Last Monday, I heard that a girl from college passed away. She was 36. We used to just smile at each other in the hallway, but we didn’t really know each other. She was pretty, unassuming and quiet and, according to friends who knew her, had a really good heart. She got cancer last year and it had spread to her bones. I remember my mom telling me about a family friend who died of bone cancer before, how she was in so much pain. And I think about that girl in college with the pretty smile; I hope her last days were not spent in unbearable pain.
That kind of Monday makes me think of my dad.
He died on a Monday. While everyone was busy, while all his children were out at work, he was sitting on his bed waiting for my mom to bring him to hospital (he was in and out of hospitals the previous three years) when he quietly passed away.
I was in the middle of a deadline in the office. My cell phone’s battery was dying so calls kept getting cut off. A text message from my aunt who told me to go to the hospital because my dad was rushed there made me get up, save my files, shut down my computer, and leave word with my boss and the rest of the magazine staff on what still needed to be edited and laid out. I kept calm and thought (hoped) it was going to be just one of those hospital visits. He’ll be back home in a few days. There was nothing to worry about. But a little part of me knew it was going to be different. Surprisingly I immediately got a cab. Cabs in the Philippines usually have names and the old, clunky cab that stopped in front of me had “In God’s Loving Arms” as its name. That kind of detail never leaves you. I didn’t know whether to cry at this “sign” or laugh at somebody’s odd sense of humor.
On the day of my dad’s funeral, the one thing that I remembered clearly when we brought his body from the funeral home to the crematorium were all the people on the street–getting on a jeepney, walking up the MRT steps, on their cars driving somewhere, anywhere, going about their lives. All the while, you had this grief inside you, it feels very personal, but it also seems so much bigger than you. You wonder how life can go on. Not so much that it would stop because somebody important to you died (although there’s a moment when a part of you wonders about that too), but that he could no longer be a part of it. Any of it. He’s in a box. He’s not going anywhere. He’s in a better place. He’s not here.
Last Monday, I also heard that two good friends just got engaged. Happy news. I introduced them and set them up on a disaster of a date almost a decade ago. Years later they saw each other again and disaster date was long forgotten. He proposed in Kensington Gardens. She said it was all silly. I can’t wait to see them. Give her a great big hug. Tell them how lucky they both are.
That kind of Monday also makes me feel grateful to the people I still have in my life. To engagements, to my husband calling in the middle of the day just because, to my family, to friends. Yes, it was one of those Mondays.