The Tragedy of My Father’s Death (Reliving the Loss)

Welcome to my housewarming.  I wrote this in August 2001 and I am sharing it to all of you.  If you find it worthy to share it with others, via email or by referring them to this entry, please do so.  Enjoy the ride…🙂

–oOo–

I was watching SOP a year ago, August 6, 2000, and I wowed at the sight and sound of three of the greatest artists who ever existed in this world.  My sister, Gilda, and I were like front-row concert freaks raving over Gary V, Regine, and Jaya’s fabulous rendition of a medley of R&B and sentimental songs.  Commercial came, my sister and I were still enthralled when her cellphone beeped, signaling the interruption of The Boyfriend.  I paused while she read her message.  Then, tears fell from her eyes and she gave me her phone.  It was a message from my half-sister—my father died last night.  

–oOo–

  

A PROLOGUE

 I am a love child.  I was raised single-handedly by my mother.  She told me the whole story about her affair with my dad, how they met while she was having her OJT where dad was working.  She was 19 then.  She had me when she was 25 and my father made this cowardly choice of leaving me when his wife found out and went to my dad and mom’s love nest.  From that moment on, mom was left with the “joys” of raising me.  When I was 5, she met Gilda’s father, a wealthy Chinese Businessman.  No room for disapproval on my part.  Aside from the fact that I was still young and innocent, I was really more concerned about the toys that I have been receiving almost on an hourly basis.  For me, this relationship was a two thumbs way-up!  When I was 6, my mom had Gilda and I was really excited.  I had a little sister to play with, toss around, throw around—things like that.  When she hit her first year as a human being, I also amassed toys, clothes, a ton in weight from trips to Coney Island and Aristocrat in Roxas Blvd. riding Gilda’s father’s orange Toyota Corolla.  I was having a blast—so did my family.  Months after my sister’s first birthday, the most devastating thing happened to my family—Gilda’s Father suffered an internal hemorrhage and was declared completely paralyzed.  A year after, he died.  Along with his death—the affluence died.  Thus the beginning of another struggle for my family.

 SHATTERED DREAMS 

After being caught, our life proved to be an interesting roller coaster ride.  My mom gets an excellent rating for raising both Gilda and I.  I was first year in high school when mom surprised me with a reunion of sorts with my dad.  I began seeing him almost on a monthly basis.  I was “sort of happy” with the fact that I “have” a father.  None of that cliché mush about me envying other boys with fathers attending the PTA or playing basketball with and all that crap.  It just made me feel…well, complete.  Second year in high school, I was winning provincial competitions and I was glad that I have a father share it with.  Father’s Day, I went to his office in Quezon City.  I brought him a gift—a set of filters to be used with a beautifully hand-crafted wooden pipe.  We went to the restaurant where we usually ate.  I ordered a huge T-bone steak and he ordered his favorite sizzling tanigue.  He was so quiet—not saying a word while I kept on babbling over winning 2nd place in the provincial spelling bee competition.  He fiddled his food with his fork.  I finally asked him why he was so quiet.  Then he dropped the bomb—his family is leaving for the States—and he will never be seeing me again.  I was stunned.  When it finally sank in, I bolted out of the restaurant leaving Dad and my half-finished steak. Running like hell with a broken heart and shattered dreams of having a family again. 

MOVING ON (?) 

