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Today is my Papa’s 2nd death anniversary.
Until now, I still find it difficult to write about his death and this event. There are things you just don’t write about, and there are stories that are hard to tell, and this is one of them.
My sister Lea said that when she got to the hospital the night Papa was rushed to the ER of Evangelista Hospital after a stroke, she never got to talk to him, and it still bugs her two years later.
We never talked about it, but I too share the same guilt. While Alex and I were the first in the scene, and Papa was still conscious then, I never went to his side to talk to him or ask him how he was. Or let him know that I was there. The minute I heard him cursing, knowing him, I was assured that he was all right. Even when he was transferred to New Sinai, I stayed away from him. “Nagmumura pa,” I said jokingly to my mom, “Ok pa yan.”
Little did I know that those were his last conscious moments. When he was wheeled into the CT scan room, he was already unconscious, and he never woke up again. That was December 8 and on the 11th, just as we were discussing how we will take turns watching over him at the hospital, he passed away.
And I will forever live with this.
Did Papa know that I was there? That I was the one who went to MCM to make arrangements for his transfer, only to be turned down because I didn’t have enough cash with me. I only had twenty thousand in my wallet, and couldn’t withdraw from the ATM due to the maximum withdrawal limit. The hospital required more. Worse, its CT scan equipment was not available. We were forced to look for another hospital, thus settling for New Sinai in Sta. Rosa. I don’t know if it made a difference, but the delay must have had an impact as he remained untreated after his stroke. Imagine travelling from Manila (where he had the stroke) to San Pedro (where his preferred hospital was) to Santa Rosa (where CT scan was available and where our 20k was accepted).
And then during his last night at Arlington, Mama had her usual dizziness/dizzy spell and when she woke up, she couldn’t remember a thing – why we were there, why there were so many people. Doctors said it was her coping mechanism. Her memory was trying to block the event. “Bakit wala pa ang Papa ninyo?” Imagine our horrors and worries, the shock, the stress, how we did not know what to do, how we could not tell her that time due to her medical condition for fear that she might break down.
The following day, the day when Papa was to be cremated, we were advised to proceed without Mama. It was one thing to see your father being brought inside the crematorium, not seeing him ever again and another without your mom knowing it was happening. “Naku, Pinky,” she was telling my sister, “Nakalimutan ng Papa ninyo ang salamin niya.”
It has been two years but the pain remains, the sorrow lingers. I have so much to say to him. And I wasted so many chances to show him I was there for him, to let him know how much I love him.
If you love your dad or mom, say it out loud, let them know, let them feel how you love them. Cherish every moment you have with them.
How do you move on when a loved one departs? You don’t. You simply don’t. Sure, we have been living our lives without him, but you just don’t forget. You never do. They’re never gone.
Atty. Leon Lajom Acuña
April 11, 1942 - December 11, 2010