My grandfather was laid to rest just a few hours ago. For me, that meant he is totally, completely, physically gone forever. He won’t be there anymore if ever I visit my his house in the province. I won’t see him tend to his cows, his plants, smoke his coiled, dried tobacco leaves, cook food or listen to him tell stories about World War II in the airy cottage made of bamboo outside their home. My grandpa has nine children, my father being the oldest and the only one living far away from him. Because travel to my grandparent’s town was long, expensive and dangerous (we have to pass by some mountainous areas where rebels in the Southern Philippines abound), we seldom see relatives in my father’s side.
But everytime we go and visit, I always look forward to my grandfather’s stories and tales of his experiences with the war, his youth, his early marriage and life with nine children. It’s like listening to a story from a book – only that it is real and that story is a part of who I am. I cherish those moments with him in my heart.
When he died, I posted here and in Facebook that my last living grandparent passed away but I have to tell you a secret: I didn’t cry. It was like suddenly, I didn’t know how to cry. Not because I wasn’t sad or hurt of his passing. It’s because I have not seen him for about 15 years and the news of his death seems so unreal for me. We’ve not seen each other for so long but at the back of my mind, he is just there that somehow even in his death I had this irrational thinking that he’s not really dead but just still there – where I can’t see him but still living. I didn’t have the instant reaction to cry which should be natural as someone who’ve lost a loved one. Not me – my tear ducts have some kind of delay reaction. For example, when I leave my family at the airport, I would be smiling but inside the plane, I would burst out crying until the cabin attendants don’t know what to do with me.
Last night, for the first time since my beloved Lolo (grandfather) died, I cried.
When someone dies, wakes in the Philippines usually go on for days before the funeral. I wasn’t there when my mom’s parents died (just 2 months apart!) and when my paternal grandmother passed away 9 years ago but I would imagine if I’ve been there, I would not cry during the course of the wake but would suddenly start wailing once the coffin is placed in the tomb and permanently sealed – when the thought of not seeing the physical body of the loved one is gone forever.
For the first time in years, I miss my Lolo. I’m glad I was able to talk to him three weeks ago in the hospital. He still recognized me and with slurred speech (he had a stroke), he asked how I was instead of me asking him that question. He even joked why I only manage to have one kid and not 9 like him! I could tell he was smiling despite his condition.
They say when someone dies they don’t really leave us. I was terrified of that thought when I was younger because I’m a wimp – afraid of horror movies, dead people and ghost stories but last night when I felt my Lolo’s presence inside my bedroom, I was not afraid.