Day 10

I finally went back to work today in spite of a progressing cold and a slight fever. I think I couldn’t bear to spend one more day cooped up in the house trying to keep my mind occupied to avoid having flashbacks of the last 3 months.

It gets easier as the days go by.

And it certainly helps to start bombarding your head with other simple problems or obstacles to get through. It helps to put a temporary halt on reliving in your head the most painful moments of the last 3 months.

Since dad passed away 10 days ago, I’ve been keeping a mental list of the things that struck me the most throughout this ordeal.

First, an alternative career as a funeral planner is not such a bad idea. I heard a couple of friends talking about it a couple of weeks ago. I found it funny then. But now I kinda get it. Minutes after my dad passed away, we already had hospital staff bombarding us with questions we couldn’t quite answer properly. Where are they bringing my dad’s body? What is he wearing? Are we cremating or burying? Where will the wake be? Are we cremating now or later? Will the funeral parlor pick up his body, or should we put him in the morgue overnight? Who will settle the hospital bill?

In the middle of all of this, there were family and friends to call. Calls to answer. Text messages to send and reply to.

Now I understand why one of my best friends immediately offered that she and her husband could act as our errand guys just minutes after I told her about the news.

It’s not the easiest thing in the world making decisions such as that when you’re still in the process of recovering from shock and grief.

Second, “last days” are the worst. I thought nothing could compare to the pain immediately after a loved one’s passing. I thought seeing his body being put inside the crematorium was already the worst. Nothing prepared me for the pain that comes with the last day of the wake, and the day of the inurnment. The days of the wake keep you busy and numb you to anything you might feel. So you go on thinking that it’s all okay already, and you’ve already gone through the worst.

Apparently, the “last days” are unbelievably difficult. It’s not the eulogies.

It’s the horror of finality. It’s the fear of knowing the “what happens next” is just around the corner, and sooner or later it’s time to deal with reality. It’s the emptiness of putting the urn inside the crypt and watching them seal it for good. It’s knowing that whatever physical form he had is now truly, utterly and completely gone.

Third, “condolence” truly is the emptiest word in the Dictionary. What does it really mean anyway?

It takes one who’s lost a parent, to know what to say to someone who’s just lost one too. The most comforting words I’ve heard are from those who just outrightly say that nothing they say can make me feel better. It’s the truth. And it’s comforting because I know they understand my pain, and they’ve been through it and have survived it. Which tells me that I’ll survive it too. That someday, it will be okay.

Because truly, when reality sinks in, the hardest part to deal with is fear that life as you’ve known it, will never be the same again. Life without your parent will never be the same again.

But when I see my friends who’ve been there, then I know that yes, it will never be the same again, but it will be okay.

Fourth, getting home after the final inurnment is perhaps also one of the most difficult hurdles to get through. Whether the death happened abruptly and quickly; or was a long drawn-out process — the sudden eerie silence can drive you insane. All of a sudden, there are no phone calls, no text messages to answer. No news to fear. No relatives to update. No errands that need to be done. No money to raise. No hospital shift to go to. No wake shift to go to.

Suddenly, there’s just nothing… just, silence.

Suddenly, you have all the time in the world to do the things you used to love to do, but don’t remember how to do anymore. And you can’t eat, can’t sleep — even if you’ve been running on empty for weeks already. You find yourself just sitting, staring off into nothingness as memories of what you’ve just been through suddenly come crashing down on you on that first silent moment.

It’s still difficult talking about these things with others.

I’ve found that the first few days after, I didn’t really feel like going out, not even to just take a stroll in the mall. It’s a bit painful seeing that for everyone else around you, it’s the same old thing and life goes on for them. It’s just another day, nothing new. And yet, in your heart, you feel so crushed and so empty that you just wish the world could stop for one minute and grieve with you too.

But that’s not the way the world works.

So often I’ve hungered to just be able to spill all the disturbing, dark and painful thoughts lingering in me, but hesitated. Maybe I just didn’t want to burden anyone. Or maybe, I’m not yet ready to talk without breaking down, yet again.

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