Although I know that my father is not going to live forever here on earth (who will…), I never thought that he would pass away sooner than I imagined.
Life without Papa is lonely. Around the house we don’t talk that much but I always look forward to seeing him when I wake up in the morning and when I go home in the afternoons – sitting on his favorite spot watching his teleserye on weekdays and boxing or basketball on weekends, handing me the remote control when his favorite TV program is over, turning on his am radio to listen to either a local news or a radio drama.
I’m simply contented to see him and know that he is present around the house – preparing rice in the kitchen, working with his tools in his room or tinkering with his bike at the garage.
Now I don’t have that anymore. And I miss it.
I miss my father’s presence. I miss seeing his silent giggles. I miss having disagreements with him. I miss checking on him. I miss our moments of connections in the domestic harmony of our homes knowing that there is always that one person who will always accept me no matter how evil I may become.
I miss him.
I miss being my father’s daughter.
With my faith, I can comfort myself but there is always a gap, a fracture, a deep visceral desire for one more hug, one more conversation, one more shared laugh. Death seems to shatter that connection. It leaves a deep chasm into my heart. I feel bereft and empty. Helpless.
One friend sent me a message in her effort to console me, “It’s just a matter of that’s life so you can stop grieving. After all, no one will live forever in this earth.” Although there is truth to what she said I still disagree. No, it’s not a matter of that’s life. It’s easier said than done.
There’s no substitute for having my father in our living room. There is no substitute to the joy that comes from loving and being loved in a family.
His absence will always leave an empty hole in my heart. Whether that hole is small or large, momentary or permanent, I cannot really tell. But only God can fill it – again. It’s not a matter of that’s life so I can move on, it’s only by the grace of God that I can continue on.
May 26th (Thursday), I went back to the pool. I mustered all courage and strength in me to try to resume back to normal living.
Knowing that the day I found him lifeless was when I was on my way to swimming, made it more difficult. Instead of plunging right into the pool, I sat on the pool step and cried. I was free to do so, I was alone, not until 15 minutes later.
I’ve been holding conversations with God since it happened. I’ve asked too many questions that are still unanswered, pleaded for signs that God may have already given only that I weren’t paying attention, and prayed for assurance about all the things I still want to know from my father and from God.
I have also been holding conversations with myself. And in both conversations – God and myself – I have realized three very important matters that I hope to share with you.
1. Everyday is a special day
Do not take things for granted anymore because there are no promises for tomorrow. While we are optimistic about the future and teachable about our past, the truth is we only have TODAY. And whatever we do today matters a lot.
When Papa passed away, I kept thinking that if I only knew that it will be his last Christmas with us last year or his last summer with us this year or his last day or last night with me, I could have dropped everything and made everyday so special. But no one knew, not even himself. He may have felt it but he didn’t know exactly.
I was going over all his things, a sad chore that always follows an unexpected earthly goodbye, storing it in boxes when I came across new and never been used towels, short pants and jockey’s. I and my siblings bought it for him. The brand tags on those items were still attached.
Some are still in their plastic wrappers. There’s one pair of shoes that have been used only once as well as perfume samplers. I called my siblings.
I told my younger brother about it and he said, “You know Papa. He always chooses to use old things.” My younger sister added that Papa was perhaps saving it for special occasions.
Papa did not only have new things that were never or slightly used, he also kept things that I or others have thrown. He knew how to recycle things.
He is very creative with the works of his hands. His room had a lampshade made of soda can, plastic bottle, a torn short pants that he used to dim the light coming from the bulb. That and many others.
Papa is also very sentimental. He kept very old photos (still in black and white), old correspondence, notes &; letters, resident certificates, business cards and other sort of things from way back 1971.
One way or the other, I’m very much like him. But when we started to move places every two years, I’ve slowly de-cluttered but I still keep those with sentimental value.
I’ve realized that some things are worth keeping, some things need to be given away to bless others and some things have to be discarded.
Everyday that we are alive is special. Don’t ever save anything for special occasions because everyday is worth celebrating.
I thought about all the things that Papa hasn’t seen or heard or done. I thought about the things that we’ve done without realizing that they were special.
I’m trying to recognize those moments now and cherish them – the long drive to Gawahon falls where he complained that it’s too far, our drive to Mambukal, our family get-together in and outside the home, our bonding moments over Avatar (we watched it twice), My Princess (we watched the marathon showing) and Jackie Chan dvd’s, his “hidden” smile whenever I change his cellphone unit to a newer one, his bike rides, the times I convinced him to go to church with me, our silly times, our challenging times, and yes even our disagreements.
Life is a pattern of experiences to savor not endure, whether those experiences are sweet or bitter.
I’m not “saving” anything anymore. “Someday” and “one of these days” are losing their grip on my vocabulary. If it’s worth seeing or hearing or doing, I want to see and hear and do it now. It may be the last time. We only have TODAY.
I’m not sure what I would have done had I known that Papa will be leaving us soon. I’m not sure what Papa would have done had he known that he wouldn’t be here for tomorrow.
He might have talked to me more honestly and deeply. I think he would have called his brothers in Bohol, Siquijor and Iloilo. He might have vacationed to his sister-in-laws in Kalibo, Aklan sooner than scheduled.
He might have gone to Bohol to see his hometown for the last time. I don’t know. I’m guessing. I’ll never know.
And for that, I’m trying very hard not to put off, hold back, or save anything that would add laughter and luster to my life and my relationships.
And every morning when I open my eyes, I tell myself that it is special.
Every day, every minute, every breath truly is a gift from God.
2. A lifetime is not enough to enjoy your relationships
Don’t miss any opportunity to say I love you. Tell your family and friends regularly how much you care. Wash the slate clean in your heart and speak from the truth of your knowing and your connection, lest they be suddenly taken.
And if you have the grace of time to allow their passing slowly, then offer them a gentle path, one filled with tenderness and caring.
It’s really very simple. Just say, I love you. You have been a blessing. I’m thankful I have known you.
And since our lifetime is not enough to enjoy our relationships then resolve to make good memories. Turn bitter experiences to sweet encounters and let every disagreements have their resolutions.
When all is said and done, its our relationship that counts the most, our deep relationships.
In short, do everything in your power to make every relationship better. This is what I am trying to do now – connect, re-connect and forgive.
I don’t want to be remembered for giving up on life just as it’s handed back to me. It wont be easy but I know that it will be worth it. In honor of my father’s legacy.
And when the ending happens, I don’t have to say goodbye because I can continue to remember.
3. God is the only ultimate source of hope and strength
Even though time is supposed to heal everything. I don’t think it ever takes away the yearning for your father.
The physical, emotional and psychological recovery from this event takes small, sometimes terribly painful, steps. I just have to reach inside of myself and pull out something I didn’t know was there.
I find out how much I really have, what I am made of, who is there to help me, and how strong my faith is in God.
What I’m focused on now is pushing through the pain, and summoning my courage to not only survive, but to go beyond survival.
And these can only be made possible in God and with God and His ever sufficient grace. Nothing else. No one else.
God is the only ultimate source of hope and strength.
I surrender my need for answers but I hope and in faith believe that the needed sign or assurance from God will come.
I surrender to God’s loving arms.
I surrender my future to Him.
I surrender to my Father.
By the grace of God.
No, I will not abandon you as orphans—I will come to you. (John 14:18, New Living Translation)