Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Reflection: Final Farewell

Mother's Day from now on will always be bittersweet. This Mother's Day, the usual joy and festivity associated with this special day was marred by the burial of our dad.

Our dad's coffin was transported to his hometown provincial church, the Basilica of our Immaculate Conception. It was a long drive to the countryside as our motorcade of cars followed the somber music of the lead car carrying the coffin on our dad.

We arrived noon time at the historical and ornate Basilica. This was the church dad was baptized and where he received his first Holy Communion, Reconciliation, and Confirmation. It was a homecoming to the city he grew up. My children, born in America, have never been to this place. It was good to know they were getting in touch with their heritage and geographical roots.

The burial mass was officiated by the Cardinal of the Philippines, Cardinal Rosales, who was a dear childhood friend of dad. The Cardinal just arrived from Rome less than 24 hours ago when he heard the news of the demise of dad. He said that dad somehow prepared for this day by approaching him to make a final request that the reverent Cardinal officiate his burial mass. It was a promise the Cardinal could not not fulfill.

The Cardinal shared personal stories about dad when they were growing up in Batangas. Many of them I haven't really heard of. The Cardinal said that dad was very athletic and strong. After mass, he and the boys would play volleyball in the church lot. Dad was very intelligent and excelled in school. He was a good soccer player in his youth. He was devoted to his mother until the very end.

After the mass, we trekked one car at a time along a narrow dusty road to the provincial cemetery where many of our dead relatives lie in peace. A final blessing was given to dad in the small humble church where one by one, mourners viewed dad's remains for the last time. The thought thta this was the last time I will ever glance at the physical remains of my father sent despair all over me. I wanted to tell him a lot more about my life's problems and successes and my dreams, but that was no longer possible. My whole family huddled in front of him, crying altogether, saying our silent good-byes, and most of all, thanking our Heavenly Father for giving dad to us. Then the coffin was closed and transported to the family mausoleum nearby. We threw flowers on the coffin prior to it being sealed forever. I was the last one to leave. I didn't really want to go. I wanted to sit there for a long time and keep him company and talk to him. I touched his tomb for the last time and said good-bye.

The last vision I had was the "Tree of Life" bonzai plumeria plant my husband and I bought for dad. Farewell, dad. Rest in peace. Be an angel over our shoulders, keeping us safe and guided in the right direction. We love you and will never forget your goodness. Praise God almighty for the gift of you in our lives.

Thank God for the gift of faith and the support of family and friends. I have accepted dad's demise and am at peace with this now. Somehow, the thought of him keeping a watchful eye on us, especially on me, as I face life's successes and challenges, makes me feel more confident in my life's journey.

Dad, your spirit will always be in my heart. You have given me essential values for life which no one can take away. You taught me to live a life of integrity and honor and to stand up for my beliefs despite adversity because the Lord will always be there as my protector against oppressors. And now I also have you as my protector and guide. You know what's in my heart now and the key justice struggle I am undertaking. May your spirit give me continued wisdom and perseverance to see this challenge until the very end. I love you, dad.

Monday, May 28, 2007

Reflection: Miss Me Some, But Let Me Go

The day prior to the burial, we had a mass at the funeral parlor. It was a beautiful mass attended by family and friends. It was con-celebrated by three priest friends of dad - Fr. Nick, Fr. Noni, and Fr. Rene.

After communion, my grieving mother approached the casket of dad and sobbingly whispered a good-bye message to dad. I faintly heard, "Wait for me, I will follow you soon so we can forever be together in life eternal." It was heart wrenching to see my mom mourn the loss of the love of her life.

Mom and dad had a special bond. They were faithful and committed to one another. Dad's the only one that mom has no problem "obeying" orders. You see, my mom is the original dragon lady of the family. She is a self-made successful entrepreneur who did not get any dole out from anyone to start her business. It was all due to sweat and tears and yes, lots of prayers. She is assertive, independent, and indomitable in character. But with dad, she knows how to make him the head of the family and our business, even if dad was a "Mr. Mom" who took care of the kids (with the able assistance of nannies) and the home. Dad always joked that "My wife makes all the money and I spend it. She spoils me rotten." Theirs was a special partnership that worked well because its foundation is their shared deep faith in God.

After the final blessing, I, as the eldest, had the opportunity to provide a short eulogy about dad. I shared how my father lived a life of devotion to God, his family, and others. His generosity was remarkable; his intellect, astounding; his care for his family, exemplary. Most of all, his love and devotion to mom was extraordinary, second only to his love of God. Dad did not like to dwell on sadness, tears, and regrets. I reminded our guests that if dad were around, he would tell us that it's okay to miss his some but then let him go and rejoice because he is with our heavenly Father. He is in a much better place now, bound free from the shackles of sickness, misery, and other worldly concerns. A sense of peace and serenity enveloped me as I reflected and shared this memory of dad.

I then glanced to mom and told her, "Mom, dad will be eagerly awaiting the day when the two of you will be reunited in the kingdom of God. He is preparing a special welcome banquet for you for that day when God will deem is the day for you to join dad. Until then dad wants you to take care of yourself, not to mourn, but enjoy everyday of the rest of your life on earth. Just remember his last words to Sophie (my sister) prior to his fatal surgery was 'Go and feed your mom for she has not yet eaten. Don't let her go hungry. Take care of her.'" See, even in his last hours, mom was all he could think of. I'm sure such is his main thought now even in afterlife." Theirs was a pure love that knew no bounds - neither distance, time, space, nor materiality can sever the love they share.

