I Am My Father’s Daughter

A higher power must have discerned I have been sheltered from an inescapable reality for so long. It has decided it’s about time.

January 1, 2013; 5:48 am: a few hours after my son and I watched the fireworks from the glass windows of Philippine Heart Center,  the nurse alerted me that my father’s heartbeat had gone flat.

And I used to think I already have an idea what unspeakable sorrow feels like..

Everything started to turn more surreal.
The despair has started its task in crucifying me.

I have deeply cherished only two people in my life. One of them is gone for good. Now I keep on asking myself, “What am I without my father around?” I have gotten so used to having his presence in my life. His being there, even when he is just lying on his bed.

Will this immense pain ever let up? And is there even someone in my family who is grieving as much as I do?
But I already know the answer to that.

No one is ever at ease in dealing with the lamentable realities of life. Who wants to talk about dying? Nobody really wants to have anything to do with suffering and death. Our realm of temporal existence is exclusively for the strong, the young, the religious, and the well-resourced – none of which my father belongs to. Let’s face it. Most people are happy to connect with you only for so long as you can give them something to smile about. And I completely get it. Because I am one of those people.

All these years, I have been absorbed in my own pathetic little world that has provided me with excuses to put some distance from it all. Coping with the challenges of being a single parent, my child’s health concerns – not to mention mine (mostly imagined), even my struggle with sleeping difficulties, plus the several “distractions” – have all prevented me from doing more for the person who has done and given me the most. Besides, the fact that my father had entrusted my elder sister with the authority to make every decision for the whole family, and a caretaker gets to attend to his needs, had given me reasons to surmise my presence wasn’t that necessary. My absence wouldn’t make a huge difference anyway – especially knowing that my elder sister and his favorite granddaughter had always been foremost in his mind and heart. I guess I came up with certain alibis that I held on to so I could get on with my life, and without having to face the dysfunctional relationships, resentments, and complications within the family.

I know, too, that he loves me. My father and I simply love each other. Throughout our good and bad times, the affection has always been there. My loyalty to him remains unquestionable.  In the last years of his life, he had acknowledged me as the best among his children. I know he meant it, though I am not sure it was fitting. Hearing that never failed to make me happy. That was enough for me.

It has been a long goodbye. When he started reaching his late 80s, I began to think maybe I’d be able to accept his departure when the time comes. Such a fool of me to have thought that way. How come I am dying inside now?

I tried to reassure myself that I’d be able to deal with it when the inevitable happens. Or perhaps he could hold on a bit longer.. just like he had been able to do for the past 25 years. My father is that strong. We are the invincible type anyway. My father and I. There’s always been this noble regard for our surname akin to a most priceless jewel that must be passed on through generations. Strong, disciplined, incorruptible, always true to our words. *Oh dear father, I can never have your indomitable will and strength.*

Neither of us is willing to accept the frightening concept of death. That’s why he fought so hard not to give in to it, while I did my best to shoo it away from my mind.
Until he started getting tired of fighting. And he began drowning himself with tiny shots of alcohol – which had been excruciating for me to watch. He had started to give up and was ready to go down. For reasons I myself never understood, my visits became fewer, too.

Never having had to deal with this kind of thing before, I chose to postpone facing up to the truth that the end is getting nearer. If I dwelt on what’s happening to the person I love dearly, I’d be crawling in desperation day and night. And so I begged fate to let me stay in my pleasant state for a while longer, no matter how superficial or mythical it is. Why does this have to happen just when life seems to be getting better for me? I want to be spared still from the misery of finally letting my father go. Please don’t let me drown in sorrow yet. Let me handle the dreadful side of life a little later – when I am more prepared. I have waited so long for this much serenity to nestle beside my being. Why does it have to leave so soon?
Besides, I am darned busy.

For the main reason that I found it so hard to sort out and deal with my circumstances, I could barely spend time with my father during the last months of his life.

Yes, I’ve been a selfish bastard..

***

Lying in his hospital bed, I look at my father and realize how very handsome he is. And just how much I love him so.

My father’s condition is deteriorating fast. It’s clearer than ever. Nobody could save him anymore. There’s nothing else that could prolong his earthly existence. In recent years, he had been repeatedly expressing his exhaustion for holding on. I honestly wasn’t sure if I would agree with him or not. All I know is that the man I have always adored has been fading away fast. Time has ceased to be on our side. The cold fact there’s nothing I could do to soothe his fears and ease his suffering is devastating.

December 20, 2012: It was morning at work when I received a text message from my brother informing me my father had had his 2nd heart attack in one week. He never regained consciousness – until the time of his clinical death on the dawn of New Year’s Day.

The evening before, he smiled at me as we said “I love you” to each other. He also mumbled something like I am the child he loves the most. Then he looked at me in a somber way. I nodded at him and it was my turn to give him a smile. Little did I know it was the moment of our final goodbye.
I did my best to be with him each day in the hospital while he was still breathing – though unconscious. And I was present during the wake and burial. Two facts have resurfaced in my awareness once again. I detest hospitals and funerals. Hospitals make me uncomfortable. Funerals still scare me.

