When you can’t even extend a warm, tight hug to express your love? When you can’t even personally show your sympathy? When you can’t even properly condole with the bereaved family?
How does one grieve in this time of Covid-19?
A dear Aunt of mine suddenly passed away early this month. At 63, she was the first among my Mom’s siblings to pass on; she was eighth in a family of twelve. We are a close-knit family on my Mom’s side, the type that meets often for birthdays and fiestas and weddings; summer vacations together; gathers whenever there is a balikbayan family member; and basically know what is going on with each other’s families. Ever since my Dad passed away many years ago, this boisterous extended family of ours spend Christmas Eve at our place; my Mom was the first among her sisters to be widowed.
My Mom is the second in their brood, the eldest sister, and eleven years older than my Aunt. She broke down when my Uncle in the US told her about the sad news. It was hard for her to accept my Aunt’s passing.
You see, my Aunt was a Covid survivor. She contracted the disease in December, complicated by a stroke that temporarily paralysed half her body and impaired her speech. She was in intensive care for four weeks before being moved to a private room after testing negative and declared Covid-free. A week later, she was discharged to recover at home. A caregiver took care of her 24/7; she was still on oxygen and feeding was via NGT, and she needed physical therapy. She was recovering well; my cousin would update our chat group about her improvement, and her siblings would organize a weekly video call to check on her progress. My Aunt was getting better.
My Mom wanted to so much to visit my Aunt’s wake, to see her one last time. I can see traces of pain etched on her sad face each time I look at her. I decided to bring her on the last day of the viewing, early in the morning, so there would be no other visitors but us. My youngest sister went with us to Don Bosco Chapels that day, and only two of my Aunt’s four children were there.
It was heartbreaking to see my Mom sitting alone at the front pew, watching over my Aunt’s white coffin in silence, quietly sobbing. I cannot begin to imagine her pain, but I pray that my Mom was able to make peace with what has happened and properly bid my Aunt farewell.
How does one grieve in this time of Covid-19?
I will always remember my Aunt for the cheer she brings: she with the hearty laugh, smiling eyes, and merry voice. She with a quick repartee or funny joke for everyone. She who always showers us with our favorite caldereta, dinuguan, menudo and kare-kare. She was such a positive, happy person. And God called her to join my Lola, their mother who passed away in 2019 and whom she took good of and kept company in her final days, earlier than her siblings.
How does one grieve in this time of Covid-19, when one cannot properly do so?
“This is it, life will never be better, or sweeter than this.”
– Nelson Moss, Sweet November
As I write this piece on an early Sunday morning, a light November rain is gently falling outside my bedroom window. After a month-long hiatus, I started writing again.
I have always loved this month — my birth month. I was born on November 10th (11.10) at exactly one eleven (1:11) in the morning. My mentor during my advertising agency days said my destiny number was 1 and gave me photocopied pages from this book detailing the positive and negative aspects of my character and indicating my life path. It didn’t make much sense to me then, but as I moved on to pursue a new career path a few years later, I began to appreciate the insights that faded manuscript offered regarding who I really was and what drives me.
November has always given me the feels. I remember reading somewhere that it is the last month of a melancholy season that suits memories well. Indeed, my November has always been filled with nostalgia, for many of my life’s most treasured moments happened on this month—memories that I will always look back with gladness, and forever hold close to my heart.
“November. The last month of Autumn, but the beginning of a new adventure. Time to take risks and do the unexpected.”
I have always regarded each birthday that I mark as better than the previous year. This still holds true this year, despite the unexpected twists and turns that has happened in the last six months. November has given me many happy surprises this time—in the form of small joys and answered prayers; little wonders that helped me in my journey to healing, finding peace and restoring balance in my disrupted life.
I am still in that space between “no longer” and “not yet”, but this month has made me realise that there are no shortcuts to healing, and that I should not be ashamed to heal the way I need to.
As what this new person in my life has always been reminding me: trust your own journey, cry if you need to, but still show up and do not let life pass you by. I am learning to be comfortable with myself again.
“Autumn is more the season of the soul than of nature.”
This is a long overdue post! it has been days since I got tagged by my new friend Kim https://thatcitygirlph.wordpress.com/ whom I follow and find inspiration and motivation in her blog. Thank you for this “Simple Joys” tag!
I started following her because her simple yet beautiful writings resonate. She is quite young yet she seemed like an old soul when you read her blogs. Not to mention the fact that we’re both from Manila, so there is an instant affinity there. Please make sure to check out Kim’s blog where she writes about the interesting, insightful everyday life!
