She lay lifeless, rigor mortis slowly setting in. I held her cold hand and tried to close her slightly open mouth.
I’m sorry, Lola, for not helping you during those times when you needed me at the hospital.
I stared at her face in an attempt to understand if she is leaving us happy and satisfied with her life. I couldn’t see anything.
I tried to see if her pallid face shows all of more than 9 decades of her life. All I could see was her shallow cheeks and wrinkles running from her forehead down to her chin. I couldn’t see anything else.
Birthday ko ngayon, Lola! 14 na ako. Hehehe…hindi, Lola, 43 na po!
And then I let go of the tears welling in my eyes. I let them run down all the way to the base of my neck. I wanted to feel my sorrow. I deserve more than this pain. Now, I think I can see.
Natatandaan ko nung sumugod ang mga Hapon. Maliit pa ako noon. Pinasan ako ng lola mo sa balikat nya kasi tatawid kami sa ilog. Tumatakas na pala kami sa mga Hapon…
What could have I done to ease your pain during these last few weeks that you were refusing to eat, Lola? We couldn’t talk anymore. You couldn’t reach out for me and give me your tender massages. I would just stand there by your bed, staring. I didn’t know what to say, Lola.
Happy new year, Lola. Picture, Lola!…Lola, nandito po ang camera. Ayan, smile!
I’ve always known you as the strong woman who took my Nanay to safety when everything was in chaos and your own life in danger. I’ve always known you as the strong old woman who would take me far within the village just to pick wild kangkong from the swamps. Then I saw how strong still you are even when your cataracts stole your eyesight. You would never cease to annoy the people taking care of you because of your stubborness.
Nasan si Carmen? Umuwi ba sya?…Lola, nandito po ako sa tabi mo. Ako po ang kausap mo kanina pa.
I can’t imagine living the kind of life that my Lola lived. In fact, it scares me to go as far as she did. She is the strongest woman I’ve ever known. I can see that clearly now.
Thank you for giving me an equally strong woman like Nanay. I vow to take care of her for the rest of my life. For now, Lola, be my angel and help me stay strong for everyone who depends on me.