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Goodbye, my beloved |


Goodbye, my beloved

FROM MY HEART - Barbara Gonzalez-Ventura - The Philippine Star
Goodbye, my beloved
This is our first photograph together when we began to fall in love: I thought we should use it to mark his passing.

For the past three years my husband Loy has been sick. First, he had an operation, then a stroke that left him with “vascular dementia.” Forgetfulness to the rest of us. Once he was a brilliant lawyer, then he forgot about his legal genius. He could not stand or walk. His best caregiver, Andres Bayaga, carried him to and out of his wheelchair. Together they practiced standing up and trying to walk, but it was painful and difficult for him.

He could still talk, but it is natural for people with this illness to be depressed and finally depression took over. Last November I rushed him to the hospital because he refused to eat or drink. They could revive him with IV food. “Just a palliative,” doctors said. They also said that when dementia progressed, the patient would forget to swallow and soon he would go.

Loy still could drink nutrition beverages, but he would not eat solids anymore. Once I put a sweet grape on his lips, like lipstick so he could lick the flavor and enjoy it. He did for half a grape, but after that didn’t want anymore.

On New Year’s Day he wouldn’t eat or drink at all. We would put water in a syringe to try to avoid dehydration. It would trickle out the other side of his mouth. This is when I felt inside the whale’s belly. I knew he would go but didn’t know when, how, what to do.

One of my close friends whose father had fallen into unconsciousness for years advised me to have his children one by one say goodbye. They whispered that they loved him immensely, that they would be all right. He went two days later. “Tell his children to do that,” my friend advised. I did and they did. By 10 p.m. January 11, all the children had come to say goodbye.

I was exhausted at the end of that day. So, we — Andres, the caregiver, Loy, my husband and I — went to sleep. We slept together in one bedroom. I woke up at 2:30 a.m. I looked at Loy. He was still breathing shallow breaths. I fell asleep again and dreamed that I was in a mall when a woman called me. I turned and discovered it was an old friend who had just been widowed about a week before. “You will be all right,” she told me. Then I heard Andres’ voice, “Ma’am,” he said. I sat up and looked at Loy. He was no longer breathing. I looked at the clock: 3:45 a.m.  My beloved Loy had silently crossed over. I kissed him and held him. He was still soft and warm.

Loy left us very quietly. I was at the bedside of two grandmothers when they passed. Their last breaths had a sound. But my Loy was quiet. “How did you wake up?” I asked Andres.

“I suddenly got goosebumps,” he said, “so I got up to check on Sir. I saw he was no longer breathing, so I called you.”

I waver between being happy and sad because Loy is finally free. He has broken away from his dementia. Now he can stand, walk, talk even fly on his own. But now he does all that without me. He was my kindest, most generous, most patient and most loving husband. I remember when he asked me to marry him. He was 79. I was 73. We agreed that maybe we would have five years together. Our sixth wedding anniversary is coming up: January 23. We missed our sixth by 11 days, but we went past our fifth. We were exuberantly happy together.

For his family, this is the time for wavering. We waver between feeling desolate and sobbing and being happy and smiling at the wake when family and friends come. We had delicious catering by Margarita Forés, a delectable, innovative arroz caldo thanks to Happy Ongpauco Tiu. A wonderful conversation with Father Tito Caluag. Loy’s children took care of everything.  His oldest son, Paton, with his wife, April, behind him told me when we both accepted Loy was leaving us, “Tita, we will take care of everything.” And they did.

Loy’s children are Marrielle, followed by Paton and April, Naynay and Agustin, Lala, Almond and Kat, Natasha, Jinggoy and Charm and Jeska. Loy’s caregiver is Andres Bayaga. He is excellent at his work, is quiet, but talks softly to his patient. Now he needs another job. You may call me if you need a caregiver. I will connect the two of you.

I have learned so many lessons in my long life. Now as I’m turning 80, I must learn how to be a widow, to pick up the pieces of my shattered heart, glue them together and live until it’s time to go. I am not ready yet, but I know one day I will be. Until then, please pray for me.


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