He was brought to his final resting place at Loyola Memorial Park on Monday, January 7, 2013.

***

He’s on my mind all the time these days. Certain memories pop up suddenly and they consume my thoughts and emotions from the moment I open my eyes in the morning until I close them to sleep at night. You can say I am taking it hard. No matter what I do, I am left with the misery of not having him around anymore; not to mention the guilt of not having done much for the person I owe my life to. How can I beg for his forgiveness now?

I try to go through the motions of my everyday routine, but my very essence has been sobbing in anguish. I never thought grief could become this unbearable. That guilt could be this capable of overwhelming  me so. In an emotional place where no one could reach, I am clearly deserving of every pain that’s now slaying my soul.

I am my father’s daughter. He will live on inside me and I vow to love him with everything in my heart, until the moment I, too, get to breathe my last.

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6 thoughts on “I Am My Father’s Daughter

  1. Beautiful. Simply beautiful.
    Losing a parent causes an ache that is ineffable, regardless of how or when they pass.
    I am certain, that your father knew exactly how much you loved him. As parents, we always know, even if sometimes, it is not expressed in the words that are spoken in our presence.
    This gorgeous piece of writing shows, without question, just how much you loved your father.

  2. Dear Marj:

    Thank you for exposing your inner soul to us. I know exactly how you are feeling today. I too lost my father way too early fifteen years ago. He was only 62 when he passed away. He suffered a stroke and that was it. I was in Panama City about 500 kilometers from his home in the countryside.

    I cried every single day for about two years, then slowly, without even realizing it, the pain evaporated. I opened my heart and let the pain go. I knew that he was gone and there was nothing I could do about it. It’s a rational fact of life, even if your emotions say otherwise.

    Time is the best healer I know. I still remember him, but the pain and grief is gone. I have accepted reality and by remembering him, I demonstrate my love. People never die, as long as they are remembered. My father is not dead. He is very much alive in my memories and the teachings he left behind.

    I hope you come to terms with the passing away of your loved father. Praying helps too.

    Warm Regards,

    Omar.-

  3. You have that rare ability of expressing yourself well, combined with great courage, to write so honestly and unflinchingly about such a difficult time in your life, All of your posts show this, but this one truly touches us. (your readers)

    With all my heart, I pray that you will find peace and balance for your heart as time progresses. Each of us must find our way in our own time, and you should not be surprised to feel this loss so deeply. I think you are being a little hard on yourself, though. No one can know well the right combination of care and balance always in life. I spent nearly every waking moment with my brother as he slowly slipped away into the next life in the last few weeks of his life, and I still felt as though I could have done more. You are a good daughter and a good mother to your son, and as a parent yourself, you know how much your child means to you. This is how much you meant to your father too.

    May God bless you and help you to heal in the days to come, and when you are ready, look ahead to the future, and see that there is still much for you to do and write about in your life.

    With many healing thoughts sent your way……..John H.

  4. “Let me handle the dreadful side of life a little later – when I am more prepared.” That’s exactly what we all feel. When things are good, we don’t think about the struggles and sorrows awaiting us in the future. And when the time arrives when we have to face those struggles and sorrows, we never feel ready. The pain you feel now will ease with time, but will never go away. I’m sure you already know that. All you can do is remember your father with love and keep his memory alive — and enjoy the life he gave you. I can’t think of a better way to honor him.

  5. I am sorry for your loss, Manilla. On reading your lament, I have found your writing to be very profound. I have always thought, at least for me, that to write there must be an underlying passion, and passion can arise from good and bad. Unfortunately, I’ve found that the passion ebbs, but guilt seems to remain long after you have come to terms with the death of a loved one, which in itself is no easy task. Guilt is something our mind makes up, for what reason I don’t know. The good news, if there is any, is that after hearing it from friends, pondering it endlessly, drawing on the passion it creates and letting it flow onto the page, the guilt will diminish but the good memories will remain. Now I am going to read more of your beautiful prose.

  6. Marj.

    I don’t want to comment here and drag this back out into the light when it sounds from the next post that you’re starting to heal (if even ever so slightly) from losing your father, but I can’t not let you know that my heart goes out to you.

    This is so incredibly sad and powerful and your beautiful struggle to be the dutiful daughter is palpable.

    I think about my kids… They don’t owe me anything; and if they missed me when I’m gone some day, that will be enough – I know they love me and it doesn’t matter whether they speak it or not and you’ve did much to assuage his need to know how you felt.

    I believe it’s that golden heart of yours that makes this so much more difficult. That’s the trouble about being human isn’t it? That which we love the most makes us that much more vulnerable to the loss of it. But we do it anyways. You did anyways.

    As best as anyone could.

    I hope you have more light days ahead. If there’s anything that us in the blogging community can do to lighten your load please let us know.

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