March 28, Thursday, was an unforgettable day for me and my family. My father died peacefully but the events which came before that were more painful that one can ever imagine especially for those who haven’t lost a loved one yet.
My relationship with my father was better than I can describe it. I’m not good at saying things orally so I resort to writing in order to express my innermost thoughts. My relationship with other people, with my loved ones often goes awry simply because I cannot express it well enough to make it more intelligible to them at the very least.
“Dad, it’s Me Jules. I’m here, I Will Stay and Will Never Leave”
I was in Manila when my sister called asking me to come home immediately for dad. But even before that, I had plans of coming home already, on thursday to be exact, to visit him. The first time dad and I talked again after years of being away was during Christmas of last year after. We didn’t really talk but we hugged each other. You know how men have difficulty expressing their emotions. My dad and I suffer from that a lot…and more intense.
I immediately went back home that Wednesday and got home at night. I was shocked to see my dad so thin and pale. His body was so heavy, his breaths were slow but deep indicating of a dying body. Seeing someone like that would force anyone to jump out of their chair and take them to nearby hospital but my sister explained that doctors would just ask us to take him back home due to his old age.
Technically, my dad has no disease or whatsoever, he just stopped eating that day, which has caused alarm to the entire family and had episodes of state of delirium with his eyes looking straight upward. Everything happened so quickly, in just one day.
But even then I had to insist that we take my dad to the hospital to get him some needed medical attention. My dad was unconscious and still won’t open his eyes. I was nervous. As soon as we get in the hospital I immediately put him in the hospital bed in the emergency room as instructed by the attending nurses. There my dad’s eyes opened, seeing me, he tried so hard to talk but no words would come out of his mouth, and raising his hands trying to touch my face. There I told him in my native tongue, “O tang, I jules ini. Aku ini. Atiu naku. Edaka lakwan keni. Keni kumu siping mu”. (Dad it’s me jules. It’s me. I’m here already. I won’t leave you. I’ll stay here with you). My dad closed his eyes, never to open it again after hearing those words. Suddenly, my dad’s temperature went up, from being so frigid. His skin lightened in color and his muscles softened. I knew he responded physiologically when he saw me.
Nurses had a hard time putting in syringe since my dad’s veins collapsed already but ultimately did after almost an hour of attempt. The doctor told me that dad suddenly fell into coma and only responds to pain when they apply pressure against his sternum (the chest bone). They gave me the option to put in incision in the throat to help him breathe or let him that way so he could ‘let go’ peacefully.
I was confused. But the doctor turned out to be more emotional when I saw her almost cried in front of me. Her unsolicited advice went on saying, “Nung aku kekayu, ali tane papabusbus batal tatang. Manasakit yamu. Matwa ne i tatang at nung lalawen taya, ene magluat uling mig collapse ne katawan na uling keng edad. Pero atiu parin kekayu nung nanung buri yu pero ita mu ing a suggest ku kekayu” (If I were you, I won’t go with tracheotomy. It will just hurt him. Daddy’s old already and he won’t make it any longer since his body collapsed already due to old age. But its still your call, but that’s the suggestion I have at the moment.)
I was stunned and couldn’t decide. The doctor, being so emotional, asked me to decide quickly and headed to a nearby restroom, perhaps to cry as she was on the verge of tears. She probably had similar situation in the family before.
I immediately phoned my oldest sister Alma to ask her about her opinion on the matter and got a no on the tracheotomy. She wanted dad’s body to stay as it is, with no unnecessary incision and the like. We were both literally crying over the phone. Went back to emergency room to tell them about the family’s decision. They had me sign the papers that says that the medical staff won’t do any reviving acts the moment my dad goes through “that” difficult stage. I signed the papers. My hands were cold. I signed my dad’s death sentence.
