the encounter with death

the time i realized im terrible coping with death was a year ago: when we rushed to the hospital to my lolo’s private room and found him dead.  he was still warm, i can vividly remember.  i know this for a fact because when i kissed his forehead six hours later, he was already as cold as hell. (metaphorically speaking, of course.  because everybody knows hell is never cold; it has been pictured as a place with raging, angry fires and blazing, red demons).

there were no words to explain how it felt.  but if i have to pick an adjective to describe the whole thing, “surreal” would have been it.  maybe i could pitch in “a pang of sadness” and perhaps, sprinkle a little “twinge of loneliness”.  the two latter feelings were felt because we wanted to spend more time with him.  that was why we took the flight home that saturday morning.  we weren’t expecting a funeral; we were expecting a recovery.  for an eighty-two year old grandfather with a stroke and high blood pressure, he was a strong man.

he was a strong man; where people gave away their last breath after the third stroke, he was working on learning how to walk again after his fifth.  he was thinning as the years went by and he blamed it on the wheelchair, not on his sickness. 

he hated it.  he hated all signs of weakness: the medicines he refused to take, the wheelchair he wanted to get rid of, the limited activities he could do after his stroke.  but it did not change him into a bitter man.  he was loved (and he still is) by us and he knew it.  and where most people only see the dark clouds swelling over them, he saw the silver lining.  his attitude did not change when he got sick; the sickness only damaged his health and his physical capability, not his principles and his outlook. 

you have to understand that i can never find the right words to describe how i felt when we found him dead at the hospital.  we all knew he was dying but we did not expect that we would find him dead for two minutes when we arrived.  you also have to understand that we all knew he was ready. 

we weren’t.

we weren’t ready to watch him die; that is probably the reason why it was only lola who witnessed his last breath.  we weren’t ready to find him dead, inspite of the fact that we knew he would find solace in it. 

during the funeral, i cried more of my loss than of his death.  he has finally rested; and he did so after living a full life.  yes, he lived a full life.  all throughout, he was well-principled.  he was around when we grew up and he was still there even after the visits at home grew less frequent.  he was an avid follower of his grandchildren’s achievements.   he was proud of what we have become and of the fact that it was he that reared the person who reared us. 

i cried more of my loss than of his death.  not of the latter because i know he was ready and he embraced it in a courage that i do not have yet.  i cried more for each of us who outlived him because on that day and the days that will follow, we will remember how he loved us and how it hurts that we can never hug him again or kiss him again or hear his voice again.  i cried more for the 500 people or so who attended his funeral, who were there not because they were asked to.  i cried more for the friendships that were relit after his death, that somehow it took something as big as this to reclaim them back.  i cried more for the few people he would have wanted to spend time with but couldn’t. 

i cried for all these.  but there was no regret because if he was still alive, he would have tolerated none of it.  i cried, and i painstakingly felt the need to stress why, because his death awakens in me a fact that some things, no matter how better off they are when they happened, they still hurt. 

what can i say?  i misses him.


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