Fourth year in DLSU in Dasmarinas—alive and kicking ass in school (in academics anyway).  I was to graduate with Best Thesis and Outstanding Student in the College of Arts and Sciences under my belt.  I was wracking my brains out on my other research when my mom surprised me at my dorm.  She brought me news that my dad was confined in a hospital within the area and that she did not know the room number.  I don’t remember what I felt specifically but I decided that I’ll go to the hospital the next day to see him.  The next day, I went to the hospital and I was able to get the room number at the nurses’ station.  As I came closer, my heart beat wildly—maybe from excitement or anger, I really do not know.  I entered the room, a nurse was removing sheets from an empty bed.  The first thing that came into my mind was that he was already dead.  I asked the nurse where the patient was and she said he was released an hour ago.  Damn!!! What the f*&%#k do I have to do???  I was so close!  I dragged myself out of the room.  As I passed by the nurses’ station, the nurse called out to me and handed me a pair of sunglasses and said, “Your father left this.”  I felt the familiar feeling rushing back to me—that feeling of “coming from” someone.  A person who does not know me acknowledged me as someone’s son.  I thanked her and left the hospital.  Then, I just made up my mind:  I have to see my father.  I did not know why but I mustered all my strength, went back to the nurses’ station and poured out this sob story to get my dad’s address.  I got it—along with tears of empathy from all nurses and a phone number from one of the cute ones who offered a shoulder to cry on if I needed one.  I felt triumphant.  As I waited for a ride, it now came clear to me why I wanted to see my dad.  I wanted him to see me that I survived his absence.  I wanted him to feel that he did not matter to me at all.  In short, I wanted vengeance.  Thus, my quest for vengeance began.  I wrote him letters and sent them through LBC asking for a meeting.  My girlfriend (then) even went with me to different meeting places but he never ever showed up.  Graduation came, I sent Dad another letter, attaching all my credentials plus a resume and a letter inviting him to come.  He did not show up.  After that, the drive just gradually died.  I got work five months later.  After a year with the company, I was earning a 5-digit salary as a fresh graduate.  The urge to seek revenge re-surfaced and I sent Dad a telegram on December of 1996 with my office number.  I got a call January of 1997—from my half-sister.  I stammered because I was not expecting her to call.  The good thing was, she agreed on a date for us to meet.  When I hung up, I could not wait for THE day to come.   

DAY OF ATONEMENT 

January 20, 1997.  I was all pumped and psyched as I entered the restaurant where I was supposed to meet my Dad and my sisters.  I wore a beige and green Ralph Lauren checkered long sleeve shirt, neatly tucked in a pair of Giordano denims. I looked great and as expensive as the clothes I was wearing.  Armed with a piercing, heart-breaking speech, the plan was to go in and tell my Dad that I graduated with honors, that I landed an officer position despite my being a fresh graduate, that I was already earning a 5-digit salary, that his presence did not matter even the minutest bit, that he can go f*%&k himself, then give him the finger.  As I gazed around, I saw him—with these two women whom I assumed to be his daughters.  I walked towards them.  As I drew nearer to my dramatic moment of truth, I saw them smiling and giggling.  I was standing by the table, ready to fire away when both my sisters hugged me with genuine warmth, verbalizing an unexplainable longing.  I was brought up in a mushy and affectionate environment but this was just too much.  I said to myself, once this stops, I’ll fire away.  Then my dad spoke—his speech was slurred, he did not stand up, he just shook my hand.  I decided to suspend my wrath for a moment and engage in chit-chat.  After a while, Dad excused himself to go to the restroom.  That’s when I saw him in full stature after 9 years—the power-dressed lawyer/division chief I knew then was now wearing a worn out white shirt and old, torn denim pants and was taking baby steps to reach the restroom.  My sister explained that he has been like that ever since the stroke.  There was a certain heaviness in me.  Was it pity?  Happiness?  Relief?  I did not know.  Hours later, I found myself in my sister’s house, where I met her two sons—my nephews (damn, I have nephews…).  As dad went to his room to rest, us siblings went on to talk some more.  Dad was living under the care of his eldest daughter.  Contrary to what Dad told me before, they did not move to the States.  Only his 3 sons did and Dad spent 6 months in the States and 6 months with my sisters in the Philippines every year.  As the conversation went on, I could not help but feel that they are happy that I was there and that they have someone to share the responsibility of taking care of Dad.  I did not comment.  After that day, I visited him two months later on his birthday (March 18).  My family faced a series of terrible financial strain and I just did not have the time to visit or even call him anymore.  All I remember when I left that day was, I felt sad for my Dad and happy for myself—happy that karma stepped in and spared me from becoming a cruel and heartless son.  My dad suffered enough.  I forgave him in my heart—it was time to move on. 

