Yesterday was All Soul’s Day but most of you probably went to the cemeteries and offered prayers to your loved ones who passed away last Monday and not yesterday. Not only because for the first time in so many years, November 2 was not declared as a holiday and that people had to go back to work and school yesterday but also because we have always confused which date among the two is the real day for the faithfully departed.
As for me, I opted to stay home. Most of our dead relatives are in the province so we lit candles and offered prayers for them instead. This year I had to deal with losing people who were dear to me, to my family and my friends.
My grandmother on my mom’s side passed away early this year. I was at work when my brother texted me about the sad news. She’s been hospitalized before that and maybe because of her age, she decided to let go and join our grandpa. The last time I saw my lola was more than ten years ago. I haven’t been able to go to the province and visit them and somewhat when I learned about her death, I felt bad because I wasn’t able to see her for the last time. Even though I know how painful it was for my mom and my uncles and aunties to lose the last parent they had, I was also aware that it was not too difficult to deal with knowing that my lola had been happy before she died and that her death was a rest she deserved from raising her ten children, seeing them made their own families and nurturing her grandchildren.
After her death, our cat Chuchay succumbed to kidney failure. Seeing him suffer and finally die was heartbreaking especially for my sister who treated him as her own child of sort. Chuchay had been through a couple of ordeals, we used to joke among ourselves how many of the supposed nine lives of cats Chuchay already used with all his near-death experiences before. There was even a time we really thought he was dead because it took almost a month before he came back from his escapades. He showed up filthy and almost unrecognizable. Apparently he got caught in between the New Year festivities, being aloof and afraid of people he could have hid himself somewhere like under a jeep with leaking oil (grasa) or maybe he slipped into a sewerage or imburnal. His regular ruckus with the other cats in the village earned him scars and left him almost always with bloated face (oh, wait, he really had a chubby face! haha) that we were really hoping that he could make it pass his condition. Despite being a trooper that he was, Chuchay left us one Sunday afternoon. We were so sad. My sister was devastated for weeks.
That week Chuchay died, I got another sad news. My friend from high school who got hospitalized after suffering a heart attack died. He passed away on a Sunday but I learned about it on Monday when I checked my phone upon waking up. It was his best friend (who was also our classmate) who sent the message. I checked the time, it was sent around 3am. I actually woke up around that time and had the urge to check my phone for no apparent reason as if something (or someone) was beckoning me to do so. I was glad I didn’t. I don’t think I could go back to sleep if I ever read that message. That morning, I stared at my phone for awhile before I was able to text the one that sent the message to ask him if it was true (even though I know he wouldn’t put me up with such a bad joke). I immediately thought of my best friend who was in Cebu during that time. I kept wondering if she already knew but I realized that since she hasn’t texted me yet, she still had no idea. It was so hard breaking the news to her, knowing how much she was close to him. I was fighting my tears as I commute to work but by the time I was chatting with my best friend over YM, I couldn’t help myself. All day long I feigned a severe case of runny nose to cover my puffy eyes and red face.
His wake turned to a mini-reunion for us high school friends. There was laughter as we reminisce those days when we were younger, carefree and innocent. We tried to smile as we bid him goodbye, but we cannot helped the tears to take over, knowing he will truly be missed.
Unlike the deaths of my lola and Chuchay, my friend’s death was a little harder to accept. Maybe because my friends and I were really hoping he’d recover, knowing how young he was that his body could still make it. Maybe because we knew how strong he was, he’d be able to surpass that difficulty the way he was able to recover from the problems he had before like the death of his older brother last year. Maybe because we felt (and still feel) it was unfair for all of us – for his mom and sister, her wife and barely a year-old son, for his friends – to be left with this pain of losing someone like him.
I wracked my brain during those times for the memories I had with him. When was the last time I saw him? I talked to him? Was it still after our graduation from high school? Where was I when he, together with our other classmates asked for small meet-ups, when they needed just to say hi and ask how life was? Sadly, I was busy with my own life, my own woes.
Death makes us realize that we do not have control over our lives. I realized this when we almost lost our dad three years ago and I was reminded of this again when my friend passed away. As I lit a candle and prayed for my dearly departed, I also hoped that it would not be the only day that I remember how fragile life is. I hope that everyday, I can let the people around me feel how important they are to my life. It’s a tall order, knowing how selfish I can be sometimes. But hey, there’s no harm in trying, right?