My friend, Joy and I were having dinner at Al’s Diner… we were discussing the things we are supposed to work on to for the next day, when she received a message about her grandmother, found unconscious by her sister. It was really a shocking and awkward moment for me…I don’t know what to say to keep her from worrying… and instincts tells me, that I just have to be there for her… even without a single word. I thought that it’s better not to say anything than say something I might regret.
She was telling me about how she makes her grandmother laugh… and how she takes care of her… and it worries her because she’s not there to help her grandmother. I know how she felt… because I used to feel that way some years ago.
I remember my grandmother would visit us once in a while and would cook good food for us… and I eat everything that she cooks… I don’t eat eggplant because if I do? I’ll probably end up vomiting. But with her, I’m confident eating it… I don’t know how she does it but I can actually eat an eggplant without having to puke. J
Our “lola inay” is very workaholic. She couldn’t stand a few minutes not doing anything. I missed her Batangeña accent. “Ala eh, habi riyan at ako’y nagwawalis ng sahig” (move aside, I’m sweeping the floor) that was her common lines… and when we get naughty she has a way of making us feel guilty:
“Ako po’y Tabing at nagpapailaya,
Tatawid ng ilog at mangangalsada,
Ako’y may nakitang paring nagmimisa
Ang wika sa aki’y magsimba ka muna
Ako’y lumuhod sa tabi ng pader
Ang tinutunghay ko… ang birhen sa langit.”
All of her grandchildren would memorize the poem and would recite it in front of her… I don’t know if all my cousins still remember that poem but I did. I kept it by heart. My way of remembering her… and the quality moments I had with her.
Year 2000, she was diagnosed with cancer. Nobody told her about her condition for the reason that she might end up feeling depressed. Even us, her grandchildren didn’t know about it. Until one day, she went to a point of not able to walk again.
I had the chance to spend time with her for two weeks… it wasn’t easy taking care if her… seeing her in that condition broke my heart. I know she’s suffering and I can’t do anything but just be there for her and take care of her in anyway I can. And the night before I left, she was actually in tears… I was in tears as well, but I never let it show… her voice was weak, she said: “Uuwi ka na… wala ng mag-aalaga sa akin. Hindi na nga yata ako gagaling eh.” (No one’s going to take care of me anymore when you leave, perhaps I’ll never get any better) I told her not to lose hope… and that she’ll get better. But I know I was lying… because the Doctor already told us the truth. Then she gave me her last words… “Sabihin mo sa kuya mo na, wag na niya ako isakay sa kotse na puti. Mag-aral na kamo siya ng mabuti.” (Tell your brother to not to tour me with his white car anymore. Tell him to study hard.) Before I left, she asked me to massage her back… then I hugged her and kissed her on the forehead. And that was my last moment with my “lola inay” a few days after I left, she passed away.
My mom shared to us what lola inay told her before lola inay died. “Yung damit kong puti na isinuot ko sa kasal ni Sheila ang susuotin ko pag akoy namatay… yung iba kong damit ipamigay niyo na” (I’m going to use the white dress I wore in Sheila’s wedding when I die. Give my other clothes away) She talks as if she already knew she is going to leave. Then she paused for a moment, and continued, “Tingnan mo ako Delia, aalis ako na walang ibang dala kundi ang nag-iisang damit na isusuot ko pag ako’y namatay.” (Look at me Delia, I’m going away without anything to bring except the only dress I wear when I die)
Today I learned that the hurt of losing someone who mattered to you never really go away… it stays right there in the depth of your heart… the only thing one can do is get used to the pain. My lola inay, left us on that 13th day of November, 2000.
Even until this moment, I had those words with me… I kept it with me… a simple memory that makes me near to tears… because I know she loved us so much… and the kind of love she had for us was selfless.