Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Losing a Parent

I asked myself if I am ready to write this piece. The answer is that I probably never will be. But maybe being ready for it was never the problem. Maybe this is where I can start threshing out my emotions and move on.

When I was in high school, I made a pact with God. I begged him to take me first before any of my parents die. I told him I will not be able to stand the pain and that it would shatter me. It was a one-sided pact, of course. Deep inside, I knew I was asking for something selfish and improbable. But the nightmare of losing one's parents had always been the pressure point of all my carefully constructed defenses. I lose them, I lose myself.

Ten years later, the worst does happen. In the span of two months, I had to go through the cycle of grieving twice. With Daddy, it was a bit more sudden and the shock was severe. I felt numb from the neck down. The only thing which proved to me I haven't died yet is the fact that my head is a jumble of thoughts and the tears won't stop flowing. We've lost our protector and our provider. His role in the family was so integral and now I'm expected to step up to replace him. Except that there would be no replacing my Dad.

With Mummy's passing, the shock may have been overtaken by extreme disbelief. There was no time to be numb, there was just time to be angry and despaired. After countless novenas, strings of the rosary and signs we were being heard, I really thought she would make it through. It never occured to me she'll die. I thought she was just temporarily hit and she'd get well, and we could start anew. I kept promising her I will take her to Tagaytay and we'll eat pansit and drink buko juice. She was happy to think about those plans. She kept making the "deal" sign every night I visited her. She was going to fight; I was going to fight for her fight. She was going to be better.

But like every bastard thief, death came --- and in her loneliness without Daddy, she answered. I was angry at her. At Death. And only a great fear of God is keeping me from being angry with Him. And yet, I knew what lay ahead of her had she not died. There was only misery in it. There was only suffering. If she had not gone, she would still be attached to that evil ventilator machine inside the hospital right now. She would still be alone inside the CCU. And ahead of her would be her last six months now that it seems cancer has stricken her down.

Sometimes, I wonder if she would still be alive if I made other decisions. Should I have taken her out immediately, even if unstable, to transfer to another hospital? Should I have asked her to be transferred to the charity ward where we would be there 24 hours to cheer her up and sacrifice the quality of medical service? Was she depressed when she died? Did she feel like we abandoned her? Did she lose complete faith in me as a daughter?

Looking back, I know I gave it my all. What hurts me the most is that my best wasn't enough to keep her alive. The world is stripped of its borders now and I am at a lost what to do.

I haven't gone through the whole cycle of grief yet, unfortunately. I can see that there's still a lot of ground to cover. I would still be hurting like this a week from now. I would be alternatingly angry and disbelieving. I would be nostalgic and depressed. I would be relieved and exuberant. I would be grateful and faithful. I would be amazed at the kindness of friends and family and doubtful of whether I deserve their generosity.

I would be insane.

This is how I lost my parents. This is how I was broken. I have shattered to a million pieces, and I am leaving it up to God to put me back together. Maybe He'll make me into something better. Only time can tell.

In memory of a family who knew how to smile.

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