Sunday, September 02, 2012

Grief is a curious thing

It is September.

The Septembers now are strange. Back in the day, when I was young, Septembers meant cooler weather, a storm now and then, which meant thrilling scenes of trees flailing wildly about outside my bedroom windows. When I got frightened, my parents scared me even more with "Our roof might fly away! The avocado tree will fall! The water will get the rats to come out of hiding and they'll stay in your bed!"

Those never happened, by the way, but the roof did leak (every year, no fail) and the tree did lean terribly close to the house (so Papa chopped it down) and the basement did actually flood (but no rats came out thankfully) and that's what September has always been for me.

Now Septembers mean bigger, more terrible storms. The kind that lasts for days, whipping up winds and waves, flooding the land, disaster everywhere. Milenyo. Ondoy. September also means the biggest storm of my life—when Mama died. Four years ago this September.

Four years is a long time. If I had given birth when she'd died, I'd be mommy to a preschooler now. If I had been a freshman, I'd be graduating now. Most of the time, four years feel like a long time and that terrible day is just shadows and whispers. Some days, four years fall away and that terrible day is suddenly so very now.

Grief is a curious thing. You never truly understand it until it happens to you. And when it does, it is something you will never wish on anyone, not even your worst enemy.

It isn't your regular broken heart, which is insanely painful. But you get over a broken heart, believe it or not. And I do believe a broken heart is a good thing, a beautiful thing, because broken hearts are split open, allowing more love and understanding and compassion to come in, and the heart becomes bigger and stronger as it heals.

The grieving heart is also a broken heart but the heart that has lost someone to death, it never heals completely. You think it does, you think you're done, then one day, the strains of Moon River, a whiff of CK Euphoria, a scene from Dolphy's movies, the facade of Megamall A before that new parking building was (mercifully) built in front of it... A little thing, a big thing, they always sneak up on you and BOOM! You unravel.

One cruel day, I was walking along happily from the supermarket on my way home to the loves of my life, when across the street, I saw a woman who looked and walked like Mama. Before I knew it, I had crossed the street, running, dodging cars, calling, "Mama! Mama!" even as my brain screamed, "She's dead! She's dead!"

The woman turned. Of course she wasn't Mama. And I laughed, my hand on my suddenly hollow chest. "Sorry! I'm sorry, you look like my mother."

And she smiled, "Oh! Tell her I think she's beautiful!"

And I laughed again, a little too breathlessly, "I will. I will tell her."

But I don't. I can't.


42 comments:

  1. Lost my father when I was 16, I am 26 now. It feels like a lifetime ago but one time over service, on Fathers' Day, I was anguished at how I felt like I was cheated out of a life without a father. I am okay now but that time, I was crying the entire service alone.

    A grieving heart is tough to recover. Hugs, Frances!

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    1. Oh my. That's too young an age to lose a father =( Hugs back, Tee!

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  2. Hi Frances,

    I lost my mom in September as well... a few days before Ondoy. While I have moved on with my life without my mom, I have those moments too... when it just hits you and you begin to grieve all over again. I miss her even more whenever I achieve a career milestone and I know she would have been very proud. The pain just never goes away and we are changed forever.

    Kate

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    1. We are indeed changed forever. I like to think we're changed for the better, even though our hearts are always bleeding =)

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  3. Grief for a mom is the most painful thing in the world. And no amount of words can describe it or give comfort to the grieving. When my mom passed everything turned black and white. Life as I knew it lost it's sense and flavor. And there are days when the pain is so bad you want to just hide and wallow. I know this feeling, as I think the people who lost their moms at an early age. This kind of grief can only be truly understood by people who crossed that bridge at one point of their lives. It's sad we did. I feel for u. 

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    1. I heard it's grief for children. Someone at Mama's wake told me that. Nothing can even come close to the pain of losing a child.

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  4. beautiful post, frances. she must be smiling proudly to have a daughter who writes so well.
    cyber hug.

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    1. I'd like to think so but Mama didn't want me to be a writer so I don't know if she'd have been proud =)

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  5. Hi Frances, did that cruel day happen soon after your Mom passed? I saw a doppleganger of my Dad on his 9th day in church last May and I froze. Everything about the man was my Dad ... his clothes, his hairstyle and color, the way he stood, the way he moved his head from one side to another. But all I could do was stare. A lot of friends have told me this usually happens talaga.