After doing so, I walked slowly towards my dad’s bed. Held his left hand, and leaned over to his left ear, saying, “O tang, I jules ini. Edaka lakwan keni. Abe muku…Petawaran danaka tang. Malwat na. Sana patawaran muku rin. Patawaran me rin sarili mu…Pasalamatan mu ing bie mu, ing bie tamu, kasi kahit nanu pa milyari, masaya naman diba?” (Dad, it’s me jules. I won’t leave you here. I’m with you. I have forgiven you already. Did it years back. Hope you have forgiven me, too. Please forgive yourself as well. Be thankful with your life, our life as a family because whatever happened, realize that it’s worth it and that it’s happy, right?”)
My sister was holding my dad’s right arm and told her to tell dad things she wanted to say. My sister Alma asked us over the phone to pray for him. It was difficult. A few seconds I was stumped trying to figure out what to pray. My dad never raised us with any formal religion so praying in a situation like this left us stupefied. But I managed to do so with the Lord’s prayer, that’s the only prayer I know.
I pray a lot actually but not with any formal prayer that could be perceived appropriate for this type of situation. Add to the confusion that is already there, I guess scrambling for prayer might leave anyone confused, too. Slowly I recited the Lord’s prayer, repeating it many times until I saw dad teared up yet never opened his eyes. I kissed him and just went on and on talking to him. He was transferred to his room an hour after. The next day he passed away.
Nothing can really make us feel the vulnerability of the human spirit and the human body other than in the face of death. Suddenly, it has become apparent, it has become real. My understanding about death has now moved beyond my immediate self. I saw the death angel face to face through my dad’s eyes and right then and there I knew I was about to lose him.
A Strong but Vulnerable Tatang
Perhaps, I know my dad more than anyone in the family. Blame it to spending a lot of time together and talking to each other. That’s why when I left the house in 2007 due to a big family problem, it had had a huge impact on him.
My dad is so tough that he never taught me verbally how to apologize for my offenses. He could be brutal at times but behind all those flashy, rugged demeanour and appearance is a sad and vulnerable man. My dad had lots of kids from his previous spouses (we’re the last), accumulated many children, perhaps around 20 or more. I’m the 2nd to the youngest.
During the stargazing season of August or November, my dad would usually take me out of the house, go to a place where we could lie down and look at the sky and see the constellation of stars as seen from the books he got from the US. Dad has a huge collection of astronomy books with complete pictures of constellations and information on how to locate them. I was the only one to pay attention to his interest and assumed it later on as I grew up loving science. This started our journey as bestfriends.
Although we grew up without a formal religion, my dad is a big bible reader and he’d read me phrases, verses from the Christian Bible a lot and some already imprinted in my mind until today due to constant repetition. My dad would always tell me about his frustration towards his parents that they never let him continue to study due to lack of funds yet have time spending money for other non important things. It was difficult to comprehend especially when I was still young back then but I grew up trying to digest all those things. I want to respond to that but perhaps I couldn’t find the right words to say lest I might hurt his feelings or perhaps he just wanted me to listen to him and never ask for any opinion. Even when I know his story I continued to stay mum on those issues.
I hope I could expound more on the kind of problems we had but suffice it to say that it’s so big it warrant separation. Took my mom out of our house and rented an apartment somewhere else. I vowed not to go back and I did. Even before that we had several attempts of leaving the house only to go back again, and again and again. But the 2007 or 2008 incident was the last. My mom decided to go back only a month ago to take care of my dad after he asked that she comes back home to be with him. After that my dad grew thinner by the day signaling his deteriorating body. It’s been a long battle for dad and for the entire family seeing him bed-ridden, waiting for that time to come. When taken to the hospital, doctors would refuse long term confinement because dad technically has no disease. He’s just too old as they always say. But I broke the rules the day I took him to the hospital because I couldn’t stand seeing him in the house doing nothing. I just couldn’t.
Dreams and Dad
I dream a lot, those thing that you experience when you sleep. And days after my dad died I would see him in my dreams.