–oOo–

It has been three years since the last time I saw Dad.  After receiving news of his death, I did not know what to feel.  Gilda got angry and left me with harsh words.  I just wandered off to my Sri Lankan friend’s house, made some calls to my best friends.  After that, I went home and just sat on the front porch.  My mom came home around 6:30 p.m. and found me there.  I told her and she hugged me.  I cried and sobbed—now I know what I felt.  It was guilt and sadness—my dad died not knowing that I forgave him—that I loved him.

SADNESS, GUILT, STRENGTH 

I went to the wake on Tuesday.  My sister was there.  For three years, it was the first time that I will be seeing my Dad—lying lifeless in a coffin.  Seeing him broke my heart even more.  I wanted to hug him but I had to be content on running my hand on the glass, fervently hoping that he could feel my touch.  I cried my heart out, silently shouting that I loved him and that I have forgiven him—silently hoping that he could hear me. I stayed with my sister up to the time of his burial.  For the first time, I met my cousins and uncles and aunts from my Dad’s side.  Everyone thought of me as Dad’s youngest son from the States.  I told them that I was not him and they immediately understood.  By the coffin, some even stopped from crying and paused in confusion once they see the extra ribbon with the name “Jerome” next to Dad’s children’s names.  His four children who were abroad, chose not to go home.  So my sister and I were the only ones who took care of everything.  My friends came to my Dad’s funeral.  The night before my Dad’s burial, my Mom and sister came during the mass.  As the priest led everyone to sing, Sino Ako? (Who Am I?), I again cried and sobbed to the piercing lyrics.  I was lucky my Mom and Gilda were there to comfort me. 

The next day, I was outside the chapel watching my Dad’s coffin being carried out into the hearse.  I cannot explain it but I felt my knees buckle and for a moment I thought I was going to faint.  I was just moments away from not seeing Dad forever.  During the burial, my sister became hysterical.  I, on the other hand, became her shoulder to cry on.  I was now the one doing the comforting instead of the one needing comfort.  I did not cry much.  I stood tall.  I felt I was a complete person that time.  A supportive brother.  A grieving son.  A man.

REVELATIONS 

We returned to my sister’s house to serve lunch to relatives and friends.  I told my sister to sleep and I cleaned the house until it was back to its normal state.  She woke up around 7:30 p.m. in the evening and we decided to talk.  We sat on the porch and I sat on the same spot where Dad spends his day fixing things and smoking.  I took his place, my sister said.  She then asked me if I want to go through his belongings and take some home.  We went to his room and I was faced with Dad’s shirts, shorts, pants, and watches.  Touching his clothes made me shed more tears.  As I chose to take three shirts, four pairs of shorts, and 2 of his watches, my sister took out something from the drawer and gave it to me.  It was my Dad’s wallet.  When I opened it, its only content was the picture I sent him when I graduated.  My sister began saying that Dad had kept the picture and has showed it to his brothers and to my relatives saying that I was his son.  I lost it.  I kept on saying to myself, “why does this have to happen to us?”  My sister began telling me how Dad always talked about me and was always asking her if I called or wrote.  I felt happy…and more guilty.  But I felt sad for my sister at the same time.  I could feel the hurt and the pain.  All the time that Dad was living with her, she felt Dad did not love her despite her devotion to him.  The bitterness in her was so obvious—for her, it seemed like her presence did not matter.  The irony of it all?  My absence mattered to my father.

EPILOGUE:  FINDING LIFE IN DEATH 

I left the next day and before I went home, I passed by Festival Mall to buy some cards for my mom and my sister and my friends to share with them the lessons I have learned from my father’s death.  I spent the rest of the day at Starbucks, writing down my feelings and how profound my experience was.  Most of the lessons I have learned are just affirmations of what my mom has taught me through the years.   

FIRST LESSON:  We choose the life we want to live.  One chooses to be happy or lonely.  My dad chose his family but despite that, he died lonely.  He could have made his life happier by investing time for himself and his children—after all, he was physically there with them.  Maybe he was lonely because he made a trade-off, without acknowledging the consequences of his choice.  Acknowledging consequences of our actions would help a lot in moving forward. 