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    1. Nope, maybe after a year. I know it was before I had Vito since I was still doing the groceries =)

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    2. Actually, I don't really remember when this happened. I knew I wasn't pregnant (I ran across the street) so it must be before or after I had Vito.

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  6. Has it been 4 years already? Death is a peculiar thing. People always say it will get better in time, but as someone who's had many loved ones pass away and witnesses deaths on a regular basis (my father runs a funeral parlor, remember?), one thing I've learned is that you just get used to it. The void never goes away. My favorite quote from Six Feet Under, (which also happens to be my favorite series because it mirrors my life):
    "A: Why do people have to die?
    B: To make life important."

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    1. Weird, my name didn't come out. It's me, Kate Alvarez. ;-)

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    2. Hi Kate! This is Kate, right? I'm guessing on the context clues.

      Thanks for the quote. It's true! Death is a good thing actually. I just wish it didn't have to hurt so badly.

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    3. Yes, it's me! Weird how it didn't publish my username. The more you love the person, the more it hurts. I've met people who moved on immediately after their spouses/relatives passed away.

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  7. Reading this post of yours 6 days after I give birth makes me cry twice. Weird that the thought of losing the people even strangers (Sec. Robredo, made me cry so much a fesw days negore I gave birth) has intensified even more now. I am more appreciative of family & people that matter which is a good thing. *hugs*

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    1. Congratulations, Jackie!!! =) Yes, appreciate our loved ones while they're still around!

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  8. Oh my. This just about broke my heart. I almost lost my dad 5 years ago from a heart attack and I was devastated. How much more if he didn't survive his attack?


    *Hugs*

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    1. Thank God your dad lived and lives! Hug him every day! =)

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  9. I lost my favorite uncle 10 years ago and it still hurts... I don't think I'll get over it completely...

    Can't imagine losing another loved one again. I know it's inevitable. But I just don't wanna think about it. :(

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  10. My dad passed away 6.5 years ago. what ive been feeling all these years you were able to articulately condense in one post. Beautifully written! I have been comforting myself with this line -- "Death leaves a heartache no one can heal, love leaves a memory no one can steal."
    You never really get over a loved one's death, you learn to deal and live with it in the best and happiest way you possibly can.
    I'm a regular reader of your blog and this is my first comment. Thanks for this particularly beautiful post!

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    1. Thanks for reading my blog and thank you for that beautiful quote. Hugs to you, too!

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  11. *Hug*

    I remember visiting my brother's grave with my parents. My dad was quiet the entire time. Right after that, we went straight to see his grandson.

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  12. I seriously don't know what to say but I just want to drop you a message to let you know that I was touched by what you wrote. I can't describe the devastation that I felt last Thursday when I thought I already lost Alvin so I can just imagine what you felt when you're mama died. I had goosebumps when I read the last part of your post.

    Hugs to you Frances!

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  13. What a beautiful post, and immensely sad. :(
    To the commenter about the doppelgangers/lookalikes: my lola passed away this April. At the wake I was standing near her coffin when the door entered and her cousin walked inside. The thing was her cousin looked exactly like her 20 years ago. My heart just stopped, it was crazy. And I had this thought in my head that "see, see, she's OK! This is all a big mistake! she's alive!" Parang logic completely deserted me at that moment. Ganun nga ata talaga grieving. :(

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  14. Your story about seeing your Mama again reminded me of a dream I had recently about my dad, who died when I was three years old. In the dream, I got into a car that picked me up from work and my dad was inside with this big smile. We hugged and I said "How is this possible? You died!" and he just smiled and said, "No, that's just what you thought, I've been waiting for you all this time, and now we're going to go pick your mom up and tell her the great news. She's going to be so happy!" I knew it was impossible, but it felt so real; it felt so good to be hugged by my dad and I was just so happy. I woke up sobbing because I didn't want it to end.

    I never really knew him but I've mourned and missed him all the same. I can't imagine the grief of having a life with your mom, then losing her. :(

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    1. Your comment made me cry. Just because you didn't really know him doesn't mean you have no right to miss him =( How terrible to lose a father so young!

      I've had similar dreams. Parang ayaw mo magising, no? Hugs, Deepa!

