Looking to the heavens

Lovely Saturday in Times Square: everyone takes pictures from a horizontal view.. Try looking up some time -- straight up!  #lookingup #timessquare #ny #mynewyork #mynyc #skyscrapers #vertical #frontcam #anotherview #beautifulday #sunnyspringdayinnewyorkI was saying goodbye to BFF Fe last night after our regular chat when a message from Facebook jolted me with the news of an old friend’s passing.  There was a request not to use social media to comment or publicize it, so out of respect for the family, I cannot dwell or mention who it was or who she was to me.  But I was deeply touched because I was one of half her list of friends who got the invite to her wake and her funeral in Manila.  There will be a time to write about that when the family allows me to.

For now, I bow my head down in prayer knowing she’s at peace and no longer in pain.

I wanted to post this status update publicly on my own FB page, but I was afraid that I would get too many queries and bring attention to someone’s passing.  So instead I sent this to my dearest friends in private, and I’m sharing it here.

“Today is a day for me to reflect on the friendships and the people who have come into and gone out of my life as I learn of others moving on and others coming back and bouncing back. All I can say is thank you to those who have blessed my life with their friendship through the years. To those back home, I miss you all and wish you were but a phone call away and we could meet up in Makati or The Fort or some such place. I thank God for bringing each and every one of you into my life — no matter how brief, or how long, or far back. Please stay in touch… I will try to do the same.”

And to my friend from waaaaay back — no matter how brief our elementary years were, and how we were brought back together in recent years because you stumbled into my little space here, you will always be remembered and tucked away in a special place in my heart.  I will always remember how I visited you in yours as you chronicled your battle and separately, as you wrote about your family adventures.  More importantly, I will never forget your infectious laughter and unbroken spirit even in the face of all that you bravely fought.  Rest in peace, my friend.

 

 

When a young heart grieves

My 10-year-old is grappling with a very personal loss. A house fire had claimed the lives of two young children, one aged 11 and another aged 5, and the older one had been a very close friend of his. They had known each other since kindergarten and had been classmates throughout except for 2nd and 5th grade. Last year, they proclaimed each other as best friends. My son has a very wide circle of friends, but his friend John was sometimes made fun of for being bigger and a year older than most of the kids.

I liked John. He was always nice and was courteous. I knew his mother, too, having seen her in many of the school events when both Angelo and John were in the same class.  In the coterie of wannabe friends of my little boy, he was one I didn’t mind having around him.

I came home to a letter from the school giving instructions on discussing the topic with the children, assuring me that they, too, were dealing with it in crisis mode. Angelo looked fine for the most part. He told me had cried when they broke the news to the class – and that he had refused to make something for John’s mom, as that was probably too emotional for him. The Dad finally arrived from a business trip and had started to ask him about it but he turned to me and started to tear up, shaking his head, telling us he didn’t want to talk about it. I quietly signalled the Dad that Angelo was not up to talking just yet. 

How does a 10-year-old deal with such a loss?

He woke up this morning looking okay. There was still something about the fire in the news, but he nonchalantly just mentioned to me that it had been mentioned in passing. I look at him and I wonder what’s going on in his mind and his heart.

I have been fortunate to have raised a sensitive and compassionate boy. Easy to laugh and carefree, very sociable and at times shy. He has my heart, I think. (And I don’t know if that’s good or bad. =) I never lost a bestfriend who was in my life at the time of her passing. Once, Lilay went to heaven, but at that time, we had long been out of touch because she started a family and I was in college. Still, I felt that loss very deeply and it brought tears to my eyes. (And I don’t cry very easily.)

I’m trying to see if we can go to John’s wake so that they can say a proper goodbye. I just think that would be important for Angelo given the loss of such a close friend.

The thought of losing my child is heart-wrenching even in the hypothetical sense. Imagine losing the two most precious boys in yours. I pray that their mother finds strength to overcome and deal with the grief of losing her babies. How do you deal with such a loss? I am at a loss for words.

Grieving, they say, never really ends. You just learn to cope with it better.  I still grieve for my Dad who passed many years ago.  When I “talk” to him, I find myself lost in an emotional pool that usually ends up with me crying.

It’s still too early to tell how good my son is coping with his grief.  I just know it’s best to let him be and let him process his emotions.  If he needs help, he’ll call me and then we will talk.

Last night as we lay in bed, I told him to say a prayer for John — he is now with Jesus, I told him.

When the unexpected happens

There are three sets of parents grieving the loss of their young sons over the weekend in Manila.  These people are not personally known to me but I had come to know of them through the social networks.  Four young men in their teens with only one old enough to drive were on their way home from a party at 4am in the morning when their car hit a lamp post and all four young lives came to an end.  Just like that.  Two of the four were siblings.  A fifth young man would have been in the car with them but he chose to go to another party and so was not with his bestfriends.

