May 14, 2011 – Saturday
The alarm sounded. It’s 5am. But instead of waking up, I just took a glance at my cellphone a.k.a. my alarm clock and zonked out.
It was 5.20am when my eyes opened again. I have swimming lessons today. Looking out the window, the sky was overcast. Hmmm… looks like it’s going to rain. I didn’t mind as it’s always best for me to swim without the sun.
I didn’t hear the birds chirp this time. I didn’t hear them sing their morning song. On any other days, they do. In fact, they’re sometimes my alarm clock. They chirp loud enough to awaken me in the morning. But this time, they were silent.
I hurriedly put on my rash guard and swim pants. I dashed off downstairs. Halfway through the twelve steps, from the gap between the ceiling and my father’s room wall, I saw that his two curtains were still draped. I thought it strange for him to have not opened it at this time. It was already 5.30am.
You see, Papa rides his bike early morning, everyday. That’s his exercise. Complete with his arm gloves, hand gloves and helmet, he would go out to cycle for an hour or so. On Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays, I have my swimming lessons. On these days, I’m always first to go out.
Rushing, I passed by his room and quickly said, “Pa, I’ll go ahead.” He didn’t answer with his usual “Hmm“. Since Papa had a mild stroke in 2005, I have carefully instructed him not to lock his doors so I can enter in at anytime I needed to check on him.
So, when he didn’t answer the first time, I peeked through his room, tapped his door and said, “Papa, I’ll go ahead.” Still no answer. So, I threw the door wide open.
There he lay quite comfortably as if only napping with a smile on his face, I screamed at him to wake up. I didn’t want to believe what my self was telling me. I held his hands. I felt it. I knew it in my spirit. But I didn’t want to admit it.
Heavy clouds hang over me. I was stricken with grief. I cried bitterly.
I asked him what else is needed to take care of him and if he’d only wake up to answer me I’ll do it.
I kept asking him questions.
“Have I been a bad daughter that you should leave me?“
“Did you meet Mama already?” (On February 14, 1995, Mama left us due to congenital heart disease after being at the hospital for 12 days. She was only 38 years old then.)
“Did you see the Lord already?“
“Did you suffer?“
“Was anything painful?“
I pleaded with the Lord to lend me back my father even for just 5 more minutes. I pleaded with Mama to help me convince the Lord even for 5 minutes.
But there’s nothing I can do. No words. No tears. No sorrow can ever make my father come back to life. I was hysterical. I stomped up and down and slumped on the floor a few times.
Our helper and a friend who lives with us, upon hearing my screams, dialed for an ambulance. We arrived at the hospital at 6.13am. They said it’s been four hours.
I kept thinking that he may have just passed out. Maybe his spirit went on a few hours furlough and will be back soon. I was in denial.
On May 18, Wednesday, along with my younger siblings, family, relatives and friends, we laid Papa to his final resting place, right where Mama was laid 16 years ago.
Those who have seen me as strong, composed and reserved have seen a different side of Emmylou the day this happened. For the first time in my entire adult life, beginning at age 17, I didn’t know what to do or how to make decisions. I was incapacitated.
Next to God, I lived for my Papa. I worked hard for Papa. He didn’t ask for it. I wanted to do it for him. No, he wasn’t a burden. In fact, he still earned money on his own but since Mama left I wanted to take care of my family.
In 2000, when I have saved enough and had an average salary, I took them into my fold. We rented a nice condo unit along Lacson St. and I tried to send my younger brother to school. I was contented.
Papa and Toto (my younger brother) were sharing a room. Mimi (my younger sister), Rhia (my best friend) and I were sharing a room. We moved several times until we were more comfortable. I was happy. I couldn’t ask for anything more. There were many challenges and struggles along the way. But we surpassed it all as a family, my friend included.
But just as seasons change so did our family. First, my brother moved away to start his own family. Many years later, my sister got married and she, too started her own family. I remained with Papa. I told him I’ll bring him with me wherever I go. But I went nowhere. He’s more comfortable being in Bacolod than anywhere else. So, we stayed. I stayed.
Papa didn’t want to be a burden to any of his kids. It was a miracle that after he survived his mild stroke in 2005 with a bp of 210/190 and his speech beginning to slur, he still went on to live with no disability. He wasn’t paralyzed. His speech recovered. He went on to provide for his personal needs. I took care of the rest.
Since childhood, I never heard him complain that life is hard. Or that he was in pain. The only time I would know that he was in pain was when I caught him in tears. That’s when he would tell me his gout attacked him again. We would fight over laundry. We have a helper to do it for him but he would do his own laundry, and he will do it when I am not around or still sleeping in the morning.
He never asked for anything material. When we would give him gifts on his birthday or on Christmas, he would always say, “ka gasto ah“. When his medicines ran out, he wouldn’t even tell me. Or when I forget to give him money for his therapy, he wouldn’t remind me. That’s why I have everything in my planner.
My friends who saw him days before he passed away was surprised by the news. They were just telling me that Papa has recovered fully well. His friends, too, were shocked. They did not think that Papa will leave them. They were just having their usual afternoon coffee that Friday.
Friday night, he and the helper still talked. “Tito ok ka lang da kay matulog na ko.” The helper even heard him unwrap a piece of Snowbear. And by the way, the helper used to call him Sir but he opted to be called Tito.
Papa left with a smile on his face. And as my friend said, “Emmylou mahal na mahal ka nang Diyos. Alam nang Diyos kung paano ka mag isip kaya inunahan ka na Niya. He gave you the assurance because your Papa left with a smile.“
Another friend said, “Emmylou, the Lord is so good to you. Acknowledge the Lord’s wisdom here. Your Papa didn’t suffer. He did not die in an accident or suffering in a hospital. He took your Papa while he was sleeping.“
Those words are comforting.
But I miss my Papa. I miss his presence around the house. He’s the first thing I ask when I go downstairs upon waking up. He’s the first thing I ask when I arrive at the house in the afternoon. “Diin si Papa?” “Pa, ka ka-on ka na?“
I miss my father!
But I know that in heaven, he is walking on streets of gold. No more medicines to take. No more pain to combat. He is happy where he is, that’s why he left with a smile.
That’s why when I woke up today, I heard the birds chirp again. They were singing and though my heart still aches, they were sent to encourage me.
I am still mourning, grieving. Most days I am still lethargic, oftentimes going through the day with no meal, just water. But the good Lord will see me through.
I still have questions — lots of them. But when I don’t understand the works of His hands, I will trust His heart.
The fact that I can open my computer, go online and write again is a milestone. I’ll take this one day at a time.
My days wont be perfect but with God’s help, I will pick up the pieces knowing that I am surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses, Papa and Mama are two of them, cheering me on to endure the race set before me.