SECOND LESSON:  Parents should show affection to their children.  Constantly verbalizing parents’ love would make a LOT of difference.  Parents seem to resort to assuming that their children “automatically” know that their parents love them just for biological reasons.  In my case, it would have made A LOT OF DIFFERENCE, don’t you think? 

LAST LESSON:  Children should express their love to their parents.  My mom raised my sister and I in a very emotionally open environment.  We grew up not having problems saying “I love you” and expressing our emotions.  It would have made a lot of difference to my Dad should I have let him know that I forgave him and that I loved him. 

I guess the real tragedy of my father’s death is not his death itself—but because there was SO MUCH LOVE UNSAID.  My dad loved me and I am sure he loved my sister and his other children.  But no one ever expressed affection…no one ever knew.  My sister loved Dad but he did not hear it.  I love Dad but he died lonely, not knowing it.  From this tragedy comes the ultimate affirmation of a very abused cliché—LIFE IS REALLY TOO SHORT.  By dying without knowing comes another tragedy—a life full of regrets which could be so incapacitating to move forward.  The final lesson?  Love to the fullest, live to the fullest. 

As much as my father’s death was a depressing event in my life, it proved to be an enlightening, profound learning experience for me.  I have learned to love those close to me even more as if by the end of the day, I will be taking my last breath of life.  My mission?  To share with everyone my experience.  Through this recount, I hope that people would look at love and family in a more serious note.  That life is really too short for us to love and be loved—the way we should…and deserve to be.

 

 

 

 

 

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31 Responses to The Tragedy of My Father’s Death (Reliving the Loss)

  1. Jenn says:

    thank you for sharing your story. all of us need to be reminded from time to time of how we should express our love before it’s too late. i somehow learned my lesson the hard way too. i admire you for the courage you have in facing all the things that happened in your life and learning from them and then sharing them.

  2. melai says:

    unggoy ka!!!
    You made me cry😦
    Sa istorya mo
    naalala ko bigla
    yung anak ng tatay ko
    at yung anak ng tatay ni Aya.
    Sigh!!
    ……….
    nakita daw siya nung bata
    nitong huli
    pero naglakad siya ng mabilis
    na parang natatakot.

    I hope you’re fine now
    And I hope my daughter will get a very nice
    Storyline …better than yours
    But will get the same lessons you have learned
    From your experience

  3. This is such a sad story but lessons learn in the end. I am also a love child you know and my dad never actually took full responsibility.

  4. Yuri says:

    too much for me to handle. if you would’ve submitted this to maalala, that’s another bouncing check in your saving’s account or a movie offer (?).

    kidding aside, we all have parent issues, might be “slightly different” than yours. i still feel so lucky. these thiings made me the person that i am now. looking back, im glad i went through all those for i would’ve not seen life the way i see it now.

  5. annabanana says:

    jerome,
    pass the tissues nga! pambihira ka, you made me cry! thanks for sharing your story. kudos to your mom..wagi siya in raising a son like you!

  6. rHo says:

    nakakaiyak naman! haaay… ang hirap talaga pag meron kang regret noh?!! but still… maraming lessons ang maaari mong matutunan!!

    thanks! very inspiring ang story mo…

  7. jcdaclison says:

    Jenn – i guess people really need to learn things the hard way. part of character building right? thanks for dropping by, gurl!

    melai – masyadong malayo ba sa mga kagagahang entry ko itong bago kong post? sensya na. tao lang din. at least may napulot ka sa king matino di ba? hahahaha! be strong, mare. just show your kid how much you love her, and encourage her to express her feelings back. if you talk to my mom about her secret? ang kanyang linya: i make it a point that my children and i are the best of friends, with a constant reminder that i am still their mother and i can still whip their ass anytime i want. ang joray ng mudra, di ba? hahahaha!

