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.

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