It has taken me two years before I could write anything about the death of my father. Dying, after all, is not a very easy topic to deal with. And more so because Papa died just a month after one of the happiest days of my life, my wedding. He also passed away 11 days before Christmas in 2009.
Papa was already diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2005. I was the only family member who was with him as the doctor told us the diagnosis; my mother having passed away in 2001. He was on the 2nd stage of the disease. He shed tears as I held his hand.
Papa’s treatments took place in the next four years. Papa, who was a brilliant lawyer and who is used to be physically strong and very capable of making his own decisions, would often be mad at me when I remind him to follow his treatments and make some changes in his diet, his lifestyle. And which father or parent, after all, finds it an easy thing to take “directions” from a child that he used to carry in his arms as a baby?
Getting an early diagnosis of my father’s sickness gave me the opportunity to make needed closure with him over unsettled issues. I consider this a blessing since it would have been a different scenario had he died of an accident or of a sudden heart attack. I remembered some of my childhood and adolescent misdeeds known only to me (and to God) which I then confessed to my father. This made my father smile. It did not matter to him anymore, he said. After all, I am all grown up. But it mattered to me to be able to tell him. It was healing for me to be able to do so. I was also able to let go of any issues I have had against him.
Papa lost about half his usual weight when he passed away. He had made peace with God and he had told us, his children, that he was ready to go. When he did that 2nd Monday in December 2009, tears came. Then there was the flow of cards, flowers, practical and financial help from friends and relatives during the wake.
People who both knew Papa well and those who knew him by his work as a lawyer (Papa had just finished his term as Integrated Bar of the Philippines Bohol chapter president), as a government official (he served as Provincial Board Member for two terms and years before this elective post, he served as Provincial Board Secretary during the administration of the late Bohol Governor Lino Chatto), as a media person (he had formerly managed a radio station and published a newspaper), and as an educator (he had taught and served as dean at the University of Bohol) came to bid their goodbyes. We wore white during his interment, which was four days before Christmas day.
It was a good thing that one of Papa’s very close friends, a former mayor, welcomed my husband and me and the rest of my siblings to their home on Christmas day. In a very practical way, this lessened the grief we were still experiencing. It also eased somehow the reality of being an “orphan”. It was our first Christmas, after all, without both our parents.
Even if it was such a difficult Christmas season to go through, there still was the reality of God’s comfort. He was really there with us even in that very challenging time. I also came to experience once more how other people can help one heal. It is truly a wonderful thing when people reach out and show concern when one loses a loved one. Faith in God and the comfort extended by others made grief much easier to bear that Christmas time and beyond.