19 years has passed since Papa went back to the Heavenly Creator.

I clearly remember everything that transpired that week–from the day we visited him–our last time to talk with him– to the day he passed on two days after that visit–his birthday, and until after he was laid to eternal rest.

BREAKING THE NEWS

It was a normal school day for me and my sister, and normal work day for my mom. Mom received the news while at work, and had to shepherd my sister and I back home. I was in the university at that time, an hour away from home, and had to hurry back just as I arrived school, clueless as to what was happening. As I arrived home, that’s when they broke to me the sad news.

It came as a surprise, as Papa was even excited for his upcoming birthday when we saw him. But thinking about it, it was probably a sign–it was enough that he saw us before he passed on.

AUTOPILOT

Mama had to be on top of wake and burial preparations. Looking back, she was really a SuperMama for doing everything, despite the situation and circumstance back then. She barely sleep, super tired, and seemed like she was on autopilot. She had solutions to everything, and we were really so grateful for family and friends who supported and assisted us.

And since she was too preoccupied, she had to leave the Eulogy to me. Writing it was one thing, reading it in front of so many people was another, and a tough act to do.

NO TIME TO GRIEVE

After the burial, we went home, heard Mass the following day (which was a Sunday), and went back to work and school on Monday. My sister and I had to catch up on missed school days, quizzes and exams. I recall now, every Saturday after that was spent on general cleaning at home. Some evenings, we spent laughing at classic Papa moments. We rarely saw Mama cry. But when she does, she has few tears. Or none, as she has dry eyes.

Or probably, the general cleaning was her grieving. But we know she has to grieve at some point, too.

She lost a baby boy seven months in her womb, two years after I was born. She probably didn’t grieve properly yet with that, I’m not sure.

She had no time to grieve.

She had to work for me and my sister who had to study. And probably, she carried this grief for always.

My sister and I probably had no time to grieve, too. We got back to school immediately and had to study really well, cos Mama singlehandedly raised us, and it’s our way of honoring and thanking our parents, especially her.

GRIEF AMBUSH

This pandemic made me discover so many dishes. As we are all quarantined at home, I have to learn to cook more types of food for my husband and daughter.

And lo and behold, I was crying during the first weeks of the lockdown last year while cooking.

I miss Papa, best cook ever.

Grief ambush. I first learned this term from a pastor friend. And yes, it attacks you at the least unexpected moments.

You’d suddenly recall a special moment, a happy one, and tears start to fall.

What do you do during these moments? Do you deny the grief? Do you acknowledge it?

I acknowledge it, cry if I must, and communicate how I feel to my family and friends.

Of course, I pray, and lift up my grief to the Lord. And pray for the eternal repose of Papa, and all our loved ones and friends who went back to the Lord ahead of us. That’s what our shrine rector and friend reminds us of always–to pray for our departed.

You know what made me even sad? Papa never saw me as a singer anymore. He passed away just as I was beginning to study for a career I never thought of doing, and I bet Papa would be the proudest and happiest if he was able to watch my shows and operas.

Papa, we love you and we will forever remember you in our prayers and in every moment we can. Sometimes I tell Aria about you, because she is so smart and witty just like you.

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