Tuesday, April 30, 2019

I'm not okay. But I'm okay because I'm hidden away while the storm rages on.

It's the last hour of April 30 and I'm holding my breath, just hoping walang pasabog pang hahabol because let me tell you: April was a really interesting month. Nag-earthquake pa! Here's a recap:

Piero getting an x-ray for his arm

(1) Papa got sick and then he died. Witnessing his deterioration was a horror I don't ever want to go through again. I'm grateful I went through only a few days of it, compared to my younger sister who was Papa's constant caregiver. She is working through her emotions and I am sure they are deeper than mine because caring for someone heroically and yet they died anyway is a despair I was spared from, and for that I am relieved. Of course, that relief makes me feel guilty.

(2) Those terrible two weeks were filled with us siblings working out hurts and misunderstandings with Papa and with each other. All the while fighting through fear and worry, too! And yet we were also enveloped by love, kindness and generosity from family, friends and neighbors, even complete strangers. Ibang level ang emotions. I don't think I've processed everything yet.

(3) My bunso Piero fractured his arm when he was playing with his brothers and cousins. That was definitely an ordeal kasi sumabay siya sa lamay ni Papa.

(4) Of course I couldn't go to the office while all of the above was happening but I worked when I could. Still, there was a lot I couldn't do so when I finally went back to the office after Holy Week, I was (and still am) swamped with work. I am truly drowning and I don't know what to do.

(5) I lost my wallet. You know the last time I lost my wallet? Right after my mother died. And now it's happened again!

I think I may look okay outside but inside I'm a mess. I don't feel it but my actions show it. I'm distracted. I'm tired. I'm sleepy. I'm not aware of things. I forget things. I misplace things. I lose things. And my anxiety is threatening to come back and overwhelm me. I can feel it simmering just under my smiles.

So I'm supposed to catch up on work and blogging and chores, but I just had to pause. I had to take stock of my mental and emotional health. And, nope, things may look okay but I'm not okay. Accepting that made me feel better. I always focus on what's wrong first. I think that's always the first step to getting better, right? Sobrang uso ngayon ang "Positivity! Good vibes! Happy thoughts only!" I think that's actually contributing to a lot of mental breakdowns because we're not allowed to feel ugly.

I don't think I'll be okay for a while. And yet I also realized as I worked through my emotions that I am also very happy. I'm happy I am alive and healthy, that my husband and I are still together and happy, that we have three wonderful and healthy boys, that I have a job and my bosses are good to me, that I have family and friends who love us. I'm happy I have faith in a Sovereign God because I may not be in an emotionally great place and yet I also am. Did that even make sense?!

A few days ago, when I was realizing my simultaneous joy and grief, I posted these on Instagram:

I was really happy about how I wasn't sinking into despair because of God's promise! But then I started getting a lot of messages about my posts. Many were happy I've "quickly recovered" and "moved on" and how inspiring I am because I "don't feel sad anymore."

Guys, I am sad. I am very sad. I think there is also anger in me and lots of guilt. There is shock and horror. There are emotions I feel but haven't truly confronted yet because I'm scared. I see myself standing in a hurricane and everything is whirling around me and I can't breathe and I'm afraid because I don't know how long this will last. Yet I am also not afraid because I'm not standing alone. I am shielded from the storm. I can see and hear the wildness around me and it is very scary, but I'm also safe. Wild, right?!

There is a verse in the Bible that I always turn to when I'm afraid. I always say I'm brave, right? Courage is my middle name! But I'm always afraid, mamas. Always always always. Especially when I became a mommy. And when fear is overtaking me, I hide in God's promise of protection.

Exodus 33: 21-22 says, "Then the Lord said, 'There is a place near me where you may stand on a rock. When my glory passes by, I will put you in a cleft in the rock and cover you with my hand until I have passed by.'"

It's so visual for me! When there is a storm, when there are enemies, when there are monsters out there or in my head, God will hide me in a cleft in the rock and cover me with His hand. The cleft is a dark and not comfortable place. Plus, the storm is still out there, the enemies are still hunting me down, or the monsters are still threatening me but I am safely hidden while God works His miracles. I just need to wait safely. And I have to be hidden because God's glory can be too much!

So I'm not okay but I'm also okay. Right now, I am so not okay that I have to hide away. I don't know when I'll get better. Some days are great. Some days I cry. But every day I am grateful I have a family to welcome me home when things get too much. I'm especially grateful I have placed my trust in a God who thinks it's totally all right to hide in His love when the world gets too crazy like my world's been crazy this April.

