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(Note to reader: This is Part 3 of Saranghamnida, Sayonara Papa series. If you’re new to this site,  please scroll down to read the beginning of the story. Thank you.)

Recap:

When everyone at home was asleep, it was then that I unleashed my barely concealed emotions.

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.

Part 3: Never be a Stranger

After my breakdown episode at the wee hours of the morning, I came down to a realization: never be a stranger.

I know pursuing dreams and living your own life far away from home is perfectly alright but never forgetthe people you grew up with, the people you shared with half the years of your life.

The kids grew up and became adult… Yes, we grew up but our parents grew old, too. As they enter in their old years, they need us to be with them just as we needed them when we we were still growing up.

After a busy election day, I immediately packed my bags after the coverage wrapped up and went straight to the funeral chapel.

Attending the wake were my family and our relatives from Ma’s side since we were still trying to contact Pa’s relatives to inform them of his passing and his interment.

As the night passed, Ma fell asleep, exhausted from the series of heartbreaking events. So I placed a blanket over Ma and elevated her feet so she won’t hurt her sore knee.

It was my third day being awake. Sleep was being elusive and I hardly gotten a wink of it.

That moment, I resolved to get more in touch with my family, especially with my Momma who was like a rock of strength everyone depended on during a very gray day.

Her faith to God made her strong to face every challenge hurled in her way and I envied her for that. But what people doesn’t realize is that strong people also has a weakness.

As the lyrics of a song goes, Warriors also come running home when they fall down, picks themselves up when no one is around and drops their sword and armor when everything was too much to handle.

Who will take care of Ma as she takes care of other people? I thank God in every waking moment for keeping my family safe while I’m away but hereon, I resolved to help taking care of them.

After ensuring everyone was comfortable, I went and gazed down at Pa’s coffin. He looked different.

I didn’t feel queasy at all while looking a him unlike other dead people I’ve seen. Maybe it’s like that, when someone from your family dies, you can look at them straight without spooking yourself, without fear you’ll get nightmares when you sleep.

He looked thin compared to the time when I left home in 2006. I saw him again three years after and then in 2011 when he suffered stroke after his sugar levels and blood pressure rose one hot day while he was out in the field.

As the Doctor explained, his heart bore the brunt of the side effects of the medicine he was taking for years for his diabetes and hypertension.

His lungs also have water or pulmonary edema as a result from poor heart function making it hard for him to breath.

My father, the Seaman

When I was young, he worked as a Seafarer for the Everet Shipping Company but when he was diagnosed with those illnesses at the age of 48, he stopped boarding and stayed at our home in Panabo City, Davao del Norte.

It seemed that the company he was working for refused to accept him anymore and instead advised him to stay with the family.

It was kinda hard for my Pa because he was such a busy body, used to working day and night.

Staying at home was such a bore for him that he started to plant trees around the house making it look like a mini-jungle in the city.

Pa was overseas when I was born in 1985, so I grew up without him. For years, Ma would tell me and my siblings to write a letter for him or do a voice tape (it was the fad in the 90s where you will record your voice in a cassette tape) to thank him for the packages he sent.

As a kid, naturally, I would follow Ma’s orders but I really never knew who Pa was. My uncle Domeng, Pa’s cousin, who lived with us before served as a father figure in my growing up years.

 Pa came home in 1992 after years of boarding the ship, and a year later, my younger brother Buboy was born.

When he stayed at home due to his illness in 1993, it was such an awkward time for me. I didn’t know how I am going to move around him or what I’m supposed to call him. So confused I was that I often called him before as Uncle instead of Pa!

Eventually, I got used to his presence in the house but still felt weirded since he doesn’t talk that much. He was so quiet and would stay in one place at home. If he sat in a chair in our sala in the morning, he would stay there the whole day unless he needs to go to the toilet or be somewhere tilling something.

I didn’t know what songs he liked or what his favorite movies were. I can’t even think of the times I heard him sing or see him dance. He was also aloof and talked only when someone speaks with him.

I remember the time when I tried reaching out to him and asked him to attend a Parent-Teacher meeting in school but he just pointed to my Ma and told me to ask her to go instead.

I felt hurt for his ‘disregard’ not only to me but to my siblings as well. All four of us grew up feeling estranged with him because of his absence as a father in almost half our existence but we learned to live with it.

We do not have the tightly-knitted bond that other family have. Our family relationship was so peculiar, that I often wondered why we were not having family reunions just like my friends in school does or why I haven’t met my aunts and uncles or grandparents from my father’s side.