I grieve for the loss of the young lives, and I grieve for the loved ones they left behind.  But it was their time.

The thing is, we never really know when our time is up.  We may be healthy as a horse and still find ourselves on death’s door because of a car that ran out of control, or perhaps a misstep, or some unscrupulous or criminal elements lurking where we are.

Around 2 weeks ago I received a most disturbing voice message that went into my phone the moment my son was having his first communion.  It was a minute and a half of whispered threats that someone was going to kill me.  I have to admit, it unnerved me.  I saved the message and tried listening to it some more.  The caller ID was a different numerical prefix, but the same 7 digits as my own phone, so it wasn’t difficult to figure out that the number must have been “masked” or altered.  With the advances in technology these days, they can even make it appear like you are calling your own phone.  I shrugged it off as a prank which I am sure it was.  But things like that makes one think about what’s out there.

Then there are my friends who are battling second round bouts of cancer that have moved to other parts of the body.  We hear about people just keeling over and dying because of a heart attack.  You really can never tell when it hits you.

I am trying to set my affairs in order, just in case.  (Again, you’ll never know.)  My will, which I had started writing, is still a work in progress.  My bestfriend Fe loves to surf YouTube for music and would often post clips dedicated to this or that friend on her wall or on her friend’s walls, and I have tasked her to make sure that the right music is played at my wake or memorial service and when I am cremated.  I like that she doesn’t think it’s a morbid topic, so she says yes to everything I say.  Others would shirk away and ask why I’m talking about these things — that I was being morbid.  But morbid as death may be as a topic of conversation, it is inevitable.

I don’t know where death will find me.  If it will be expected or not.  If it will come creeping upon me on my sickbed, or if it will just snatch me away like it did those four young men.  I’ve had a good life.  I have accomplished most if not all my dreams, I’ve done most if not everything I had hoped to do at this point in my life.  I still have other dreams, of course, for the future — like seeing my son graduate and be a grown man.  They will come in time.  But from this vantage point, I can already say I’ve had it good — I’ve been luckier than most.

So…I wish to be cremated.   I find it so sad that we only visit our dead loved ones during All Souls’ Day, on their death anniversaries or on their birthdays.  The rest of the year, their resting place gathers dust, is occasionally cleaned or scrubbed, but lies there unattended.  I’d rather that my ashes were spread out somewhere to join the earth again. 

I want to write the programme for my own memorial service.  I will list down who will eulogize me, will get to do the readings at the final mass, and I will choose the songs to be played or sung.  (And no, I am not going to rob my other BFF Donna of her chosen theme song to be played as her casket is being lowered to the ground: “Give Me Just a Little More Time”. LOL)

I wish my things to be distributed as I will declare them to be given away.  Although I am still ambivalent about donating my body parts to science or to organ recipients — I am seriously considering this.  I don’t have riches or treasures to bequeath, but I have some practical possessions that mean something to me which I want to find a home with some others who might give the same meaning and value to them. 

I am by no means brave.  I’m just trying to be ready, even if no one can ever be truly ready.  It happens IF it happens — WHEN it happens.  I don’t have a bucket list — and I have no plans to write up one.  I’m taking life as it comes, a day at a time.

Art Journal Every Day: I miss you, Dad

Art Journal Everyday no. 2: Grief Journal - I miss you, DadI am still in grieving.

One of a couple of layouts I had planned to work on as part of Art Journal Every Day was a simple black and white post on GRIEF. I actually worked around the wordart which is printed although it came out as a very convincing stamp.  (Credits to follow.)

I have been doodling leaves and flowers since I was in my teens, so actually drawing this tree came naturally — although part of the trunk looks like a distorted creature with an open mouth.  (Ang babaeng tuod? LOL)  Everything else came very naturally.

This is my second piece and is signed and dated under the wordart.

I miss you, Dad.

And the New Year is here

2011.. for once, I cannot claim that 2010 just slipped by considering all the life-changing events that took place in my life in 2010.  The most jarring of all being my Dad’s passing.

(pause)

There are many, many other positive things that happened, too, but somehow the most painful is what makes the biggest mark.  So can I end there for now?

I miss Dad.  It’s my first Christmas without him.  It’s my first New Year without him.  For some strange reason, I can remember snippets of last year but I cannot remember how I spent it with him.  Selective amnesia?  Perhaps.

