The first time I kind of felt that my dad was gone was when I realized I haven’t washed my hair in four days. From the time he died to the time he was cremated, I lived on dry shampoo and the scent of death.
He wasn’t supposed to die. The doctor said he was soon going to be transferred to a regular room after being in the intensive care unit for 20 days. It was another triumph, and another testament to my father’s unbelievable valiance against death. My father had the record of being the longest living patient on dialysis at the Makati Medical Center. Whereas the norm was only four years, my dad was cruising on his seventh.
When you have a sick parent you’re absorbed with just the routine of having treatments, taking medication and adjusting the living situations. Nothing really prepares you for death. It’s like you think about everything but that.
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I got the call while I was out with friends. “He’s coughing blood,” the nurse said. In my mind as I calmly made my way to the hospital, I told myself, “He’ll be fine.” When I arrived in the hospital he was barely breathing. I climbed on to his bed and held him until he drew his last breath. Nothing, absolutely nothing prepares you for this.
I don’t like remembering people in my life as dead. I erased the date of the day he died from my head. It happened a few weeks ago, but I have buried it in a place in my brain where even a Ritalin can’t exhume it. The wake went by as quickly as he left. We didn’t even have time to put out an obituary. Two nights and a morning funeral. Even my eulogy was short. In my overly articulate life I choked when it came to speaking about him. We hurried this uncomfortable process of paying respects as we awaited to commence the longer process of grieving.
Grieving is a strange process. There’s really no correct way to do it. Still no tears. I’m bloody evil, I thought to myself. Cry, just cry,I told myself. I tried to find the sadness but my heart didn’t hurt the way it was supposed to. The more fluid my days became, filled with work and all the ordinary things that come with it pre-death, the guiltier I felt.
He died in my arms. I was the last person to feel him warmed by his beating heart. I kissed him when he was waxy and cold in the morgue. Yet, it was just like any other day. Maybe I erased the memory all too well. My mother serves as his grave marker. When I see her and her earnest sadness, she reminds me that Dad is gone. I try to summon that sadness.
I have to say my friends helped me a lot, especially during the wake. They came in en masse and stayed with me until midnight. Then we did this thing called pag-pag, which was meant to clear you from spirits by dropping by some other place other than your home and leaving the spirits there. I can now imagine how many ghosts reside in Las Flores, which became our pag-pag place for the duration of the wake.
I just hate death and all the ceremonies that go along with it. However, being with your friend during that strange and uncomfortable time is probably one of the selfless ways you can show someone how much you love them. Death is the great equalizer. It erases painful pasts and celebrates glorious presents. Maybe that’s what grieving is. Grieving can be a dark place, but it can also be a place of light and levity.
My mother serves as his grave marker. When I see her and her earnest sadness, she reminds me that Dad is gone.
After the wake, I went home and took a shower, washed away all the death, shock and sadness. I was just so tired. I washed my hair three times and as I moisturised my skin I felt a numbness washing over me. I slept thick and dreamless slumbers. I slept for days. I’d wake up with cotton mouth and drink water that felt like oil slipping out of my mouth. I hardly ate as I chose sleep to occupy my hours. I slept because I didn’t want to talk about death. I slept because I didn’t want to deal with the changes in my life. I slept because it was the only way to make time stand still. I wasn’t ready. I still am not ready.
I feel the moment I cry everything becomes permanent.
He’s gone forever. My mother is a widow forever. I’ll never have a laugh with him forever. He wont be able to see my children forever. Everything becomes lost in the black hole of forever.
The other night I prayed and I asked my dad to visit me in my dreams. They say that when you dream of somebody they are thinking of you. I still haven’t seen him in that realm. I just need that one last time. I know it will happen. That pinch in time when I suddenly accept and cave in to the loss. That knowing moment that I finally realize he is gone. I just need that one last time. I know it will happen.