1). Thank the blogger who tagged you
2). List 15 of your small joys
3). Tag 5 blogger friends who bring you joy, feel free to say why!
My 15 Small Joys List
Ice Cream. My all-time go-to comfort food.
The smell of freshly brewed coffee.
A hot meal. Warms the tummy after a tiring day.
Compliments. Warms the heart during challenging days.
A warm bath. Sooths and calms and lulls the senses.
A tight hug. From my little nieces, they’re a bonus.
The heart, kiss, hug, smiley and sunflower emoticons.
Ice-cold Coca-Cola Classic. Refreshing!
Sunshine on my face.
My Mom opening the garage gate for me when I leave for work in the morning
A kiss on the forehead.
A quiet corner to read.
Comfortable bed and soft fluffy pillows.
Flowers. A tried and tested happiness pill!
Colored lip balm. Goes well with a pretty smile.
Thank you, Kim for tagging me in this fun, enjoyable challenge!
This pandemic has taught me that no matter how bad a situation my get, or how sad one may feel, there is always something around us that we can be thankful for and be happy about.
Sometimes, it’s the little things that can bring so much joy in our hearts, only if we push ourselves to “see” them and learn how to appreciate them.
To my tag nominees, I hope you enjoy the experience as I did thinking about them and making sure it fit 15 slots allotted.
Today I came to see you. I had to make an early visit because where you are at will be closed during the All Saint’s Day and All Soul’s Day weekend, as a safety measure against Covid-19. It was better than not being able to visit you last April, on the anniversary of your passing, which was something I always looked forward to, because of the stricter community quarantine measures imposed then.
I always wanted to have my own personal time with you. Especially now, when I needed your kind words and wise counsel the most, to comfort my troubled heart and worried mind. I know you are always watching over me from heaven. I know you are constantly praying for me. You knew the struggles I have been going through these past eight months– how I wrestled with my inner demons and how my heart has been crushed. But somehow, by God’s grace, and your intercession, I managed to go through each day and carry on. I still rise. I still show up. I still smile.
Hope I have done you proud for the last 14 years that you have gone. I still miss you everyday. You are forever in my heart.
When we lose someone we love we must learn not to live without them, but to live with the love they left behind.
“I wish you to know that you have been the last dream of my soul.”
Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities
I never dreamt of you; even while we were still together, even when we started to drift apart.
But I dreamt of you last night.
We were at our own place, cozying up on the couch and soaking up the early morning sunshine streaming through the windows. You were immersed in your favorite mobile game, I was engrossed with my new book. Then you laid your head on my thighs, and I, subconsciously, ran my left hand over your chest. You suddenly caught my hand and held it tightly. I stopped reading and looked at you, surprised. You then sat up and turned to face me, and without letting go of my hand, you looked deep into my eyes and said softly, awkwardly but sincerely: “I’m sorry.”
I smiled and squeezed your hand back. You broke into a smile; it was the kind of smile I always remember you about, the one that eased the dark creases around your face and lit up your eyes. I miss that smile of yours.
Maybe it was God’s way of giving me the closure I have been praying hard for these past few weeks.
Maybe it was God’s way of letting me know how you really felt, even if these words remain unspoken after all this time.
Maybe it was God’s way of opening the door of forgiveness, even in the absence of a formal apology.
It was a good dream. It was a reassuring dream.
And I know in my heart, we will soon both heal and be at peace with our shared past… and all will be well between us, if by His grace God allows us to cross each other’s paths once again.
How much of who we are is where we have been.
It was a tick off my bucket list: watching U2 live. I finally did it in 2019. Was keeping tabs of the places where U2 would be bringing their The Joshua Tree Tour in Asia, and when Singapore was announced in June, I scrambled to get my ticket for the concert that was slated on the last day of November.
Yes, I got myself one ticket. Who would I be bringing along with me anyway? I was single and unattached when the tour in Singapore was announced. No one in the family wanted to go. My friends can’t because it was so close to December. So I decided to go for it. It was a birthday present for myself.
I made the trip to Singapore on my own; I have been to Singapore a couple of times and traveling on my own to this familiar city is nothing new. I went to the concert venue on my own; it was a convenient train ride anyway and set out early so I would be also among the first to line up once the gates are opened.
The encounter was surreal. I cannot contain my excitement as the lights dimmed, signaling the official start of the concert. I was totally absorbed watching my favorite Irish rock band perform live. It was pure euphoria! I was there solo but I never felt alone, because the stadium was packed and the crowd around me felt so familiar, maybe because we shared a unique affinity. They were singing as loud as I did, and they spurred me to dance as carefree as they did. Drink in hand, voice hoarse from trying to be heard above the din, everyone exchanged glances and smiles and comments as if everyone really knew each other.