But I have found that it is easier to move on if you are willing to take the step forward.  I am still officially mourning.  My reds and hot pinks (my favorite fuschia pink included) are still in the not-to-be-worn zone.  I didn’t think I’d last this long but last I did.  It may seem immaterial to some but to me, it’s a personal effort at going through my own grieving process.

Yesterday I had to put away some knick knacks and stuff lying around my dresser in the bedroom, and I grabbed a memory box in my closet that was still mostly empty.  Well, except for Dad’s old letters to me.  I didn’t quite have the heart to go through them just yet except to tear the stamps off the envelope and then soak them in warm water later for my “collection”.   (I am an ambivalent philatelist.)  One day soon.

Dad wrote with a beautiful cursive script.  My own penmanship came from those graceful strokes.  Even when his hands were ravaged by Parkinson’s disease, he tried.

I miss you, Dad.  I pray you are in a peaceful place somewhere where the coughing and the trembling hands no longer ail you.  I know your robust laughter now fill the hallways up in the heavens.

The Soap Opera that is our lives

I’ve been caught up watching Magkaribal, and I’m one episode short of being up to date.  The last episode I watched last night hit too close to home, with Mark Gil’s character, the errant father, meeting his end before he could set things right between his two daughters who didn’t even know they were the sister the other one was looking for.  He wanted to make amends and do right by his children.

I decided to skip the last episode for the week and postpone watching it for the morning.  I thought I was tired and decided it was late enough to hit the sack but instead I found myself thinking of Dad.  I know it’s probably far-fetched to connect the soap opera with my own life’s drama as far as my Dad’s recent passing, but I somehow made the connection.

Dad’s passing had left many questions unanswered.  The days following his death only raised more questions than produced answers.  I found out he was trying to have a will drawn up where he was relinquishing his half of the property he was occupying before his death to my half sister, and I knew it was because her mother could not be an heir.

While under the law this was not legal due to the concept of legitimes owing to us his children (including my half sister’s share as an illegitimate child), it appears that the lawyer my father was speaking with was working on having the will drawn up, but as fate would have it, the will was never signed.

Given all the things that had been happening before Dad’s passing and the problems we were trying to solve, it hurt me to realize that it was indeed true that my Dad didn’t seem to care about helping us with our dilemma,   But what hurt more was the realization that his partner had postponed calling us and getting us involved with this last hospitalization because she was afraid that another reconciliation would happen between my father and his children, just as had happened the previous two instances he was confined.

Too many things shouldn’t have happened and I kept repeating Dad shouldn’t have died.  Twice before, he was brought to the hospital on the brink of death, and yet he left in a better state.  This one time he wasn’t brought in for anything life threatening, because we were not involved, the wrong decisions were made leading up to his expiration.

Looking back now I got a reaffirmation that everything happened for a reason.  I would’ve wanted Dad to have stayed on longer, but that is not for me decide.  As they say, when it’s your time, it’s your time. 

I lay there and felt the tears coming — wondering if before he breathed his last, he actually changed his mind.  Perhaps he did.  Perhaps he never signed for a reason — not just because those scheming to make it happen never got the chance to have him sign.

There are many “if”s and “what might have been”s… I just let the tears flow and I realize I miss Papa and wish I had the chance to hold him before he died.  Yet I was fortunate enough to have taken care of him the last two times we saw each other.  I fed him, held him up, and stayed there by his side.  And I was there to lay him to rest.

I forgive you, Dad, and hope you forgive me, too.  I wish you peace and may you find yourself with those who went before you.  May you and Kuya find each other there in heaven.  I know he will keep you company, and you two can be together again finally.  I miss you both. 

There will come a time when we will all be together again.

Thoughts here and there

Minutes to noon.. thinking about lunch.. hmmmm.. I suddenly remembered that I have a can of soup I snatched from the pantry this morning, along with some raclette cheese I’d been keeping for a postponed wine tasting trip.  Bread… ?  I haven’t made up my mind about it  yet.

I had started to write again here several times between the last post and this one.  As you can see, I even managed to change my blog theme to something more colorful and visually pleasing.  The only drawback is that I lost my header photo.  My attention span, as far as developing ablog post beyond starting it with a paragraph or two, has been rather short these days.  Yesterday, I asked if it was the jetlag, the fact that I wanted to have a three-day weekend, or perhaps the ever present knot in my gut that surfaced when Dad passed.

It’s been almost a month.

So lunch was a cup of Creamy Parmesan Tomato Bisque and some raclette.  No bread.  It’s not even 1pm but I feel like I’ve been here all day and raring to go home.  There certainly is no shortage of things to do — there is, however, of time to do all that you want to finish and do.

