this story originally appeared in the philippine daily inquirer on October 30, 2007.

MY FAMILY IS SMALL. THERE’S ONLY MY MOM, MY DAD and myself, plus our two household helpers, Yaya Rosa and Jocelyn. But even though ours is small compared to other families, it’s still a happy one. But a few weeks ago, my family faced one of its saddest experiences: the death of Papa Floro.

Papa Floro was my grandfather. We weren’t very close since he didn’t like brats and I was bratty when I was younger. It was only when I was entering the age of adolescence that I began to appreciate things and stopped being a spoiled brat.

Then, Papa suffered a stroke. It was his second.

Our family was determined to help him get back on his feet, but after several years of patiently hoping, what everyone didn’t want to acknowledge became clear: Papa Floro wasn’t going to be getting up anymore.

It was a sad realization for my parents. Once in a while, I would catch my father suddenly crying because he knew his father’s time was nearly up.

As for me, well… I was busy playing video games to realize how grave the situation was. And when I did, it was too late.

One weekend, we got a call that Papa had a fever. Big deal, I thought at first. I was wrong. That night, I had an uneasy feeling that something bad was going to happen. And yet I was too stubborn to go to Papa and decided to just play video games. We were going to see each other the next Sunday anyway since we always visited him on weekends. How stupid of me.

The next day, my mother burst into my room crying. I dropped my Playstation 2 controller, but before I could ask what was wrong, she told me, “Laro ka nang laro diyan. Wala na si Papa.”

I was shocked. I didn’t know what I should do. My mom told me to pray.

The challenge for my parents began. This was the time when their faith was severely tested since they were the ones closest to Papa. Every day we spent at the wake, I could see them both looking exhausted, but they didn’t show their sadness. Perhaps they were hiding the tears from the visitors. Perhaps the reality hadn’t hit them yet that Papa was gone. Or perhaps they were too busy with the many things they had to do for his funeral.

At the cremation, it reached its pinnacle and fountains of tears came gushing down from everyone, including my mom and my dad—and me.

I also wasn’t greatly aware of our loss. A few days into the wake, which would take a whole week, I was already back to my laptop playing games.

However, as the day of his cremation approached, grief slowly grew in our hearts. At the cremation, it reached its pinnacle and fountains of tears came gushing down from everyone, including my mom and my dad—and me.

Several days later, our family was still a little bit quieter and less joyful. My mom and dad were still struggling to cope with the great tragedy. They took refuge in prayers. While the death of my Papa Floro was a great blow to my parents, the prayers they offered to God during and after the wake strengthened their faith and allowed them to accept the reality of his death. And our common experience with death and sadness, strengthened the bonds that bound our family and brought us closer together.

In those difficult days, I composed a prayer for Papa that I still recite until today. It goes this way:

Dear Lord, thank You for letting me see the light, even though I only learned to love Papa after his death. My eyes have been opened to the fact that life is short. Thanks to Papa, I’ve learned that I shouldn’t waste my time on Earth committing sin because I might die tomorrow. Please tell Papa that I’m sorry for not really loving him before his death, and please assure him I do love him now.

Amen.

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