You’d think it would be easier to accept a loved one’s death when you’ve been warned about it, but that’s not the case. Even if you’ve spent years bracing yourself for that person’s death, the loss will still crush you when it finally happens, and it will leave a gaping hole in your heart that will probably never be filled.
My Tita Mediel succumbed to cancer on the only day that I wasn’t in Manila since she was sent home by her doctor. She passed away last November 26, less than two hours before midnight, with a smile on her face despite suffering for over two years because of a disease she did not deserve.
I don’t think many people around me understood just how much her death meant to me. When you find out someone’s aunt had died, you assume that the blow wouldn’t be that great, because she’s not part of the immediate family.
But her death ripped me apart. Tita Mej was not just an aunt to me; she stood as a second mother to me and my sisters who took care of us as if we were her own daughters.
Our apartment in Makati was next to hers when we lived there during the first few years of my parents’ marriage. A few years after we moved to our own place in Pasig, she and her family also had their house built a flew blocks away from ours. We saw her nearly everyday, and came to her for everything: for clothes, for food, for money, for advice.
Tita Mej was a woman of fine taste. Her house was stylish and always well-kept, which was why we enjoyed going there to eat or just to hang out. She was the one who introduced me to make-up by lending me liquid foundation (which I never got to return) when I needed to fix myself for a class presentation. She always pointed out when my hair was making me look manang, and often offered to accompany me to the salon.
On special days she made her specialty, chicken pastel, which she would plate on expensive dinnerware. We tried our best to be jolly this Christmas even without her by following her recipe that we found handwritten on the back of one of her cookbooks, but it was just not the same.
Nothing is the same without her.
Whenever I found myself crying about her, I try to tell myself that she’s at least in a better place now. A place where there is no suffering or pain, which she had too much of during her 51 years here on earth.
Someday we’re all going to have to move on, but I hope that we won’t ever forget the happiness she brought us even during her time of sickness. On one of her last days, while I was reading beside her on a Saturday morning, she asked me if I have had breakfast yet.
She could barely speak, and she herself had not eaten anything solid for weeks, but there she was, asking if I’ve had breakfast. You don’t ever forget a person as good as that, and I am grateful God gave her to us during her time here on earth.