I picked up my pliers last night and actually fashioned a pair of  freshwater pearl dangle earrings from two strands of pearls I got during this last visit to Manila.  It’s a good sized coin pearl in mauve topped by two varying sizes of sand colored stick pearls.  The trio is held together by a single headpin dangling from an earwire hook.  I haven’t crafted anything in a while, not for lack of inspiration, but more for the lack of the energy to do it again.

Since I was mostly incapacitated by the overwhelming urge to sleep yesterday, I started putting away the few supplies I managed to get.  The budget was tight so there wasn’t much.  Somehow, it was comforting to be stretching headpins to fit into my container.  The rhythmic motion of bending the pins this way and that to straighten it and putting them in the bin was soothing.

It would seem like I am constantly asking for more time and complaining about the lack thereof, but the truth of the matter is I am grateful that I have much to busy myself with given the fact that it distracts me from what would otherwise hold me back.  I would normally wish to just be able to lay down and sleep or just lose myself in thought — but that would not get me anywhere.  The weekend was spent mostly battling the jetlag.  I have quite a hard time adjusting, specially since my first week was still New York time, and then my body clock started adjusting slowly which didn’t quite work with the fact that I was heading back to New York already.

I have been meaning to but haven’t quite yet written out my thank you messages for all the outpouring of sympathy when news about Dad’s death came out.  I returned to work where people thought I had gone on vacation — which was how I preferred to have it stay — because I found it awkward having to receive messages of sympathy when thinking about Dad alone brings me close to tears.  I haven’t quite gotten to that place yet where I can say I’m okay.  I’m getting there.. a day at a time.

Little steps, they said…

The grief that lingers

I’ve been back in New York  for more than 24 hours now.  I’d like to think, too, that I have started to move on, yet the grief seems to linger.

I tried to sleep as the fatigue crept in at midnight, but the tears started to come instead.  I remembered Papa and everything that has come to light  since he passed.  I thought the grief would lessen after I left Manila, but with all the questions that have arisen since he left us, I cannot help but feel myself bobbing up and down a sea of grief.

Sadness blankets my heart.

I brought home one of the baseball caps I had given him years ago as a memento.  I also took back a white handkerchief I had gotten from Pope Benedict’s visit to New York  which I had given to him last year.  I busied myself taking photographs of his photos to take with me, leaving the hard copies with my brothers and sister instead.  I also took home the letters I had written him before which my half sister had returned to me.  His letters to me are in my dresser. 

I’d like to take the mantra of dwelling on the good memories instead of the bad but I don’t seem to have a choice as to which one comes to mind at any given point.  I try to remember Daddy smiling.. laughing with his booming voice resonating in the room.. my father was a very charming man, always the life of the party.  He loved and lived hard.. he had so much love to give he loved a lot.  Not always in the right way, or in the right circumstances, but I figure he just followed his heart.

Deaths in a family always brings the best and worst out in us.  I am grateful for the outpouring of sympathy, and at the same time hurt by the nonchallance or insensitivity of others.  It brings out deep seated anger that would otherwise have simmered beneath the surface.  And at the same time, it brings out a sense of compassion we would otherwise have not realized we had had it not been for the difficulty and pain of mourning.

I am trying to get on to going back into the swing of things so to speak.  I have groceries to be bought, sundries to be restocked, clothes to put away.  When I left, we had just had our windows replaced and Alan and I are in the middle of a repainting-getting new window treatments-redecorating bit.  He just asked me if we might consider doing wooden floors for our dining room.  Maybe.  I said we have to study the best alternative although I really have no idea what that would be right now.

Work awaits.  When I left, I only let a select few know I was leaving to lay my Dad to rest.  Tomorrow when they ask me about my vacation, I will tell them I didn’t go on one — it was to say goodbye to Dad.  At least now I know I can deal with the condolences.. when I left, I was afraid the expressions of sympathy would make me burst into tears.

I have been lucky that those whom I told were very understanding.  My boss sat me down for a talk.  In many ways, she helped me to put myself in a better frame of mind heading home.  Less pain, less anger — enabling me to deal better with the grief.  The pain and the anger remained and had somehow grown, but then I came in with a stronger composure that helped me to see things in a more positive light.  So forget that there are those I expected just a little more compassion from who were too busy worrying about other things.  As I said, when things like this happen, we see the best and worst in those around us.

I relied on my immediate family and friends from way back to provide me the crutch I needed to go from day to day.  And rely on them I will continue to do.  Alan and Angelo provide me strength to look forward to tomorrow with optimism.  My Mom and my siblings have moved forward.. or are hoping to move on.. My friends have always been there and continue to be there.. Life goes on.. even with Papa gone.