At the end of the year, loss and grief

If you follow me on any sort of social media, you’ll know that Oneal’s Dad is gone.

Things had been tough for Dad’s health this past year, and twice he’d been confined in the hospital. When he came home from his second confinement, his paralysis left him unable to move his left side, and we had to get a caregiver. Zai was excellent at her job, feeding him, giving him medicine, changing his diapers, clothes and beddings.

We did what we could to make him comfortable. Oneal got a stand and moved the TV from the dining room to Dad’s room. We got a egg mattress for Dad’s bed, so he would be more comfortable, and wedge pillows to keep him from rolling. Oneal ordered bed railings, so that when Dad recovered his strength, he could pull himself up, and a commode so he wouldn’t have to leave his room to relieve himself. Zai fed him oatmeal, mashed rice with soup, watered down juices, even mashed up cake on Lucas’ birthday. She ground up his medicine to help him swallow, and told us immediately if anything was amiss.

Oneal made appointments for teleconsults with the doctors, and consulted with other doctors in the family for Dad’s other health issues. His brother Ron helped find a physical therapist who could come to the house. Whatever Dad needed, Oneal ordered.

Me, I made sure to take care of Oneal and Zai, of Lucas and the house, so that everything else would run smoothly. Meals. Laundry. Groceries. I tried to make sure Zai ate properly, so she would have the strength to take care of Dad. I tried to take care of Oneal, so he could do whatever he needed to do for Dad.

We never left the house, unless it was unavoidable, in which case Oneal and I would take turns. We left only to go to Antipolo, for my mom’s birthday, and so we asked Ron and his family to come over and stay with Dad and Zai. Another time, we went to a wedding in Tagaytay, but we only stayed for the reception so we could hurry back home. And Oneal took me to my booster vaccination, but we were home before lunch.

I think we did everything we could. But in the end, Dad was tired and he wanted to go.

It was a Tuesday morning. I was in my virtual team building, and we had just taken a break. I opened my office door and found Oneal in Dad’s room. “Dad’s not responding,” he said. Behind him, Zai looked worried. “Call Martin,” I said, referring to Oneal’s cousin, an ER doctor.

I went back to my office and sent a message to my manager. “Family emergency,” I said. Oneal got on a video call with Martin, who asked about Dad’s pulse, blood pressure, heart rate. He looked at Dad’s lips, hands. Then he called it. “Condolences, Oneal. I’m sorry.”

Ten minutes after my first message, I told my manager and our immediate family that Dad was gone. Oneal called Ron.

While Oneal was fielding calls from relatives, I found the numbers of nearby funeral homes and got their rates. Quickly the family decided on cremation, and a short wake so that Dad’s friends could visit. I asked Zai to change Dad’s clothes, and she arranged his hands neatly on his stomach so that he looked peaceful.

We waited for Ron, with his wife Hazel and their daughter Nixi, to arrive before I asked Holy Trinity Memorial Chapels to come and pick up Dad. Oneal went with the team to Holy Trinity, so he could arrange for the death certificate too. The next day, he was cremated, and for three days we sat in Holy Trinity’s St. Catherine chapel, receiving family and friends who wished to pay their respects.

To be honest, Dad’s passing was a relief. He died in his sleep, which is a blessing, and exactly how he wanted to go. He was bedridden for a month, which I’m sure was torture for someone so active and restless in retirement. He was frustrated that he had been sick and weak for so long, and he was distressed that he couldn’t get up and go to the bathroom by himself. A few days after she arrived, Zai said Dad would tell her, let’s go for a walk, let’s go to the garden. He argued with her, let me get up, let me go to the bathroom. He hated being helpless. He would have hated it if he’d ended up being bedridden for a long time.

For the past ten years, Dad had also been lonely for his wife, who died of cancer in 2011. He often told us how he prayed that he could join her soon. He told us that when he died, he just wanted to be cremated, and it didn’t matter where we laid their ashes to rest, as long as they were together. We knew that for the past five years, his greatest joy was his grandchildren, but even they could not keep his body from deteriorating, his age from taking its toll.

When he suffered his last stroke, he didn’t want to go to the hospital. “This is it,” he mumbled. “I’m dying.” He was tired, so tired, of being sick, of no longer having his full strength. Perhaps he was tired of this pandemic too, and tired of being lonely.

Sometimes, Oneal would be in Dad’s room, watching him while Zai ate or took a shower. A few times, Dad told him, “Uwi na tayo.”

If home is wherever Mom Baby is, then I guess he’s home now, and I can only be grateful that he’s no longer in pain.


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