It's nearly midnight! Leaving April now with this old and beloved hymn I sang as a child and comforts my sad yet joyful heart now. I hope it comforts you, too!

A wonderful Savior is Jesus my Lord,
A wonderful Savior to me;
He hideth my soul in the cleft of the rock,
Where rivers of pleasure I see.
He hideth my soul in the cleft of the rock
That shadows a dry, thirsty land;
He hideth my life in the depths of His love,
And covers me there with His hand,
And covers me there with His hand.

Friday, April 19, 2019

Boys chasing birds and birds chasing boys

This is my favorite time of the year in Manila. On Holy Week, the streets are empty and quiet. The sky is free from smog and is a piercing blue. Well, except this Holy Week. I think it's the first ever Holy Week that's cloudy and rainy!

This rainy holiday reminded me of our trip to Tagaytay a few months back. I only told you about it on my Instagram but never got to share the truly fun photos from our really wet weekend. But no rain can dampen the spirits of my boys. Nope!

They ran and played under the rain, in the mud, in the puddles, chasing ducks and geese, then screaming when the big birds started chasing them.

It was raining hard when they fed the birds.
But they refused to go under the umbrella with me.
They enjoyed this so much and I enjoyed just watching them!
Watching the boys and the birds chase each other was fun too! Although I went closer... just in case!

When they did stay inside, they played and drew and chased each other and hugged and tickled each other. Many days they annoy each other to tears, but just as many days they spend on being absolutely the best boys a mother could ever ask for.

Posing for Papa's camera!
Then ignoring everyone as they get to work on their chalk art.
Piero's obsessed with sharks.
IƱigo's obsessed with Piero!

I liked this vacation. We should go on holiday again. I miss the days when Vince and I worked from home and only when we liked and we could just up and leave whenever we wanted to. Of course, those days were when we didn't have such huge expenses (a.k.a. tuition haha).

We usually stay in the city during Holy Week because we LOVE the empty city but the kids want to go hiking and camping. Do you have any suggestions for kid-friendly places like that? I'd like the boys to go on an adventure again!

P.S. Vito's not in the photos because he's already avoiding being photographed. And that's okay. I always ask the boys if I can take their photos and share on social media. And when they give their consent, that's the only time I share!

Monday, April 15, 2019

I learned 10 things from Papa's death

Papa passed away the night of April 10, Wednesday. My younger brother Ted and younger sister Jacqui rushed him back to the hospital just before Tuesday midnight. He no longer had a heartbeat. He was no longer breathing but the ER staff worked for 25 minutes resuscitating him.

When I got to the hospital at 12:40am, Papa had his heartbeat back but he was hooked up to a ventilator to help him breathe. His eyes were still moving, the way eyes do when we sleep. His skin was warm and soft. He was still there. The monitor said his heart was getting stronger, his breathing was getting better, his blood pressure was stabilizing. So we talked to him, sang to him, prayed over him from midnight till 5am. Five hours of just standing around his bed, joking, crying, singing praise songs, praying, saying good-bye, telling him to keep fighting. Just 5 hours but was there ever a longer night?

At dawn, the doctors said he needed to get a CT scan to check for brain activity. So he was wheeled away but when he came back, I was afraid Papa was no longer with us. His eyes had stopped moving. His flesh felt different. And he was now cold. Maybe when he didn't hear or feel us anymore, his soul finally let go of the tether holding him to earth.

I wasn't the only one who saw things were different. The doctor who was so encouraging just moments before took one look at the scans and then said there was no need for the ICU anymore and that we can just wait in a regular room. Wait for...? Wait for family. Wait for the neurologist to tell us what the brain scan said. Wait for Papa to die. And that's what we did. A whole day of praying and singing and telling stories and hugging and crying and laughing and saying good-bye. Then when all the visitors have slipped away, the doctor and nurses came in Papa's room and we began the process of death.

I won't go into so many details of that final day and night. I'm just going to tell you guys things I've learned very recently. If you don't like morbid stuff, best to skip this post. I promise to return to regular programming next week! I have so many nice and wonderful things to share with you all.

But for now, please allow me to process my grief by letting me step back from the horror and love of the last 2 weeks. I just want to share the stuff that I learned from Papa's death:

I wasn't supposed to talk but... Oh well. 

1. Nurses are kind. Thank the Lord for nurses. When the doctor said there's no use talking to Papa because he was brain dead, the nurses said, "Wag kayong maniwala diyan! Kausapin niyo lang nang kausapin si Tatay. Sabihin niyo na mahal niyo siya." I know they know the doctor is correct but I also know they knew what our hearts needed. May God bless you forever, Papa's dear nurses. Thank you for going to Papa's wake, too.

