There was a sense of anticipation in the air. It was a cold Sunday night, and the stars were just starting to shine.
Everyone was asked to keep quiet, though the kids didn’t know why. Everything was changing, although everything was the same. Inside the 30 year old house, the furniture was moved. The TV was upstairs, and the couches were moved to the porch. Lights flickered through the room as the lights from cars reflected onto the mirrors. The adults was gathered in the living room, though the kids stayed outside. The front gate was open, and from time to time I looked out, hoping to see the white van already. My heart was jumping wildly, as if I have been running for miles. As I walked back towards the garden, my younger sister approached, and with impatience in her voice when she asked me:
“Ate, when is Lolo coming home?”
Her innocence almost made me cry, and fought the urge to tell her. The tears were brimming, and I wiped it away, trying to be strong for the young ones. As the eldest grandchild, I wanted to be brave. Though I was still shaken, I tried to distract myself. I looked around the familiar surroundings; the broken window, the little plants and the dogs that guarded the gate. Nothing seemed amiss; everything was still the same way as every day. But when I got inside the house, everything was drastically changing. It felt more and emptier every time I looked at all the familiar things. It came to a point that everything was strange. I tried to shake off the feeling as I walked towards my mother, her face stiffened and her eyes tired.
“Ma, is it on the way?”
She merely nodded, and continued to distract herself by talking to my aunts and my Lola. They were all seated in their places on the old dining table, and there was that one chair that no one dared to sit on. Hushed voices were around, but within me I felt alone. The deafening silence grew, and I began pacing the empty living room. I knew that in a few moments this place would be a sight of pain. I walked again to the gate, and then I saw a white van. I saw the name of the famous saint on the front of it, and my heart pounded again as I knew it was the right one. My uncle also saw it, so he told everyone to go into the house. The kids became excited, as they came to me and kept asking if Lolo was finally home. The van backed up, and the kids were shouting
My heart was shred into pieces when they stopped shouting. There was that deafening silence again, as a white coffin showed when the back of the van opened.
My youngest sister said with her voice cracking. She looked around, her eyes lost in translation. My other sister had tears brimming and I held them close. They finally understood. The three of us were crying, holding each other close.
As the men in white set up a stand in the living room, with all their decorations and flowers, I started to calm my sisters down. And when they carried the coffin, I prayed my hardest that this just wasn’t true. I kept blinking my eyes, hoping this was all a dream. As everything else subsided, a few minutes later I stared at the coffin. As I sat there and watch him, he looks like he is sleeping; there was peace in his face. No more tubes sticking down his throat, no more tubes injected in his hands. There were no more tears of hardship.
I feel like he isn’t even dead, like when I go to the store I would find him cooking in their kitchen, then I’d hug him real tight like I always did when I saw him. Then I’d kiss him on the cheek, scream good morning then I’d leave the store with him going back to his work. I sometimes imagine that when I open the door to their house I’d meet him, or that he’d get mad at me for not closing the door again. I imagine being able to massage him whenever I could, then hugging him tightly whenever I saw him.
As the days dragged on, people came and went. They all said that they always remembered my Lolo smiling, like he was always happy. Everyone agrees to this, that in some point of their life, my Lolo was a part of it somehow, like he was there to help them in some way. They all laughed, though there was grief all around. No one cried too much, and his presence was everywhere.
Every story became a piece of a puzzle, a piece of a time how he treated everyone. Every time we remembered him, we would end up laughing, with his wisecracks and jokes. And as I remembered his final moments with me when I slept on his bed in the hospital, I smiled. I remembered him combing my hair with his fingers, thinking I was asleep. I smiled remembering that moment when he realized I was crying, he said through the tubes that were in his nose:
“Don’t cry. Stop crying.”
He didn’t want us to be unhappy, because he has done so much to make us happy. And that’s how I realized, that my Lolo not only found the fountain of immortality, he basked in it. He shared it with people, secretly giving them a sip of what he had even when he had nothing. And now as I write this, with tears streaming down my face and my hands shaking, I know he’s here, wiping my tears. I smile remembering and realizing the best lesson he taught me wasn’t taught verbally. I learn it by reflecting on his life, by letting me see the little pieces of the puzzle of his life. He taught me everything that the others only dream of. He taught me that the secret of immortality is to leave everyone with a smile on their faces.
Written almost a month after he died, two years ago. 🙁 It’s still great to remember him though. 🙂