It was for me a very liberating experience– going to a rock concert solo. It was a different level of independence compared with dining alone or doing groceries on your own, or even watching a movie solo (which I have not done yet, and which reminds me!), one that I will always cherish and remember. I made this happen for myself, at that point in my life when I still reveled in my independence and lived my single life to the fullest.
One that is worth narrating to my twins one day.
Life is meant to be experienced. Put yourself out there. Do things you've never done. Live a life where at the end, you will have no regrets. -- Anonymous
I truly believe God hears all prayers, and He answers all prayers, too. But what many don’t realise is that God answers prayers in three ways: (1) God says ‘yes’; (2) God says ‘no’; and (3) God says ‘wait’.
Maybe at some point in my adult life, my prayer time has started to weaken. Or maybe I have begun to take prayers for granted, having whispered them half-heartedly or automatically– maybe because the spoiled brat in me, who always had life easy and comfortable, knew that they will be answered the way I wanted them to be answered anyway. Or maybe I have grown so used of praying for other people that I have forgotten how to pray for my own personal intentions.
In November last year, there was one special prayer I began lifting up to God constantly. I was on “unfamiliar grounds” at that time, and while I was happy about it, I was also suddenly afraid and in doubt. For the first time in a long while, I even offered the Nine Days Simbang Gabi for this personal intention. God did say YES to this prayer: he gave me the affirmation I asked for a few days after Christmas. It was something unexpected but made me ecstatic given the positive answer.
In January this year, by chance I found my way to the Shrine of Saint Padre Pio in Sto. Tomas, Batangas for the first time, and I recalibrated the same prayer and asked for more clarity. This time, the answer suddenly took a longer time to manifest; maybe it was a WAIT? So, I continued praying. After six months, God’s answer came loud and clear: but it was a heartbreaking NO.
How does one deal with such a painful answer?
It took quite some time for me to accept God’s rejection. It also took a while for me to understand that the prayer I have been lifting up to God was not right from the start, that was why it was not granted. My special prayer was not aligned with His plans for my life and will only lead me away from my path. Maybe there was an opportunity given to come clean and make things right, but the secret that was kept remained hidden and the charade continued, and so God had to intervene to spare me from more damage and an even deeper pain.
I realise now that life lessons come more with the “No” than with the “Yes” answers. And no one really stops praying even after the prayer request has been answered, in whatever form the answer may come.
At this juncture of my life, I am grateful I was able to visit St. Padre Pio again on his feast day, this time in Greenbelt Chapel, to offer my thanksgiving for his intercession, as God has given me a clear answer to this special prayer of mine. Yes, while God did say “NO” to this particular prayer of mine, He more than made up for it for saying “YES” to my other prayers.
In time, I know that all the questions I have in my heart will be answered. In time, everything will make perfect sense. But right now, everything is starting to work out and fall into place, in my favor, just as God promised that they would.
"Prayer is the best weapon we posses,
the key that opens the heart of God."
-- St. Padre Pio
Autumn is a second spring
when every leaf is a flower.
-- Albert Camus
I always knew when summer is gone, and autumn is here.
Of course, where I live, technically we do have this season. But I have always loved autumn; it is my favorite season of all.
I know autumn is here when everything around me starts to turn into deep colors of green, yellow, orange, red and gold. The breeze gets extra cooler too whether at dawn or at dusk, and I can breathe in the crisp fresh morning dew or the light evening rain. I know autumn is here when the leaves begin to dance with the soft caresses of the wind… and after a lengthy waltz or tango, they detach themselves from their perch and move to a slow solo dance, before falling freely on the ground.
Many picture autumn as the season of falling leaves, but to me the changing and turning of the leaves hold so much hope and poetry. I love autumn because it reminds me of how beautiful and vibrant life can be. Nature is at its fullness in autumn, just as life is as its fullest as it peaks and mature. Yes, in autumn leaves eventually fall, but they don’t stay on the ground for long. Because life starts again, in the warmest colors ever.
Autumn also reminds me of how beautiful and liberating it is to let go and start all over again, embracing a life happier and brighter than before, rising again from the fall, taking on a new path, and starting anew.
I guess I am such an autumn person; I was born in autumn, too. And I realise that most of my life’s celebrated milestones happen during this enchanting season. Life is starting all over again for me this year, and this season I embrace my renaissance. I may not know what milestone I will be marking this time, but I know it will be better than what I have hoped for. Because after all, autumn is the richest season of the soul.
Life starts all over again
when it gets crisp in the fall.
-- F Scott Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby