My father's hammock is now empty

NEW BEGINNINGS () - January 31, 2010 - 12:00am

Under the himbaba-o tree, my father’s hammock seemed to be still despite the blowing amihan breeze. Yellow leaves carpeted the ground, some gyrated straight onto the hammock. The wind continued to blow, the hammock remained rock steady; the leaves continued to nonchalantly shower the surroundings. In all these, my father was missing in the picture. He would never be seated on his hammock again. He would never be heard appreciating the paradoxical beauty of falling leaves. Between now and forever, I’m left with only one choice: to accept the fact that Tatay is gone. 

At 6:15 in the evening of Jan. 18, Tatay, 74, rejoined his Creator while his family was around him at his ICU bed. Sorrow was clearly written in our hearts. Silent tears streamed down our faces. Before he breathed his last, a priest came to bless him and we all managed to kiss Tatay goodbye and whisper him endless “I love you’s.” We’d never known such sorrow until that day.

It was a Monday, the start of the week, a new beginning for me and my family no matter how painful. From Dec. 26, 2009, the day of his confinement after he suffered a stroke, until Jan. 18, 2010, we never lost faith. Faith was the food that kept us nourished and strong. It was the instant cleaner of our hearts when we were in doubt. Faith was the glue that made us bond better as a family.

Throughout Tatay’s confinement at the ICU, my family and I believed that God, in his most omnipotent way, would bless Tatay for whatever He desired for him. There were only two possibilities: that God would make him well again and bring him back to us to spend more time or that God would make him feel better by inviting Tatay to His kingdom and spend the rest of his life with his Creator. The answer made us all the more realize that we are all living on a borrowed life.  

God willed for Tatay to suffer no more on that day. His Maker decided that Tatay did not need the tubes in his mouth, in his nostrils; that there was no use for the contraptions on his chest, on his fingers. No more complications like pneumonia, diabetes and creatinine problem.

I was beside Tatay when the monitor finally registered a flat line — it seemed like an endless white line in a vast sea of gray. Then the line disappeared. Tatay died while I was holding his hand.

“Thank you, Lord,” I prayed as I looked at my lifeless Tatay. “In your Kingdom, he will be full of life again.”

While caressing his face, I told him: “Good fight, ‘Pang. You were here for 24 days. You did a good fight.” 

Amidst this paramount trial, my 65-year-old mother proved that she was a force to reckon with. Nanay never left Tatay in the days that he was in the ICU. She would curl up in a little bench at the small ICU lounge to sleep at night. On Sunday, the day before Tatay passed on, she spent her whole day beside him. She talked to her husband about the beautiful things they shared together in the past — from their courtship moments to their wedding day; from their days of want to their comfortable days. Tatay listened to her. Since he couldn’t talk because he was intubated, he used his left hand to caress his wife.

Syo, namayat na si Ineng (I have lost weight),” Nanay told him as he continued to feel her arms. “Syo” and “Ineng” were their terms of endearment for each other. Tatay just cried. Nanay dried his tears with her palms. If only his hand could reach Nanay’s face, he would also dry her tears.

Nanay continued: “Kung pagod ka na, pwede ka nang mag-pahinga. Hindi naman ako pababayaan ng mga bata, kung paanong hindi ka nila pinabayaan. Salamat sa pagmamahal mo. Patuloy kitang kagigiliwan (If you are already tired, you may rest now. Our children will take care of me, the way they care for you. Thank you for your love. I will continue to love you).”

True enough, my mother will continue to love her Syo. Two days after Tatay’s burial, I accompanied her to McDonald’s after her check-up. She ordered a Quarter Pounder and automatically split it into two. “Para sa Tatay mo (For your father),” she told me as she began to wrap half of the burger. I just looked at her. Then she realized her husband just passed away. I held her hands. We silently cried.

I don’t know when we will stop crying. What we know is that the burden of loneliness becomes light with people who continue to shower my family with love and prayers. I believe each member of my family is conscientiously and consciously moving on — however hard, however painful, however arduous.

Despite the tears, I know, my Tatay, the sun in my universe, will forever shine. His rays are reflected in the countless beautiful and happy memories we shared together. More than being my father, he was my confidante, my best friend. He was my superhero who didn’t know how to fly. Despite his lack of skills to fly, he taught me to grow my own wings. His wisdom — that revolved around honesty and integrity — was the fuel that made me soar. “Hindi baling mahirap, basta huwag lamang magnanakaw,” he would tell me and my four brothers when were growing up. It was the same teaching he would impart to his grandchildren.

Tatay taught us that the family is the most precious legacy one person could have. He taught us that legacy is not about a billion pesos earned; legacy is about a billion beautiful moments shared together.

I thank the Lord for the opportunity to celebrate life with my father while the time still counts, while the moment still matters.

It was Tatay’s genius and wisdom that inspired me to write many of my articles. Today, I will not see him anymore on his hammock, under the himbaba-o tree to read to him and translate in the vernacular my Sunday column. But God is so good He made the way for me to find him in my heart.

I will continue to read to him in my heart — to honor him and to show him that I remain a loving and grateful son.

(Thank you very much to those who condoled with us and offered prayers for my father and our family. For your new beginnings, please e-mail me at bumbaki@yahoo.com or my.new.beginnings@gmail.com. Have a blessed Sunday!)

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