The Irony of Death and Lessons Learned

Four years ago, I wrote this:

WHO SAID SORRY IS THE HARDEST WORD?!

To start off, why do people say that saying “sorry” to someone is the hardest thing to do?  Is it because of PRIDE?  Or is it because we’re afraid of the initial reaction of the person?  Either way, I don’t think sorry is the hardest word.  Read on to find out what really is…

My mom died on May 9, 2003 because of lymphoma (which later on caused her to have leukemia).  I was only 13 years old and an incoming third year high school by then, and as a teenager going through puberty stage without my mom, life for me was bittersweet.  Now that I’ll be soon turning 18 and graduating from college, I feel like history’s about to repeat itself.  Last April of this year (2007), my dad was diagnosed with esophageal cancer.  At first, we all thought, “here we go again!” but as days passed, we all realized that papa still has a big chance of surviving since we caught the cancer at its second stage, unlike mama who had a stage 4 cancer when detected.  But now, right at this very moment I’m typing this blog entry, papa’s in the CENICU (Central Intensive Care Unit) and is still fighting the battle against death for his life.  You see, the only thing that’s keeping papa alive is his heart.  All his organs are shutting down but his heart remains to be beating very strong despite the cancer killing him slowly…  The same also happened to mama.  The heart’s the only thing remaining that could sustain life.  Sometimes, people can even survive even if the brain is already dead, as long as the heart’s still perfectly beating.  That’s why we have people in a coma.

Honestly, we all prefer papa saying goodbye to us NOW than see him suffer sooo much more! 😥  At least if he goes now, he’ll be once again reunited with his one true love (mama) and our Creator, and forever live in peace.  Having said that, we already said our last goodbyes to papa.  Trust me, it was the hardest thing I had to do ONCE AGAIN!  I once said it to mama, I recently said it to papa, and now I’ll share it with you.  It only consists of three phrases: I’m sorry, Thank you, and I love you.  Simple isn’t it?  But it really gave me a hard time because somewhere inside me, I still have a little faith that somehow along the way, a miracle will happen and papa will be able to recover and be with me on my graduation day, and even walk me down the aisle when the time comes that I’ll be able to find “the one.”  However, in his situation right now, we can’t do anything but keep repeating those three phrases and finally say goodbye to him even if it’s the hardest thing to do.

Indeed, GOODBYE is the hardest word! 😥

And so we wait…

Most of the time, when we encounter the word death from someone or from our surroundings, we always get the feeling of goosebumps and the immediate reaction that the person affected must be sad — very sad.  However, haven’t you thought about that sometimes, death could also be a gateway for happiness?  At least for the person suffering from an illness and disease, it’s a one-way ticket to eternal peace and heaven.

Based from my experience, both of my parents died because of cancer.  My mother died last May 9, 2003 because of lymphoma, and my father died last September 5, 2007 because of esophageal cancer.  Both of them suffered so much (but we all think that our father’s the one who suffered the most because of the tumor blocking his airway, which made it hard for him to breathe) but in the end, they both left this earth slowly and peacefully…  With this, we can say (my sisters and I) that death was the answer for both of my parents.  And I definitely don’t mean that in a bad way!  What I mean is, if we’re going to come to think of it, at least now, they don’t have to suffer anymore because of their physical illnesses.  At least now, they’re once again reunited with each other and with our Creator.

For those who visited the wake of both my parents, some might’ve wondered why we were taking pictures.  Some even asked, “pwede bang ngumiti?”  I guess it’s because we were all taught that when “death” is the topic, there should be sadness and grieving.  Yes, of course, my sisters and I are sad and grieving because of our loss, but the smile on our faces during the wake of our parents didn’t mean that we’re happy that they’re already gone.  It’s simply because we know that our parents wouldn’t want us to feel sad all the time with matching scary-looking and grumpy faces.  In fact, it’s in their huling habilin that they want their wake to be a “happy” one.  Meaning, grieving was expected but that doesn’t mean that we can no longer remember the happy memories we had with the departed, and the fact that they’re in a much, much better and happier place now.  Like in my case, you won’t see me crying in front of you, but that doesn’t mean that there are moments (especially when I’m alone and remember my parents) that I don’t cry.  It’s simply because I’m not comfortable with other people seeing me cry just because…  Anyway, do you get what I’m saying?  And as for the picture-taking during the wake, it’s because we documented the whole thing after by putting it in an album, and like what my sister said, “we make our own traditions.”  And by saying tradition, death of a loved one musn’t always be about our own feelings of sadness and grief, but it must be mostly about the feelings of our departed loved ones who are now experiencing peace and happiness.  And of course, it’s about remembering all the happy memories we had when they were still alive because let’s face it, sooner or later, we will all meet them again. 🙂

Lastly, I learned a lot from this experience.  I learned that death is only the beginning of a new adventure — an adventure with God and a problem-free world.  I learned to cherish every moment I have with my loved ones (especially my sisters) while I’m still alive.  I realized that telling someone how you love them will. never. be. enough. unless you really experienced it.  I realized na sa huli pala talaga ang pagsisisi because how I wish my parents are still alive and saw me graduate from college, walk me to the altar, and eventually, see me as a successful person in whatever field I choose to be in someday!  I even wish I could have one more dance (or at least a dance) with my father just like how Luther Vandross described it in his song.  Then again, Luther Vandross is also already dead, so I just pray for the eternal repose of all their souls…  Hence, there are a lot of lessons learned from this experience of mine and as I continue with my life, I’ll never get tired of learning…

I wrote this not because I claim to be an expert or something.  (And c’mon, ano yun, DEATH EXPERT?  Gosh no, that’s just plain creepy…  and weird…  and did I mention creepy and weird?!)  Anyway, I wrote this because some of my good friends are experiencing/undergoing the same thing…  And as much as I TRY HARD to inject some humor in this post to make it feel a little lighter (forgive me if it’s a total failed attempt!), all I really want to say is I GET YOU.  I FEEL FOR YOU.  And I’m hoping that one day…  one day, sooner or later…  you’ll be finally able to replace those tears with smiles again.  *BIG HUGS*

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