this story originally appeared in the philippine daily inquirer on October 2, 2012.
I found myself in tears again as I was reading, very belatedly, the Youngblood article “Ok luv u” by Marrian Pio Roda Ching (Inquirer, 6/16/12). I wish I had not read it, just as I constantly wish that I never get to read, see, feel, taste, or smell anything that will remind me of my mother who passed away in October 2011.
Since I’m embarrassed to ask others, I often direct to myself questions like “How does one move on?” or “When does one stop mourning a dearly departed loved one?” I have to admit that the depth of my ongoing sadness over my mother’s passing has started to bother me. It’s been a year since God took her away, and the fact that I still feel very sad about her absence is beginning to convince me that there is something wrong with me. It has reached a point that I wonder whether my very close attachment to her while I was growing up was not quite healthy.
As an uncool “weirdo” in elementary school and high school, I had my share of loser experiences. There was one afternoon in the fifth grade when I came home crying because I had been severely taunted by the class bullies. I shut myself in my room and later, after knocking on my door for several minutes to call me to dinner, my mother unlocked the door and found me lying in bed covered in a blanket and facing the wall. Pretending to be asleep, I was suppressing my sobs, hoping she would just go away. But she calmly asked what the matter was, and embraced me as I cried all over again, until I could shed tears no more. In between snivels, I told her about my painful experience at school. To this day, I remember her words of kindness, compassion and wisdom, and how they comforted me then.
Now she is gone, and I am left with an older sister (well, not quite, as she lives with her family in Canada), an engaged older brother, and a father whose love for us, his children, is expressed in a way that Kuya once described as “calm and straightforward but nevertheless profound.”
Sometimes, late at night when I see my dad at his laptop reading about movies, music, literature, or sports, I feel this strong urge to put my hand on his shoulder and tell him just once, “I miss Mommy.” One time before Christmas last year, I came very close to doing exactly that. But I was so hesitant and nervous, and I broke down when I was still some feet away from him and quickly retreated to my room.
I have never cried to my dad, and I am not sure I want to. I do not underestimate the capacity of fathers to comfort their children in comparison to mothers, but I am just not sure how well either of us will handle such an awkward situation. My father is a no-frills, no-drama man, and I find it hard to picture him embracing me while I go on crying until my eyes dry up.
I asked myself that question in March when I watched my classmate’s cousin’s elementary school play about angels who paint cats in heaven. The story was cute, funny, and light until toward the end when one scene turned my emotions around. One of the angels sent back down to Earth to deliver newly painted cats returned to heaven much later than the other angels. Asked by the uptight mentor what had delayed him, the angel said that he took the errand as an opportunity to make a quick side trip to his family’s home. As he was missing his parents and siblings, he asked his mentor if God could possibly turn him into a human again to be reunited with them. The dialogue pierced my heart. And so while that scene was going on with an instrumental of Kenny Rankin’s “What Matters Most” playing in the background, I kept still in my seat lest any slight movement trigger my tears into bursting like a dam.
Like that angel, I sometimes wish for the impossible: for God to bring back my mother. Without her, our house feels so empty, so blank and dark. Never had the Filipino expression “Ang nanay ang ilaw ng tahanan (the mother is the light of the home)” been more true to me than when my mom left us. I sometimes wonder what any of us—my brother, my father and I—can do to bring back a semblance of normalcy in our household. Louder music? Louder TV? Louder voices and heightened perkiness during our increased attempts at conversations between and among us just to drown out the deafening silence? What?
Oh, death! This thing, this awful inevitability of losing someone had never happened to us prior to my mom’s passing. It was something that happened to neighbors, to classmates, to relatives, to friends, to my parents’ colleagues, to this person and that, to others. Not to us. Not to me.
Time will tell if (any of) my ideas to counter my grief will work: become more absorbed in my academics, dine out with Dad and Kuya once or twice a month, go out with friends once in a while, read, sleep, eat, surf the Net more frequently, rejoin Facebook, watch action films and comedy flicks, stroll around the mall, swim, run, fly, find a girl to love, write an essay about what I honestly feel about my mom’s absence, ask Kuya if he misses her the way I do, talk to my Dad once and for all about how much I miss Mommy and cry on his shoulder, etc. etc. etc.
I love you, Mommy, and I miss you so much. But it’s about time I got out of this funk. Even if you are now up there, can you please help comfort me again?