2. I now know how dying is like. Well, at least with Papa, I do. Your heart beat slows down. Your blood pressure lowers. Your temperature goes up then plunges. Your body gets rid of fluid (so get ready with lots of diapers and towels to wipe off perspiration). Your breathing gets slower and farther apart. Papa was already unconscious and so he wasn't aware of anything. The nurses said if you're awake, you will slowly go into a deep sleep. There is no pain. Just blessed sleep. 

3. Doctors and nurses only stand witness when you remove your loved one from life support. I thought they were the ones who did it! Imagine our shock. And yet our relief, too, that we, instead of strangers, were the ones to bring Papa to the other side.

4. Unless you suspect murder and want an autopsy, it's best to have the body embalmed asap, while it's still soft. The longer you wait pala, the harder it is for the morticians to prepare the body for viewing. Mama looked so fresh because they prepared her within 2 hours of death. Because we couldn't call St Peter at 10pm (their office hours end at 6pm!), we had to wait till the morning and by then parang ayaw na ng St Peter. So we called Marian Memorial Chapels and sabi nila Papa's body was difficult to manipulate. They still did a good job! So we love Marian. They took good care of Mama 10 years ago. They took good care of Papa now. Thank you, Marian!

Papa's wake was full of song and laughter... and kids' playing!

5. I need to buy a death outfit. Before you think na napaka-shallow ko... Guys, I've gone through this twice. Hindi na ako natuto the first time. It's so stressful, opening your loved one's closet and seeing, touching and smelling their clothes and knowing they're never going to be worn by your parent again. It's heart-shattering. But you wipe your tears and look for an outfit that will provide maximum coverage. Long sleeves, high neck, pants or long skirt, or skirt with 2 pairs of hose. The mortician says it's to cover dead skin. I have no suitable clothes for that occasion. I have to spare my family this terrible chore and just buy a death suit.

6. It's a good idea to have a folder in your computer where you can put your photos for the wake. It took us a while to comb through photos of Papa, looking for the photos that best represented his life. Vince and I have decided we'd have 3 kinds of photos: from when we were young (maybe 20s), a couple photo, and a few family photos. Then we'll just update the folder as we get older so that when we die, the kids won't have to go through hundreds of pictures and cry (or giggle).

7. Another good idea is to book 2 adjacent rooms at the funeral home, instead of just 1 big room. You get 2 kitchens and 2 comfort rooms. One for family, one for guests. It was a relief to have one little room for ourselves where we could leave all our things and nap when needed.

See me at the back? I'm always minding children!

8. Adobo lasts forever! Well, if it's covered in oil, that is. My Tita Alice Amper cooked a huge batch of the richest adobo we have ever tasted. It was pork and chicken and beef and liver all covered by thick sauce and a layer of mantika. We ate that for days! Sarap! God bless family who flooded us with food. At both my parents' wakes, we never had to worry about food. Who knows what I mean? I literally was amazed at all the food pouring in. People are so generous!

9. You can't bring home the funeral flowers. We received so many beautiful flower arrangements and I liked best the gorgeous one from my cousins Dash and Iza Calzado. I just wanted to put a few of the blooms and several broad-leaf palms in vases at my home. But everyone stopped me. "Ano ito—kasal?" (Actually, ang alam ko hindi rin pwede iuwi ang wedding flowers, diba.) "Malas kapag mag-uwi ka ng kahit ano sa lamay. Pagkain, bulaklak—lahat dapat iwan dito."   

10. Papa wanted to be cremated. After witnessing burials and a cremation, I prefer a burial. That said, if my family chooses to cremate me, that's okay, too. Cremation takes 1.5 hours to 2 hours at Heaven's Gate Antipolo. And we stayed there till Papa's ashes were given to us in an urn made and given by Lanelle Abueva-Fernando. Thank you for your gift!

At the crematorium. Ulilang lubos na kami.

I know this list sounds so strange but I still don't know how to process Papa's death. I've cried, but I don't think I've grieved. I don't know why my mind is putting it off. Maybe because Papa and I had just recently patched things up and my heart won't allow me to see just what I've lost. Maybe because after 2 full weeks of worry and crazy emotions, I'm too exhausted to feel anything. Maybe I just need to sleep. Or maybe I just need my Papa back.

*photos from my sister-in-law, Roselyn Legaspi-Amper