9 December 2014
Tomorrow marks a full week since we buried tito Leo’s body, two whole weeks since the day he breathed his last. On Thursday, it will be three weeks since he entered a coma he never woke up from. Today, the ninth of December, is a full month since he was attacked by a mild stroke brought about by a blood pressure soaring at 240/110. He was preaching behind the pulpit when it happened. It was his last message.
When I think of everything that transpired between the 9th and 26th of November, every little hopeful up and every agonizing down, it feels a little unbelievable that all those could have happened in a span of 18 days. And yet, I remember how the clock ticked so slowly on those days I kept my phone close, waiting for an update from my sister and my tita because I couldn’t be at the hospital, while they, in turn, waited for news from the doctor; on those nights I cried after my roommate went to sleep; on that afternoon I raced up four flights of stairs to a room full of family. Every person in the room was family, except for the doctor who came to bring the painful truth- that if the rules of science were to be obeyed, my tito was never waking up.
I remember the interminable waiting that ironically ended too soon. I remember the hours after tito’s second operation while we prayed and prayed and waited for tito to wake up, inching closer to despair with every hour. I remember his neurosurgeon’s words that tito was to wake up within 24 hours or never. I remember dreading the passing of the time. I remember dawn breaking and the morning failing to bring any of the joy it promised. I remember the crushing sorrow lasting far more than a night.
I remember the little ups- how the doctor said it was a good thing my tito was on respirator or he might have stopped breathing even before his second operation. I remember thinking it was a reminder God was in control, that surely God was telling us to hold on to our faith because He was keeping tito alive. I remember the doctor from the ICU saying tito was not brain dead more than 48 hours after tito’s second operation. I remember the ICU nurse telling tita that during visiting hours, tito’s blood pressure spiked and remained stable. I remember having tito transferred to a private room so we could spend more time with him. I remember the gospel hymns and the Christmas carols we sang around his bed. In the midst of it all, I remember the private nurse saying, “Masaya si sir. Tumaas bp nya at stable vital signs nya. Dalawang oras ko na inoobserbahan yan“. I remember my cousin saying only half-jokingly, “walang uuwi!“. I should have heeded him and spent the night in the hospital, as was my plan, because what I remember from the next day is getting greeted by the heartbreaking sight of tito’s body wrapped in a blanket from head to foot.
Even now, I remember the painful moments we alternated between waiting for a miracle or waiting for tito’s last heartbeat as we alternated between hope and despair. I remember the anguish of losing tito, because I feel it still. I also remember tito alive because we keep talking about him at home, how we feel suspended in that state between acceptance and disbelief. It’s easy to remember because my cousins and I take turns torturing ourselves with memories of tito. Not a day has passed that a picture of him did not grace my feed. Yesterday, I put up our tree and my mom and I couldn’t help reminiscing how tito used to tease her whenever we put up our Christmas decorations. Last night, my brother checked the NBA season standings and I remember tito mocking our Celtics love while sporting a cap with the team’s mascot up front. This morning, I made coffee and I remember our shared taste in 3-in-1 brands (Nescafe sucks; Kopiko rocks.).
It still feels unbelievable that he won’t tell another corny joke again, nor strum a gospel hymn again. It seems an incredulous thought that none of us will ever taste his igado, beef steak and zinagan again- a shame because they were the absolute best. None of us will be wed with tito as officiator or ninong (deciding between the two was a dilemma, I am to learn, not exclusively mine). None of us will listen to his preaching nor his wisdom-filled advice again. None of us will have the pleasure of asking tito about a theological point. And understandably, none of us can get over the loss in less than two weeks.
I remember a lot of things and no doubt, my cousins and titas and titos remember other memories. I remember again the long days in the hospital as we all reminded ourselves that we were on a test of faith. An exercise of trust, like the one we are in right now. If it was hard letting go of tito in the hospital, it’s even harder moving on without him. Tito was our family’s spiritual leader. He would have been the first to point out God’s sovereignty to us. And amidst all the grief, pain and problems following tito’s death, I struggle to remember that tito’s first response would have been an emphatic, “pray!” And though praying has become extremely difficult to do since tito’s death, and God has never felt as distant as He does right now, I bow my head in prayer- asking God to make the hurt stop, and the problems, too, because there is only so much grief one can face in the space of two weeks.