Today is my father’s 6th Death Anniversary.
Do I say “Happy Death Anniversary, Papang!”? Is there such a greeting?
Papang peacefully left us in the wee small hours of August 14. We are not sure what time exactly. All we know is that at around 11:30 in the evening, he asked for water because he was thirsty. The next time his caregiver checked on him at 12:30 AM of August 14, she found out he was no longer breathing. It was around 1:00-ish when my doctor-aunt pronounced him dead.
I was home alone last night because hubby had a meeting in Manila. I slept late – real late. Lying in bed and waiting for sleep to hit me, I kept glancing at the watch as the clock ticked 11:30PM, 12:30AM and 1:00Am. I could not stop my mind from reliving what happened six years ago – no matter how much I want to think of happy thoughts only.
My father had been afraid to die. While he had juvenile diabetes in his mid twenties, we knew of the damage diabetes caused to his liver two years before he died. He went with my younger sister to Cebu City for general check up and he was diagnosed with liver cirrhosis. He had two years to prepare for his death but he was always vocal that he was terrified of the dark; afraid of death.
He was never in pain and his irreversible liver cirrhosis was managed well. As time passed, the disease progressed on and since his liver was failing, his body was retaining fluid. His belly would balloon like a pregnant woman and he had to go to the hospital to get it out – in layman’s terms, his stomach had to be pricked with a thick needle to literally drain the fluid (there’s a medical term for this procedure!). I remember fluid measuring around nine (dextrose) bottles of fluid being taken out, sometimes only six, sometimes even eleven.
He went on a four-day hepatic coma four months before he died. He was profusely bleeding (up to this day, I can still smell the blood) and the doctors told us he would die in three days time. We were always at his side those days and one by one, family members bid him goodbye. His relatives as far as Bohol and Iligan came to do the same.
The three days that he was in coma, his siblings had already prepared his grave. This was so because he had strict orders he did not want to be embalmed so if ever, we had to bury him within twenty-four hours the most. It was my concern that if he left us in the morning, there would be a chance that we would be burying him late afternoon or even in the evening as we have to wait for the mandatory 12 hours after his death to pass before we can bury him. I even went to a funeral parlor to raise this issue and the owner told me, we had to embalm him even for a day because it was impossible to organize the burial with little time.
I was in my father’s room the morning of his fourth day in coma. Without warning, my father just woke up and stood up. He saw me and asked me to get him water because he was so thirsty. I literally flew down the stairs of the hospital to the pharmacy for ice cold water.
He drank lots and lots of water and we told him he had been in coma. We told him his tomb was even ready because we were mindful of his orders not to be embalmed. He was astonished. He said he only felt like he was sleeping although he said he remembered his parents beckoning him to go with them but he refused because he was conscious that they were already dead and he did not want to die yet.
After his bewildered doctors checked him up, my father told me to get him a piece of paper. His eyesight was not good so he asked me to draw for him. He asked me to draw squares — which I later understood as the properties he will be leaving behind. He told me how the real properties he had will be divided among me and my siblings. I had the smallest share but he explained to me that this was because I was already settled with a husband, a stable job and a house of my own. He was concerned with my younger siblings who during that time were (1) on bar review; (2) on law school and (3) on medical school that he was still not sure how they would fare up when he’d be gone.
The last four months of my father’s life were spent well. His family surrounded him all the time. We always prayed the rosary together like we did way back childhood. We helped him prepare for the inevitable and soothe his worries over death. We got closer to him and to his brothers and sisters who never fail to keep him company. It was a time of quality bonding which we hoped will last the rest of our lives. Nothing was taken for granted.
It was also during this time that I told him his desire not to be embalmed was out of the question. I told him that since it was liver cirrhosis, his body would decay faster than normal and 12hours might not even be enough. I reasoned with him and said what if he would go late afternoon, how would we bury him in the nighttime or in the wee hours of the morning? He listened to me and agreed that he be embalmed but only good for three days. He said he did not want a long wake with people peeking at him over his coffin!
Papang’s health deteriorated until his liver totally failed. The intervals of his hospitalizations were getting shorter and shorter, even to a weekly basis.
