In the roaring darkness of the evening we tread along the sleepy streets of Manila tucked only by the reassurance of the glimmering moon above us. The deafening silence inside me was swallowed altogether by the blaring sound of her pain. Lola held unto me like she was drowning, like she was slipping from the boundaries of both life and death, like she needed someplace safe. And in my mind I wondered:
She was a 76 year old woman clutched in my arms. She held my hands as tightly as she ever could and twirled her fingers around mine: a sort of child’s play. Her lips murmured both prayer and pain as the cab, with its hazard lights on, whooshed across the somber streets like a passing comet in the blackness of the universe. The city lights sang to her restlessness as the agonizing pain consumed every inch of the woman I had known.
She was not my biological grandmother. But even then I knew in my heart that she was my Lola if only for that moment, if only for a little while. Before we rushed Lola to four different hospitals that evening, she was at my door knocking and asking me to pray with her. I hurriedly stood up from my study table and left the laptop and the pile of term papers undone. When I went in to her room I was intoxicated by the gnawing stench of pain that lingered like lanterns on the ceiling.
Pray with me.
Dear God, we come before you in our humblest prayer. We acknowledge your power and your glory over all the things you have created. We know in our hearts that you can lift the pain in my heart, that you can heal me. We thank you, dear God. We thank you.
She prayed as a true believer would pray. I prayed out of the excessive rage towards a God I do not understand. I felt it unfair that I was beside her: young and healthy and able, and she was beside me: old and weak and decaying.
To someone else’s eyes I was the better half in the equation and she, the equivalent of zero fading into an infinite blur of nothingness. But to me she was the sum of what every woman should be. Brave in the face of fear. Sure in her salvation. Lola held on to her faith and to her life even if it means carrying with her a plethora of pain in her frail little body. Lola understood, much to my surprise and to everyone else, the inevitability of her situation and fought to the end of her irrevocable life. I listened as the machines hummed and the tubes wobbled around her sunken body. I witnessed as she silently and courageously bore the gruesome ordeal of hospitalization. I watched her face in the bleakness of those sleepless hours and told to myself that she really is a fighter. Perhaps no woman could ever be as strong as the woman I saw in her. Her spirit, her composure. The tender acceptance of it all.
Days after we rushed her to the ER, the gentle stillness of death came and clothed the world around us once and for all. Silence hung in the abandoned room as much as in the abandoned hearts of those who loved and prayed for Lola. People believe that death takes away a person and leaves only its body to decay. But what I believe is that even death has been conquered by a spirit as brave and resilient as that of Lola. I believe that she is not dead in a place where the dead gathers, but she is alive somewhere else. I do not know where or why or how. I do not know if people really lives on long after their disintegration. I do not know if the soul is ever truly immortal or if it ever really exist. But when you speak these words, you know.
It has been two weeks since Lola went on. And this is my dire attempt to relive the past two weeks of her
absence. It has been with great difficulty to extract these thoughts and translate them into strings of woven words. I suppose certain situations do not need words. But together with the many predicaments of writing your memory, I stand in a hopeful anticipation of spending just a little more time with you. You taught me to have faith again no matter how frail or flimsy such a faith could be. You taught me how to pray as a child would pray. You taught me to hope again, to believe again. Lola I would kill for a chance to spend another lunch with you or to laugh with you about the most senseless things in the world. I would do anything to listen to your stories again. But tonight all I can do is carry on. I know you’re in a safe place now Lola. Dancing with the grace of a true believer, a true champion. I wish you all the best tonight as you celebrate your 77th year with the Lord.