namin dapat iyakan ngayong wala ka na pero tao din naman kami, nakakaramdam din ng sakit ng damdamin dahil mahal ka namin. Umalis ka nang hindi man lang nagpapaalam. (Gie, I thank God for letting you rest after a long time battling your sickness. I know we are not supposed to cry and be sad of your demise but we are still human, able to feel hurt, loss and bereft because we love you. You left without even saying goodbye.)”
“Hindi mo naman siguro ako masusumbatan na hindi kita inalagaan ng maayos. (You can’t probably say that I didn’t take care for you when you were still alive) Ours was not a perfect union, we had our sets of ups and downs and quarrels but it was worthwhile. Thank you for the 35 years you shared with me and our kids. We now let you go to be with our Father. Until we meet again.”
Ma said these words while caressing Pa’s face and hands, trying to arrange his rumpled clothes and comfortably placed the blanket over his body.
I just stood beside Pa, crying so hard and overwhelmed with regret for the lost times and opportunity to be with him.
I held his hands tighter and gazed down at his face knowing it would be my last chance to do so and see him that way… still in his day clothes, his body complete, sans of makeup and the smell of formaldehyde they will put on him once he gets embalmed.
We stayed like that for a few moments, Ma silently caressing Pa while I stood there contemplating on how horribly I behaved toward my estranged Pa.
It was a while before we were interrupted by the newcomers led by my sister, Jane, her friend Bing-bing, and Buboy along with my Aunt Maritha, my niece and nephew.
It was past midnight when we got home. The embalmer said we shoud go get some rest since Pa wouldn’t be embalmed until early in the morrow.
I told Ma I have to get back to Davao City to finish my task for the election and then come back right after the coverage. I know I should be with them at this bleak moment in our lives but duty has to come first.
I pushed Ma to get some rest for I didn’t want her dwelling at a sad moment fearing for her health. When everyone at home was asleep, it was then that I unleashed my barely concealed emotions.
My tears went down faster than Japan’s bullet train, I unloaded the heaviness within my heart and sobbed hard. I tried quieting it down so as not to wake them up but I wasn’t sure if I suceeded.
I cried for few moments thinking about all the missed chances. I should have gone home straight from the airport to see how Pa was doing. I should have called and told him to wait for me as I come home… I should have told him to get better so I can bring him with me in Manila… So we can go to the sea and catch some fishes or cook for him and eat his favorite food…
All these thoughts, the what ifs, should have and could have been’s swirled in my mind but I willed it to stop. It won’t do me any good since Pa is now gone.
So I squared my shoulders and told myself: Now is not the time to breakdown. Your family needs you. Be brave, keep calm and keep a good head upon your shoulders.
And that’s what I did.
Author’s note: This is the second part of the series of events that took place on that fateful day. I am going to write about it as my way of coping with loss and grief and to impart a message to everyone who will be reading it on the importance of life, family, communication and health. The next part will be uploaded in my blog as soon as I can. Thank you.