I have been wanting to write about my father and the vacuum that he has left when he passed away. I was planning to write something about him on his birthday this November. However. Isagani invited many his co-bloggersto contribute to his series which he called Wedding, Death and Funeral and this is my contribution.
My father was a jack-of-all-trades, he was a driver, electrician, technician, farmer, etc. He was born to a poor family and in his struggle to make a living starting at a very young age, he learned many things. You name it and my father can do it. i will write more about his life on his birthday.
Sometime in 2003, my father was diagnosed with lung cancer. he used to be a heavy smoker but he stopped a few years back when the doctor advised to. It must have been too late. At first he refused to get any treatment. He was so concerned about draining the meager savings he and my mom kept as their “old age funds.” It took a lot of debates and reassurances from us their children and from his and my mom’s brothers and sisters. So my Mom and my Dad flew to Manila for treatment. He underwent chemotherapy in PGH. It was a painful process for him, not only physically but most of all psychologically. My Dad was not used to being what he calls “useless” and he is not comfortable just lying around doing nothing but cope with the side effects of chemotherapy. After six months, he got so bored that he decided to have his last chemotherapy session and go home to their farm in Lake Mainit in Surigao regardless of the outcome of the treatment. Fortunately, his last chemotherapy session showed promising results. The cancer cells were wiped out from his lungs except for a tiny dot that his doctors believed to be a mere scar. So he was discharged with the strict instruction to have regular checkups and x-rays to monitor that dot in his lungs.
He went back to Surigao, back to his normal life – tending to his rice field, planting fruit trees for his grandchildren and helping my Mom in the small store that they have. Two years went by and he felt healthy and strong. It was as if the cancer did not happen at all.
It was in 2005 when he suddenly ask my Mom that they celebrate their 47th wedding anniversary (they were planning to have a sort of family reunion on their 50th). My father said that he can’t wait for the 50th to have our family celebration. so, on July 17, 2005 (Adee’s 8th birthday too) we celebrated for the first time their wedding anniversary. It was a happy occasion as we complete as a family and our children did their best to make their lolo and lola happy. My father’s sisters and brother were there and so are my Mom’s siblings. Reunions like this are seldom in our family as we are scattered all over the Philippine archipelago.
In August, my sister Bella called me. she said Dad was with them in Cagayan de Oro for a medical checkup after experiencing continuous headaches for days. He was diagnosed with brain cancer. When I asked to talk to my Dad, he could barely talk as his tongue was partially paralyzed. Listening to him broke my heart. The doctors said that they can’t treat the cancer anymore, all they could do is to treat the pain that he will continually experience. My Dad said no to that, he just wanted to go back to his farm. And he had his wish. I flew to Surigao a few days later to be with my Mom and Dad. He improved a bit. He cannot tolerate being on a wheelchair and he crafted himself a walking cane. He asked me to come with him to the farm. He had asked a chainsaw operator to cut a couple of mature mahogany trees for his coffin. the experience quire surreal for me. Here is my father, the strongest and the most courageous man I have ever known, supervising the preparations for his own funeral. All I could do was humor him. He brought me to a spot in front of his farm house and that is where he wanted to be laid to rest.
I gave him a letter I wrote for him. I said he can read it when I fly back to Manila. I have written all the things I wanted to tell him in that letter. I could have told him that personally but I didn’t want him to see me break down in tears and besides I wanted him to read my love letter for him as often as he needs to. I have drawn and poured all my feelings for him written in the best eloquence that I can muster in writing that letter.
The last time i saw him was when i came home for his birthday celebration on November 11, 2005. His condition was very unstable already. Sometimes he would wake up as if he was perfectly healthy then lose his eyesight in an instant. It was a rollercoaster ride with the ups downs. After his birthday, he came back with us to Cagayan de Oro. I was on my way back to Manila and my Mom and Dad were going to Zamboanga and Basilan. He wanted to visit his relatives to bid them farewell. On the way to Cagayan de Oro, we passed by Camiguin Island, and he started planning a vacation there (which they did after their trip to Zamboanga and Basilan). On our lunch stopover in Medina, Misamis Oriental, my Dad and I even sang a song — our first and last duet.
My dad passed away on December 16, 2005, barely 4 months after being diagnosed with brain cancer. I guess he has prepared well for his final journey. He said goodbye to the people that mattered to him most. He took the pain without a whimper and breathed his last with peaceful surrender. He was buried in his farm in the midst of all the fruits of his labor, encased in a coffin made out of the mahogany tree that he himself planted. His hearse was the cart that he made and drawn by one of his carabaos.
My Dad passed away. I wish I was there to hold his hands and kiss him, make him feel he is loved until his last breath. But I was miles away. I can only wish I have shown him my love enough during the times he needed it most.