Life happens, and so does the inevitability of death. But when the passing of someone close to you comes, it’s always something you never learn to expect. So it came as a shock to me early Saturday morning a few weeks ago when I got a text message from my Auntie Beth that beloved Lolo Diong had left us the night before. I was at the first day of AREC marathon training so I dedicated that morning’s run to him. Even though I didn’t show my grief outward, I felt it deep inside me. I didn’t inform any of the people I ran with even though I feel a kinship with my fellow runners. I just found solace as the run went on. This is the kind of grief only shared with family.
One of the first thoughts that came to mind about Lolo Diong was this: I never knew my grandfather, my real grandfather that is, because he died before I was born. Whom I consider my real grandfather is really my stepgrandfather. But who is going to quibble with semantics when he is the only grandfather I’ve ever known and who played the role of real grandfather really well? My Uncle Ed made mention of this in his eulogy a couple of weeks later. When Lolo Diong married my grandmother, she already had 4 children and he fit right in and accepted everyone wholeheartedly. They added two more of their own to the brood - the aforementioned Auntie Beth and Uncle Ed.
The visitation and funeral came over a week later. During those two days and a few thereafter, I didn’t sleep well. Either my grandfather’s death haunted me or my body wasn’t used to having so many days off. I was able to string several days off in addition to my bereavement leave and that threw my circadian rhythm off. Was it mental anxiety over Lolo Diong’s death or circadian dysrhythmia? One thing was for sure – I felt spacey the day after the funeral.
Other thoughts about the visitation and funeral and you will have to forgive me because some of them are irreverent: Facing the visitation room was another room with two counters for the family to set out snacks for visitors. There was a bigger room in the back too which our family utilized. I notliced that the families who used the counters had chips and soda for their guests. In contrast, the back room had several tables filled with fried noodles, egg rolls, pizza, pan de sal, siomai (shu mai), sodas, etc. Was that a surprise? Not really, Filipinos always throw that kind of a feast regardless of it being a death in the family. Let me just add that the people who used the counters up front were not Filipinos ;) . When the eating was done, the reciting of the rosary was led by Uncle Oscar at the visitation room. There was a slight hitch though. The rosary beads he was holding just minutes earlier had mysteriously vanished. He had to use his fingers to keep track of how many Hail Mary’s have been prayed. I wasn’t present during the rosary because I volunteered to be a sentry at the reception area in case other people wandered in and try to eat all the Filipino food. Hopefully my Uncle Oscar kept good track of the count with his fingers and did just five decades of the rosary instead of six Glorious Mysteries. The sixth Glorious Mystery being the disappearance of the rosary beads. After the rosary and visitation, we had to clean up the reception area so that Uncle Oscar could get his cleaning deposit back. While we were doing this, a guy who saw me carrying out some trash bags to the trash bin asked my Uncle who I was and what we were doing. He later introduced himself as the new janitor and he mistook me as someone taking his job. While we were finishing up, a security guard was waiting outside so he can lock the place up. I warned my relatives that if we were not out in five minutes, we were going to be locked in the reception area, or worse, in the morgue.
There was a funeral mass the day after visitation. It was my first experience with the new mass which I’ve only read about in the news. Let me just say that it was still similar to what I was familiar with so I didn’t get totally lost. I even received communion. I just don’t know the songs they sing nowadays. Although I still consider myself Catholic, I no longer go to church. The priest mentioned that the bible says that the normal lifespan of man is 70 years and anything over that is a bonus. I’ll have to take his word for it because I don’t know my Ecclesiastes from ecdysiasts. A couple of nice eulogies were given by Uncle Ed and cousin Mary Ann. As one of the pallbearers, we had to lift grandpa’s casket a few feet from the door of the chapel to the hearse. We were caught unprepared on how heavy the casket was and were thankful that it was only a few feet. From the curb to the gravesite, we opted for a cart. Whew! Thank goodness we didn’t drop grandpa! That made me wonder if that has ever happened. Let me just tell you that even though I lift weights, I could barely hang on to the casket. Lifting weights and lifting patients to the seclusion room is apparently not enough training for lifting a casket. A nice touch to the end of the graveside service was the release of homing doves. After finding their bearings, they headed towards the 605 North Freeway and back home to Monrovia, while Lolo Diong’s spirit ascended the stairway to heaven. By the way, before Lolo left, he played one final joke on us: one of the staff in the funeral home found the rosary beads in the kitchen and returned it to my uncle after the funeral mass. What kitchen?! We didn’t use any darn kitchen! Astaghanan and astagpirula! Lolo Diong must have hidden those rosary beads to delay his send off. He must have been laughing all the way up :D.
(I hope my relatives will forgive me for my irreverence.)
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