    chas – what is “sad” anyway? like Neale Donald
    walsh said, “everything is just one thing expressed in different levels”. sadness (and happiness for that matter) therefore is just one feeling expressed in different levels. Sorry you caught this entry at a time where you are in cloud nine with odd. (giggles)

    yuri – don’t you just love it when people see a connection with you? makes you feel one with the universe noh? as for the mmk, hay naku. baka may mga kakilala ka, kahit premyong papunta sa spain lang, oks na. i’m thankful that i saw your blog actually coz i love the spanish culture (and films…well, gael garcia marquez and diego luna in particular. hehehehe)

    anna – sensya na kung napaiyak, mare. actually, it was a draining experience re-typing it. i lost my soft copy already so i had to go through the entire essay. cry din ako especially sa part where i cried to my mom. haaay, life.

    rho – mahirap talaga ang may regrets, kaya from then on, i make it a point that i close things. isa pa, mare, mahirap yung may plot kang maghiganti. sobrang when i got it, i said to myself: so, what now? haaaay.

  8. It’s okay and at least we have something in common as well. But at least your father is better than my father. Who in fact only thinks about his own skin

  9. duke says:

    that entry just left a lump in my throat.

    my dad is a man of few words. he doesn’t express his affections freely. But we’ve grown to understand that. i have learned that he cries easily and tho he doesn’t show it much, you can just tell when it hits home. i hug and kiss my dad everytime i meet him. it’s the hugs that say it all. there’s always a second or two while i am in my dad’s embrace that tells me how much he loves me. those brief seconds mean a lot to me. and i reciprocate.

    now i don’t want to update. sinira mo ang gana kong magupdate ng blog ko. tae.

  10. snglguy says:

    This post made me remember my relationship with my Dad, who died Feb of last year after being bedridden for quite some time. Helping my Mom take care of him during those times proved too much for me, what with all my own personal problems. And although I loved him, there were many times when I acted like an asshole.

    It was only after seeing him lifeless in his coffin when I realized what kind of a jerk I have been…. and it’s a burden I’ve been carrying ever since.

  11. jcdaclison says:

    chas – amen to that, sistah! gurl, your conclusion post left me swooning! good luck, my friend.🙂

    duke – tae ka din! hahaha! seriously, i love esoteric moments as well…

    snglguy – i think i’ve learned also that my dad already knows. i assure you that your dad loves you and wants you to carry on.

  12. jher says:

    nakakahiya yatang umiyak dito sa internet cafe. luv u babe. ur a better person not because you went through all these, but because you have chosen to learn from these experiences. mwah! im so lucky to have you.😛

  13. K says:

    Reading this post made me really missed my Dad. He passed away 6 years ago and never said to him before his passing how much I loved him.

    But no matter how I grieve for someone, I never really cry. I was even caught smiling at the camera when my grandfather died, I was 6 that time. I only cried when my father died six years ago.

    And I wish that our lifecycle go backwards.

    The most unfair thing about life is the way it ends. I mean, life is tough. It takes up a lot of your time. What do you get at the end of it? A death. What’s that, a bonus?

    If only life goes all backwards, then we should die first, get it out of the way. Then we live in an old age home. We get kicked out when we’re too young, we get a gold watch, we got to work. We work forty years until we’re young enough to enjoy our retirement. We do drugs, alcohol, we party, we get ready for high school. We go to grade school, we become a kid, we play, we have no responsibilities, we become a little baby, we go back into the womb, we spend your last nine months floating…we finish off as a gleam.

    The most unfair thing about life is the way it ends. I mean, life is tough. It takes up a lot of our time. What do we get at the end of it? A death. What’s that, a bonus?

    *sorry for the long comments – I just got really carried away. And oh, THANKS for visiting my site.

  14. melai says:

    lanya! nang-iinggit si fafa jher o😦

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  16. Lani says:

    Grabe to the max naman ito, sistah! Bigla ko ring naalala si papa ko, he died 12 years ago pero iyong pain di pa rin nawawala. Ganoon siguro talaga. Ako rin sana nga nasabi ko sa kaniya before siyang namatay kung gaano ko siya kamahal. Korek ka diyan, habang buhay pa kailangan sabihin, ipakita at ipadama iyong love para walang pagsisihan sa huli.

