Just recently, I find death scenes on TV a bit weird and funny.
Those scenes when the actor would act lifeless and then followed by a dramatic song. He was trying to say something then closed his eyes, turned his head sideways, and then died. Some of the directors include shots of the hand falling from the side of the bed.
At one point I ask, “Is this how we make TV dramas?”
And then I realized, with all honesty, this just boils down to the fact that I find these scenes fake, because I know how a person dies. I just know it because I’ve seen it, felt its immensity when my father passed away. I was holding his hands so tight, looking at this face, counting the rhythm of his breathing. He was so weak he could not even blink his eyes, it was just open looking from afar.
“Tay…Tay” (Dad) I kept trying to talk to him but no response. Tears fell down my brother’s eyes when he whispered something to my father. I knew it was coming. I tried to reason out, maybe it was okay to accept this to finally end his suffering with liver cirrhosis, but my heart was turning heavy by just thinking of losing my father.
Heavy breathing. That was it for a few minutes, or hours? I didn’t know.
I was just there holding his hand looking at him intently. Suddenly, the heavy breathing slowed down, interval has become longer from one breath to the other. Then he made this unusual facial expression, like he felt a heavy blow of pain for the last time and then it went away, forever.
He stopped breathing.
I couldn’t explain it clearly but I felt the world has become a huge slow motion. I felt I turned deaf for a few seconds, every sound was echoing inside my head. Then, I heard my brother calling out my father.
I was still holding his hands when I realized that tatay’s (Dad) eyes were still open. I put my palm on his forehead, slowly slide it down to close his eyes. Then that was it, I suddenly felt my heart has turned so heavy, so painful I could even feel the physical pain on my chest. A throbbing pain that I felt I needed to release. I cried. I cried so hard, like I never cried before.
I haven’t recovered yet, but I knew at that time I had to step up and be strong, especially when I heard my mother’s anguish. I felt goose bumps from her scream, she was shouting why my father left her. All our lives we’ve been taking care of my mother because of her health condition, the death of my strong father just didn’t crossed our minds.
Losing a parent is sad and lonesome, and painful. It was like you were being transformed into a kid again. You mustered the pain without hesitation, and cried like a kid again, not minding about the world. You just wanted to cry and let go of that pain in your heart.
But that’s not the hardest part.
The hardest part is facing the world every day, then you realize you don’t have a father anymore, that you won’t be able to see him again ever. He’s been a good father, that’s why it was really hard for me, for us, to simply just let go.
At one point, I thought finally I was okay, because I don’t get sad that often whenever flashes of his face crossed my mind. Or whenever I remember myself taking care of him every night when he was really sick. There were times that I go to work without sleep because I had to care for him but I never complained. I was willing to do everything for him.
We had so many memories, when I was a kid. Until that day when he told us that he felt his tummy was getting bigger, until he was diagnosed of liver cirrhosis.
I was busy with work. I was busy being a father to the house when he left. Then one day I was inside the van, going home. The lights were off. The driver turned on the radio and the first song was played. It was Phil Collins’ You’ll be in my heart. Suddenly, I thought about him, and realized, tears were falling down my face. I couldn’t help it. Damn, I was crying for a Disney song! Then It was like my ears suddenly has this extra power that I understood and felt every lyrics of the song. It says, You’ll be in my heart. I cried hard that night again while commuting. Good thing the lights were off so no one noticed, and in case someone did, I just didn’t care.
I realized it’s not okay to pretend that everything is fine by blocking your emotions. Let the pain sink deep in you. Let it hurt, until such time that it doesn’t hurt that much anymore.
Just like those times in my life when I needed some clarity, I knew that the only way for me to cope with my father’s death is to travel, go to a strange place, breathe some fresh air, clear my mind and let go.
I climbed a mountain, chased some waterfalls. My body ached because of the strenuous physical challenge going on top, but I never complained and for the first time, the physical pain felt good. I was fiercer when I felt sore and even shortness of breath. There was even a time when I told myself, “this pain is nothing, nothing to the pain I feel inside, every single day.”
People go to the mountains for their own reasons. If some are mending their broken hearts, I hike to cope, to find some answers.
I also traveled to some secluded, beautiful islands in the Philippines. If there’s one thing to be thankful about everything is the support of my girlfriend. We traveled to some of the best beaches in the country, enjoyed marveling at those fine white sands and pristine beaches. And during at night, I find joy in feeling the sea breeze, the waves relaxed me, calmed me. When we were in an island in Quezon, I saw a silver lining while looking up to the clouds. I’ve never been so reflective during my travels before until my father died. In that beautiful afternoon, I was holding my girlfriend’s hands while looking up. For the first time in a long time, I’ve finally see the world, my life, in a positive light.
Learning to Live Life
Seeing my father took his last breath, made me realize the realities of death and the shortness of one’s life. Taking care of him from the very beginning up to the last, made me value more of the things that matter. Now I go all out for my family, loved ones, relationships and my passions.
I hug my mother whenever I can. I text my girlfriend that I love her whenever I’m at work. I prioritize my niece, my nephew, my siblings all the time. Family first and I mean it.
I continue to do my best at work yet I don’t let it define myself anymore. Now, it’s just a small part of my life. I go home earlier. I travel. I write. I follow my passion and I live life.
Death…I felt it to the core when I closed the eyes of my lifeless father. There is pain in letting go and moving on, yet it gave me strength and lessons, that life is just a fleeting moment. Focus on what matters. Spend more time with your family, your parents, and your kids. Do what makes you happy.