I tried asking Ma about it but she would just tell me that Pa’s parents were already dead and his siblings were all over the place that tracking their whereabouts would be difficult.

As a kid, I accepted Ma’s explanation and tried to just shrug it off.

But several years later, I learned that shrugging it off proved to be a mistake. It was like a timed bomb waiting to explode, an accident waiting to happen…

******

Author’s note: This is the third 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.

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(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.)

Recap:

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.

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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.

The medical staff tried to revive him but his heart and body did not respond anymore. He was 67.

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.

The initial reaction I felt was shock followed by overwhelming regret and loss.

Shocked, because I was told he was doing okay after discharging from the hospital days ago;

Overwhelming regret, loss and the feeling of bereft, because I wasn’t able to see and talk to him for the last time after being apart for so many years.

Upon hearing the news, I immediately dropped everything at hand and rushed to the Amosup Hospital where my Momma and younger brother, Buboy was.

When I got to the hospital, I immediately saw them huddled together at the waiting area, silently crying and mourning for the sudden loss of our padre de pamilya.

I slowly trudged forward and carefully sat down between them and asked, “where is Pa?”

Momma replied, “He’s at the morgue. Do you want to see him?”

Do I want to see him? Yes. So much that I wanted to rip the doors down, hug him, cry my heart out and tell him that I’m so very sorry for staying away for so long.

But I refrained from doing so. Pa is already gone and staying with Ma is much more important since she also has a heart problem and could breakdown any time.

After a few moments, I asked, “what happened?”

Ma said, “I don’t know. He was doing okay before I left. He said he wanted to eat lugaw [congee] without recados so I went out to buy it for him.

“He said he wanted to eat lugaw pero hindi na pala niya kakainin… [but he won’t be able to eat it anymore]” Ma kept on saying while crying so I shushed her and asked my brother instead.

“Pa was doing okay when Ma went out. After a few minutes, he asked me to go to the Nurse’s station to tell them to adjust his oxygen levels.

But when I came back, he was already struggling for breath. I called for help and the Hospital staff immediately rushed to the room. They tried to revive him for a few minutes but failed.”

“I was there the whole time, watching and hoping that Pa survive the attack but it was in vain.”

Then Ma said, “he was doing okay after he was discharged from the hospital two days ago, but this morning, I woke up to him tossing and turning in bed.

I asked him what’s the matter and he said, he can’t sleep and was having difficulty breathing.

When I held his hand, it felt too cold and he was looking so ashen that I got scared and told him that we get to the hospital immediately.”

But he declined so Momma instead massaged his joints and reflex points to keep his blood flowing, placed a blanket on him, adjusted his pillow and made him sit up so he could breath easily.

“After a few minutes, his temperature gradually went back to normal. I tried very hard not to show him how afraid I was while tending to him so he won’t feel burdened and clam up.

A few more minutes, his breathing got normal and he was able to sleep,” Ma recounted.

“He woke up after a few hours and told me to bring him to the hospital. When I asked him what’s bothering him he said he’s fine, he just wanted to be able to breath more easily through hospital equipment.

And so we checked-in the hospital around 1:00PM and he was promptly given a room and medical attention. The nurses said his vital signs were normal and his blood pressure and sugar levels were okay. I never really thought he would be gone,”  she said.

“When I returned in the hospital, naabutan ko pa nire-revive ang Papa mo pero hindi na ako pumasok. I was very scared he won’t be able to make it so I stayed outside his room and prayed. I never really expected for him to be gone today. He didn’t say anything kung anong masakit sa kanya,” Ma said.

“When he was pronounced dead, I touched him and he still felt warm. I never really thought he would would die since he was doing so fine today. The last time he was in the Intensive Care Unit, his condition was far worse then than today but he was able to survive it,” Ma told me.

Upon hearing their accounts on what happened minutes before Pa died, my heart wanted to burst.

While I was laughing to something my friend said over the phone, 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.

The last time I heard he was in the hospital, I remember asking God in my prayers to cure him, if not, maybe He could let Pa rest from his long-time battle against his sickness.

I never thought God will hear me and grant my request promptly.

On that moment, I realized a lot of things. Among them are four things:
First was being careful with what you wish for in life;
second, do what you can do today for tomorrow might be too late;
third, tell your love ones you love them everyday and
fourth, you really never know what you have until you lost it.

These are adages as old as time but rings true every time.

*****

Author’s note: This is the first 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.

Robierose is currently working as a Writer for UNTV but writes about almost anything in her spare time. She also does proofreading and copy writing, accessory designing, painting, and interior D-I-Y among other things that she considers a hobby.

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