In this other world I’m not living in

In this other world I’m not living in, there is no cause for grief. But in this one, there is.

This post is to my grandmother, who has now spent nine days in heaven. (Coincidentally, by tomorrow, my dad –her son– would have spent 19 years in heaven).

We write to process our grief and to celebrate our love. I read stories from strangers in Nagcarlan and different provinces over, sharing how influential a teacher and leader my grandmother was. I read the stories of my cousins who grew up at her lap and at her table, seeing through their eyes her many shades of strictness and softness.

I think I knew my father more through the memories of those that loved him than through the very few memories I kept of him. I was only 6. It is a comfort to know that the love of my grandmother will exist long after me, in the minds and words of those she taught and touched, and those they taught and touched, and on and on.

Back in 2013. Look at how beautiful my grandmother is. This was during my cousin’s wedding.

I found out she passed away through a message on viber from my sister. Lola’s gone. Just like that. It woke me up from sleep; it kept me awake until I had to go back to the hospital in a couple of hours. It was strange because for those first few hours a part of me medicalized and ignored it. I thought: it was just a matter of time. I wasn’t ready to process it. I had to go to work.

While there was a lull during duty, sat as I was in the Acute Stroke Unit and the Neuro ICU, I wrote the following words. Suddenly I remembered how the long course of my lola’s condition started. It started in a space much similar to where I was, only kilometers away in Tagaytay Medical Center, not The Medical City. I started crying.

Sharp handwriting and even sharper eyebrows. A teacher, a mother, a grandmother. There were so many things I wanted to say, but for now I can only say thank you and I’m sorrry. I love you.

Thank you always for supporting us and for praying for us. Thank you for bringing up generations. Thank you for teaching me how to walk with my back straight and head tall. I love you.

I’ve been away for so long but I thought it would be worth it. I imagined at the end of the line you’d still be there to celebrate this degree with me. One more graduation stage. One more mother’s day and one more grandmother’s day. One more video call and one more dinner. I miss you and we’ll miss you so much. I love you po.

Is it a comfort to know it’s the end to your suffering and the beginning of your joy with the Lord? Say hello to papa for us. We miss you. I love you. Thank you.

February 10 2021. Originally posted here.

I’m still trying to make sense of a loss that feels both impossible and inevitable. She deserves an end to her suffering and illness, but at the same time, why did she have to suffer?

Even now a part of me is blaming the pandemic. Had the pandemic been contained, wouldn’t she have received better care every time she had to be admitted? Wouldn’t there no longer be an undercurrent of “don’t go to the hospital” or “leave the hospital as soon as possible“? That’s what I see every day –patients reluctant to be admitted because they don’t want to be exposed, and consultants eager to discharge because they don’t want further complications. And without the pandemic and its convoluted quarantine, wouldn’t it have been easier for her to move city to city? Wouldn’t it have been easier for her to see and love and laugh with all her family, every moment it mattered?

And another part of me is filled with personal regrets and what-ifs. The other day I was sitting in a family meeting for another patient who was rapidly nearing the end stages of his life. They were discussing options for palliative care. They simultaneously desired and dreaded bringing him home versus continuing in-hospital care. It’s always a push and pull between wanting them closer and wanting to end their pain. No one is ever ready to let go.

But I’m trying to hold on to the good things. I’m trying to hold on to my grandmother’s love.

My two angels in heaven. My Lola Moring and my Lola Doppie, back in 2013.

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