    Thanks for sharing.

  17. K says:

    parang nagka leche leche yung isang paragraph ko earlier. nadoble. *covers his face*😛

  18. Joy says:

    hi, I lost your link… found it thru bloghopping again.

    I’m speechless. All I want to do is to hug you.

    I admire your strength and courage. And thanks for your humbleness in sharing this priceless adventure with us.

  19. jcdaclison says:

    jher – aaaw! so sweet! luv u 2, babe.

    k – don’t worry about the length. i am so touched that you also entrusted your emotions with everyone here. i find your thoughts on what if the life cycle is in reverse very interesting. but abused as it may be, death is not the end. it is actually the beginning of something more beautiful, regardless of religious beliefs. it may be to be one with our Creator (God, Yahweh, Allah, Jehovah) or to be re-born. basta let’s have lots of fun while we’re alive, make a dent in this world, affect change, inspire people, and give and receive love. THANKS too. and you are VERY WELCOME…

    melai – hoy, bakla. nagprint pa ako nung katapusan ng iyong storya para lang makapagisip ha. in furry-ness.

    lani – kurak ka jan, sis! basta its easier to love and be loved than hate. its better to be honest and get hurt or hurt someone else than be silent and unproductive.

    joy – mareeeeeee! i missed you! naku, thank you very much for finding me. as i’ve said over and over again quoting Laurence Fishburne’s character in the movie HIGHER LEARNING, “without struggle, there is no progress”…see yah soon!

  20. melai says:

    hehehehe magaling!!!! at pinaghihirapan mo talaga …. gusto ko yan
    maraming salamat po🙂

  21. karol says:

    elo. ang ganda2x ng kwento mo. i grew up in a very loving and affectionate environment. your story made me appreciate my family, all the more. your mom did a great job raising you and your sister.😀 really nice story. so touching (at nakakaiyak, hehe.).

  22. Dinna says:

    Very moving post, Jerome. I read it awhile back and entered this recommendation in my blog.
    http://pinaynewyorker.blog.com/852804/ As Jher said, everything that happened made you the person you are, and he is lucky indeed to have you.

  23. Dylan Gozum says:

    Uy, welcome to your new home! Dapat palitan ko na URL mo sa links ko. Malapit na rin magsara ang Radioactive Adobo para focus na lang ako sa Guts. Grit. Gumption.

    I think you emailed me this story long, long time ago. i still have it.

  24. atticus says:

    *hikbi* nice story. thanks for sharing the lessons. i miss my dad more.

  25. myepinoy says:

    This is a very movimg story. This made me rethink what I already knew before, Say and express what you feel.

    I, in the course of making a living, might already be assuming or assumed too much that my children know that i love them.

    This post has so much.

    Thank you so much.

  26. Mauie says:

    I’ve just finished reading “Tuesdays With Morrie”. Sabi nga ni Morrie Shwartz, we should live every day of our life as if it were our last. How can I express my affection towards my parents? I just don’t know how. We were raised in a family that does not kiss and hug or say I love yous to show affection.

  27. baktin says:

    i was in the office when i read this entry. so i have to stop myself from crying. hehe.

    this post reminded me:
    (1) that pain is real and that it is okay to be vulnerable sometimes.
    (2) i still have time to straighten things out with my parents and
    (3) the Lord has this inclination to work in creative ways – ways that are simply beyond our wildest imaginations.

    Godspeed sa journey pare. sana binasa ko ito bago ang rapunzel-brokeback.🙂

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  29. kathleen says:

    hi jerome. hope u still remember me, im from AMA Biñan.. Member ng Voices. anyway, this post made me cry rivers.. because i can relate to this a whole lot.. all i really want to say is, Kudos to ur mom for raising a wonderfully wise and loving man.. i can only hope that i can be half as good a mother she is.

  30. tere melad says:

    Thank you for the reminder Sir that I should not waste time repairing my strained relationship with my father no matter how painful and bitter it is. After all, he is the only parent I got. I just wish I also had that experience of being raised by my real mother.

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