Being at the wake of your own father, or perhaps of anyone dear to you, is a surreal thing. Amidst the flurry of people coming in and out and talking to you, of food and stories being passed around, there, in the center of it all, is the casket. My father died on December 23, 2009, succumbing to septic shock and heart failure after months of hospitalization.
I remember that early on as a child, my every night's prayers would have, on the top of my wish list, a prayer that my parents would have the longest life ("mahabang mahabang buhay"), which I would utter with all my heart. Looking back, I only regret now that I did not include "healthy" in that nightly prayer. Hence, with my mother as my only living parent now, I have resurrected that prayer of mine and have included and underlined the words "HEALTHY," "HAPPY,", and "LOVE-FILLED" to longest life.
Talking with one of those who came to the wake and one who lost her father at an early age, we've agreed that Death, as far as all humans are concerned, will always be the last unknown frontier for us, and that no one will ever be too prepared for it.
Not one of us was present when Tatay breathed his last. Although my brother Renan was only a few floors away from my father's hospital room. Although we were all on our way. In the end, we all either missed his death by several minutes or even an hour. Perhaps, (and more to console ourselves), we thought that was how he wanted to go. It gave us comfort that we were able to sing as a family around his bed the previous night (his favorite videoke songs, including Christmas songs), and that later during the wake, I learned that my brother Renan was able to sing to my father one last song ("Ang Panginoon ang aking Pastol, 'di ako magkukulang...), an hour prior to his death.
I watched as the hospital staff prepared him for the morgue. Binding his arms with styropore tape across his chest, then his legs, then closing up his mouth.
In one of those nights during the wake when I took a rest, I had a low point. Forgive this cliche bu I suddenly questioned the point in living one's life when everyone else, in the end, will succumb to death. It was a text message that pulled me out from that abysmal despair (Sunny, thank you for this): "Love is your God connection and it is your gift to the world. Through love, you express your divinity and share your light. Be gentle with yourselves, and hold yourself and all others in the light of Love and Compassion always."
It was then that I recalled all my memories of my father. I remembered the love, which my father showed each of us while growing up, expressing it however, imperfectly. Wala naman talaga kase manual on parenting, di ba? And how he loved our mother as well. The text message pinned it down. Life only makes sense when there is love as it is also Love that makes Life possible.
And as I said in the eulogy I managed to deliver for Tatay, he taught us how to love, and that is more than enough. And I am much consoled by it.