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  15. Ditto. I always dread the month of September as something always bad happens...every single year. And last year this month, my dad died. His 1st Death Anniversary is coming up so I've been having my "drama moments" lately. The first two months after he died, I was crying everyday. I know he is now in heaven and is enjoying his rewards so I just remind myself of that. I know he is happy now. I am grateful to God that we had a good relationship with my dad. No days were wasted. No regrets. Just thankful for his life. I really miss him though. Miss him so much it hurts. Kumikirot ang puso. Ganun.

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  16. i grew up without knowing my dad...whenever i would ask mom about it, she'll just say he's dead..that's it. i dunno what happened between them but i dont want to stress my mom by asking questions pa. reading your post made me cry. i cant imagine life not being able to meet my dad tas losing a mom, i will surely go crazy. mom and i argue often, but i love her to bits. she may not be perfect, but she's perfect for me and my sis (my half sister).

    hugs Frances!

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    1. Ya, I also used to make away Mama all the time. Masyado kasi siya mabait at mapagbigay so lagi ko siyang pinapagalitan. But now I wish I had just let her be. If giving and sharing gave her so much joy, then I shuld've left her alone. Oh well. Sa huli ang pagsisisi. So love your mom, love your sister! We never know how much time is left to us!

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  17. Hi! I'm 33. Just lost my dad this year (March) and it's his birthday today. And your article just makes me want to break down and bawl. I guess it's really hard at first because everything seems to remind you of the loved one you lost. You are right saying that one can only understand grief when one experiences it. I never knew what "crushing pain" meant until I lost my dad. Today is a BOOM day, being his birthday, so it's been a struggle getting through this day. I knew I should have stayed on Topaz Mommy. (Kidding!) But, still, I am glad I chanced by here. You are a terrific writer. A wonderful mom. And, I'm sure your mom would have agreed that you are a great daughter.

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    1. I'm sorry you lost your daddy. Hugs!

      And thanks for dropping by here =)

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  18. Hi Frances, This is beautiful. My father passed away 9 mos ago yesterday. I am still grieving. I still think about him daily. You just made me cry...

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  19. Hi, Frances. I just lost my dad last July 17. Exactly 7 days after my brother and I celebrated our birthdays. It was the first time we celebrated with our mom too, who came who retired from work in Saudi and came home last April, for good. At the time, she was so busy fixing the house, we never had time to go out as a family. 5 days before dad died, I was sick with pneumonia and I had no yaya so mom and dad, volunteered to look after their newest apo. (I'm the only child who no longer lives in the family home). I did not know then that that was already the last few days we will together. The day before he died, he even volunteered to drive me and mom to the bank but we declined since it's very near the house. He got sort of "tampo" and said, "Bahala kayo baka ma holdap kayo." The day he died, I just said my usual goodbye to him, he thought I was not yet supposed to be back from my sick leave although at the time, my backside started to hurt real bad, my mom insisted I take another sick leave but I was persistent to report back to work. As I was about to enter the office building, I got the call from my brother that they were in the hospital, reviving my dad. I did not make it back in time to say a proper goodbye. So much coincidences, so much regret. But then, we find comfort in assuring ourselves that He is with God now and he loved us enough not to be a burden financially and emotionally.(C.O.D was cardio-pulmonary arrest. We were told that if he survived, there's no guarantee of a normal life). God granted his wish that he will not live past 65. He always mentioned before that he would not want to live past 65 in order not to be a burden. He's supposed to turn 66 on December.

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    1. I'm so sorry for your loss. It's such a huge black hole, no? You know, my mama died the exact same way she wanted to, too! She always said she didn't want to die when she too old because, like your dad, she didn't want to be a burden and ayaw niya na magkasakit siya. She said, "I want to die fast but ayoko ng accident kasi ayoko masira mukha ko." Haha, maganda kasi si mama. She also always said she wanted to die at home. She got all that she wanted! She choked on her chocolate milk, had an asthma attack. It was done in 15 minutes. She died in her bedroom.

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  20. Wish I couldn't relate but I do... *hugs* - TrishR

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  21. My husband and I lost our would-have-been first baby (and first grandchild in both families!) last September of this year. I agree with you that grief is a curious thing. I didn't understand it until I experienced it first hand. I'm still healing from the tragedy. I'm only consoled by the fact that our baby boy is now an angel in heaven and God has better plans for my husband and me. :)

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  22. Lost my Dad on October 2012. I miss him everyday. Unfortunately, he never met my son. It would have been lovely watching him teach my son about cars, soorts and music since they both have the same interests. If only I could have one more day to spend with Dad just so I can talk to him and be assured that I am doing things right.

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