There were several instances when we had to rush to the hospital because his vitals were alarming that he could even die already. However, the few times the doctors predicted he was to die, he never did.
The last time he was hospitalized, it was to drain fluid from his belly and from his lungs (he could no longer breathe because of the fluid in his lungs). Even then, he managed to go home after the procedure although he was weak. About a week before his death, he kept saying that some man in black was always lurking in the windows, staring at him. He kept saying this man in black has been lingering inside and outside his room.
Two days before his death, he wanted to go to Los Angeles, his ancestral home. He was frail but he sat in front of our then Mitsubishi Family FB, leaning against his brother (we could not support him ourselves because he was too heavy). We just passed by my lola’s house and he looked at the house where he grew up. Then he said to proceed to his rice lands. He made a final tour in his farm and we just rounded the lands. After, he said he wanted to go to the cemetery. My lola’s and lolo’s tombs were along the highway. His own grave was beside theirs. My brother parked outside the gate while my father stared at the tombs for several minutes. He then uttered “Ma, Pa, gikapoy na ko (Mom, Dad, I’m already tired)”. Having said that, we proceeded to Buenavista Beach. He loved the beach and since he got sick, he was never able to go there at all.
It was nearing sunset. My uncle helped my father get down and sat him to a wheelchair. We ate upon arrival. I remember feeding Papang some food (I can’t recall the food now). Then, he asked my uncle to take him near the waters. My uncle took him so near that my father’s toes could touch the waves rolling from time to time. My father faced the setting sun and Uncle later told me that Papang muttered that the sun was setting like his life was. I watched him from afar and I took a mental picture of him facing the sea under the orange sky. It was like a painting.
The following day, August 13, Papang was still okay and we talked casually. There were no signs that he was to die during the night. At around 9:00pm, I bid him goodnight and told him I’d be back the following day.
My husband and I went home and I went to bed early. Around twelve midnight, I was awakened by a knock on our door. I opened it and our house help told me there was water all over the house. I went out. Our modest house was flooded. Something was wrong with our kitchen – water from the sink was overflowing and flooding the kitchen and the dining area it was even starting to spread to our living room. My husband went outside to temporarily shut off our water supply to stop the never ending drip while I helped our helper mop the floor and clean the house.
Halfway through our cleaning, around 12:30AM, our telephone rang. My heart pounded so fast when I hurried to pick it up. I hate phone calls in the middle of the night, especially when someone is seriously ill. My mother was on the other line, sobbing to inform me that Papang peacefully passed away in his sleep.
That explains the water.
Hubby and I made a dash to my aunt’s house to tell her. She came with us and we proceeded to Balbarino. Everybody was there already. My aunt checked Papang the last time and pronounced him dead.
Though we were sad, we were also relieved that Papang was taken in the manner he wanted to go, only in his sleep without any signs that the time has come. He did not want to die like my uncle who was conscious and had to grasp for breath until he breathe his last. He did not want to die like his mother who breathe labored breaths until the end. He just wanted to go unceremoniously. So all of us prayed hard for that. We were so grateful God heard our plea.
The night after Papang died, he appeared to me in my dreams. He was not pale and sick anymore. He was happily smiling — back in the beaches of Valencia, Bohol, swimming to his heart’s content.
We had his wake in our house in Balbarino for two days. The third day, we went with him to Los Angeles for his final night. At 5:30 AM of August 17, we proceeded for his final blessing in the Chapel of Saint Therese. When the sun rose at around 6:30AM, Papang finally settled with Lolo and Lola.
The six years passed so quickly and I do not feel him gone at all. I just have to think of him, and he’s there with me.
We gathered today to celebrate his death anniversary. We heard early mass at Holy Redeemer Parish and we proceeded to Los Angeles Cemetery to say a short prayer for his soul and lay our flowers on his grave. Then, we went back to the city to eat belated breakfast (with lechon, of course!). My uncles and auntie were there and I’m always happy when I’m around them. I see my father’s eyes in their eyes; my father’s features in their faces; I hear him speaking by the manner they speak; I hear him laugh in their laughter.
Kris Aquino said that it will take a lifetime for her to get over Tita Cory’s death. She is so right. I am still not over my Papang’s death.