(last photo courtesy of Vic Magsaysay, a talented photojournalist friend)

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Reflection: Death is Like Thief in the Night

I'm back in my home, lying on my bed, trying to comprehend what just happened.

I still remember about two weeks ago, at about 4 am, when the phone rang and I felt a queasy jolt in my stomach. My husband answered the phone and I could hear my mom sobbing and telling us that our dear dad had just passed away. "Oh God," I said to myself. It's the call I've never wanted to receive. I remember letting out a cry of denial and pain. I didn't know what to do or where to go. I wanted to just hug my papa's remains and whisper in his ear how much I loved him but I can't because I'm thousand of miles away.

We immediately proceeded to pack and get a flight to Manila. In the plane, tears continued to roll gently on my face. I remembered the airplane flights we took as a family to trips abroad and how he would assure us that we have nothing to fear when there was turbulence because he would protect us. I looked out the window and it was all darkness and stillness. I wondered whether my papa was out there in the cold dark abyss with no one to care for him? I drowned my sadness by sleeping.

I was awakened by the serving of brunch. But I didn't have any appetite. After our meal, I looked out the window again. It was dusk - the sky was softly lit with muted tints of early sunrise reminding me of rebirth. Then the sun slowly inched its way in the sky, rendering the soft, billowy clouds with a majestic glow of warm hues, this time reminding me of new hope.

Somehow my papa was consoling me to not despair because he is in paradise - the ethereal backdrop of the resplendent skies was nothing compared to where he is right now. A faint smile grazed my face at that sweet notion.

I saw my dad's casket for the first time and there laid his lifeless body with eyes serenely shut. I used to be afraid of dead bodies, but I didn't have any fear when I gazed upon my papa's resting countenance. He had a peaceful look in his face with an enigmatic Monalisa-like smile which seemed to remind us that he has been freed of his worldly cares and has gone to a better place. Papa looked majestic in his intricately sewn native barong shirt. He was holding rosaries and prayer cards on both hands.

I couldn't help but continue to sob and cry at the same time. I wanted papa to hear my regret that I was not able to say good-bye to him. Most of all, I wanted him to know how much I loved, cared, and respected him. I slowly lifted a portion of the transparent sheath covering our dear papa. I was not afraid - I lovingly put my palm on his chest, to physically bid him good-bye for the last time, even if it was a little too late. I wanted him to breathe and show life even for a moment, to acknowledge my presence. It was wishful thinking that perhaps he was only sleeping and resting because his medications made him weak. But this time there was no sign of life ever coming back, even of life faintly fighting back, just as dad did for so long.

Sunday, May 6, 2007

Paper Crafts' Gallery Idol Contest Musings by a Newbie

paper craft's gallery idol contest was fashioned after the current american idol contest. so i was thinking, in accordance with the spirit of AI, maybe only newbies or amateurs should have participated. would have been nice to have this contest as a venue to discover budding artists, just as AI, its "progenitor" designed its show to be.

don't get me wrong and hope the pro finalists don't get offended. there were many talented artists and i've tremendously benefited from seeing various styles. but being a "cyberpaperchic," i'm very techie and subscribe to many blogs and online shops (altho i'm a newbie myself) and found out that many of them are designer team members, published, hall-of-famers, and even do this for a living! now that doesn't seem like a leveled playing field.

okay my motto is, don't just be a part of the problem, but the solution as well. so here are my 2-cents worth of suggestions, if you would indulge me:

  1. have a gallery idol contest for amateurs and have expert practitioners in the contest's moderating panel who are charged with giving feedback to finalists on what the former liked about the finalists' creations and what can be improved upon;
  2. have another contest for pros only which will have a more challenging format; maybe readers/amateurs could have a side contest to suggest challenges - e.g. design a card with a $2 budget or something;
  3. make it mandatory for contestants, esp. the pros, to post all materials and basic steps - we're here to learn from their expertise;
  4. what about contests that pair a newbie with a pro? i mean a newbie puts the project together, but the pro/mentor provides ideas/constructive criticisms.

    i think if the industry leaders or entrepreneurs want to halt the decline and stagnation of this industry (have you heard of ch 11 bankruptcy filings of major companies who did not anticipate the market's analogous dot.com boom bust?), opportunities for collaboration, sharing of passion, technique/style improvement should be afforded by them. personally, i don't want to see this industry go bust - why? just like the stock market analogy i've alluded to, yours truly has made significant investments in scrapbooking stocks (aka stashes) and i'd like to get some ROI (return on investment) by making sure products i like don't get discontinued, my fellow "paper passionistas" don't dwindle so i can find more scrap buddies who will nurture my passion, and maybe get something published at least within 10 years (lol! we all can dream)...of course, my most significant ROI is the keepsake i have created for my posterity which will long endure after i'm gone.

    what do you guys think? would like to hear from both newbies and pros! ok, nuff of my didactic rumbles. can u tell i was a teacher/principal before?