My dad would always tell me before that I used to tell him my dreams when I was a kid and those dreams would always come true. They become real. Weird as it may seem, I noticed that my dreams become true in another shape or form, forewarning me about impending life catastrophes or important event. My dad tells me that I have that gift yet I only paid attention to it recently.
My dad taught me to trust in my dreams, to listen to them intently and the things that they suggest. I’m not big in religion but I became more spiritual as I grow old. I follow buddhism a lot lately yet I have few things I believe the Christian and Muslim world as in the case of the Michael the Archangel which is described in both the holy books of both faith.
I don’t profess that they are true, real and I guess it’s not my business to even tell anybody that since we vary in terms of how we perceive faith. My dad would always cite Hebrew 8-10 which describes how the almighty God in the Bible describes his relationship to his people, that because he is powerful our body has become the church of his love and a way for him to communicate that love to us:
I will put my laws in their minds
and write them on their hearts.
I will be their God,
and they will be my people.
11 No longer will they teach their neighbor,
or say to one another, ‘Know the Lord,’
because they will all know me,
from the least of them to the greatest.
I never forget that and those words remained imprinted in my mind and have become my guiding principle in my spiritual life. Truly, if God exists, he is different than what most of us think he is, more loving that most of us think he is and more intelligent than what most spiritual leaders think he is. When asked, I really cannot say I believe in those things, nor object on them. Truth is, I describe myself as a man with high gratitude on everything and I think that’s enough. Life can be difficult at times but it’s beatufiul.
I believe that God will not punish me just because I don’t follow any religious groups or believe in any religious bibles of the world or even obsessing that he exists. We are made of love and the ‘creator’ of that love would not do anything to contradict that by punishing anyone. He is more than what we think he is if he really exists.
I guess he could be more interested in what we feel and how we take life on a daily basis because he wants all of us to be happy. I know because I listen to myself, I listen to my dreams. My dad was right. I should listen intently to my dreams and make them my reality and not listen to the noise around me. We could achieve a higher state of consciousness if we listen to ourselves, that little voice that we hear everytime we shut ourselves from the chaos of our surroundings and just sit there listening to the utterances and verbalization of our own self. That is “God” speaking to us. He can’t be found in churches made of stones. He is within us. He is us. We are our own God. (Psalm 82:6 and John 10:34).
I Miss You Dad
For the past few days I would see dad in dreams. The setup of the dream is that long straight road with the bright sun at the end with forest of trees on either side of the road. Parallel to the road are stone benches where people would normally sit in a park. There I see one of my brothers who passed away before and Michael the Archangel is around, too. My dad would usually tap on my back and look at me intently and smiling. On my first night of dreaming of him I would call him and ask, “O Tang, bakit kasi makanta. Bakit kasi nakatang kagulu” (Dad why does it have to be that way. Why does our family has to be chat chaotic). My dad would just hug me tightly. The second time dreaming of him, I told dad that I miss him a lot. My dad would never talk like he always does. We would enjoy walking in that long road together with Michael the Archangel watching us at the back.
When dad was in his deathbed, I would tell him that I prayed to Michael the Archangel and asked the latter to take care of him when he finally leaves. My belief in the archangel started when I was young when he appeared in one of my dreams. He always does after every huge event in my life the last being when I suffered a painful breakup last October. He appeared in my dreams telling me these words: Be still. A fish and a butterfly would appear in front of me sending me these clear message: like me you can be free (fish), you can fly, too (butterfly). These could be just a product of some electrical activity of my brain but who knows, and who cares?
Those things gave me the needed peace of mind I need during times of chaos and confusion and they continue to do so until today. I’m not yet totally OK and still mourning the passing of my father but I trust that things will be OK and I’ll recover soon. But losing someone that you can never replace will forever etch a scar in your heart reminding you of the pain of losing someone you truly value and love.
Life is short yet we choose to continue hating and hurting one another when we can spend our time loving instead.
Miss danaka, tang. Nang kasakit pala sobra. Sobra. Kaluguran daka. (I miss you dad. I never thought it could be this painful. So painful. I love you.)