You know that he's spent the past two months slowly dying, and when he finally goes, it's like you're too numb to react. You praise God that the suffering is finally over. You text close friends and relatives, and they text you back with the expected "we're sorry for your loss, we will pray for you."
Then it hits you at the weirdest moments: while you're watering the plants, pounding garlic for fried rice, sweeping up doggie crap. He's gone. And you suddenly you realize that tears have been pouring down and you didn't even notice.
Akward in the best social situations, you are frightfully inept with death. You think, how hard can it be to say the right words? He was your grandfather, these people left are your family. But you still don't know what to say.
What do you tell your grandmother, who for the past two months has been camping out in the hospital, always ready with delicious adobo and rice to feed visitors who come? Do you tell her that it's OK, at least the suffering is done? What do you answer when she says she says she doesn't know what to do now, when her life has revolved around your grandfather for almost 60 years?
What do you tell your dad, who is trapped between guilt and relief; who has been struggling with the dilemma of withdrawing or continuing life support? Do you say he did the right thing? Do you believe that he did the right thing?
What do you tell the people, the well-meaning but equally inept people? You agree that yes, he's had a full life, a good 82 years. Maybe the last five weren't too great because of his Parkinsons, yes, but really, before that things were great. You realize that their trite condolences are from not knowing what to say.
Sometimes people ask you if you were close to your grandfather. What can you answer to that? Do you reveal that sometimes you still feel hurt that it was your brother, not you, who was his favorite grandchild? Do you say that you adored him as a child--that he was so generous, kind and really funny--but as you grew up, things became awkward? Do you say that you longed to tell him a million things, but when you were with him, you became so shy--so shy with your grandfather! how silly is that!--that you just kissed him hello, mumbled a few generic how-are-you-doing phrases and fled the room?
Sometimes, you remember the funny things your grandfather used to do. Like putting that cut-off stocking on his head, so that his dead-straight hair wouldn't stand. Or wandering around the house in his jockeys and sando. You think of how really nice he was. Like that time your brother--in his college-kid-angst-filled days--deliberately drove off, knowing that he had to take you to your dental appointment and your grandfather drove you there instead. Or how he'd slip you money whenever you came to visit that sometimes you were reluctant to visit, because he might think that you came only for the money. And you remember how, wheelchair-bound and sometimes barely lucid because of all his medication, he insisted on coming to your wedding, despite the grueling trip from Bulacan to Batangas. And how on your wedding day, he insisted on wearing his brand new Florsheim leather shoes, despite the sand, and the fact that he would just be in his wheelchair anyway.
You try to think why he fought so hard, so hard, to stay alive, when he was in obvious pain. When he couldn't communicate anymore, when all you could hear were his moans of pain and frustration. Sometimes you think would it have been better if he had Alzhiemers instead of Parkinsons, since the latter leaves your mind intact, trapped in a body you no longer control. And it's heartbreaking to dwell on that because your grandfather was one of the most brilliant minds you know, full of humor and wit.
You think that maybe he chose today to let go because it's your grandmother's birthday, and he wanted to be with her for another celebration of her life. Instead, it's a celebration of his death.
Then you think it's not really a celebration of death, a celebration of the end of his suffering, but a celebration of the life he's led and all the good things he's left behind.
And you try to wipe away your tears and move on. You know that it will still catch you unaware sometimes, these waves of sadness that squeeze your chest and make you cry at the weirdest places, the weirdest moments. You know that you will always miss him, but you also know this too shall pass.
And you hope that he somehow knew that you loved him, even if you were to shy or proud to show it.
And then you pray for strength and grace and comfort, and you find peace knowing that God will grant you these.