Nanay, it’s 1:55am over here in Australia. I should be in bed by now, but I can’t sleep. All I can think of is you.
For the last half hour I’ve been pouring over my small collection of old family photos trying to find a picture of you–anything to keep you fresh in my memory. I stumbled across an old snapshot I scanned the last time we visited California. It’s a black & white photo of you and Tatay. You both look so young. You guys are dressed in traditional Filipino fashion, though your outfits look a bit more edgy which says to me that you and Tatay were clearly trend-setters. A trait I know you passed on to Mom and one that I hope to have…someday.
Your skin is flawless; smile, lovely; hair, polished; posture, perfect. Your husband, handsome and well-groomed. You made a fabulous pair. It’s clear you two belonged together. And although Tatay went before you much too soon, I’m happy to know that now you can be reunited once again.
I miss you. I don’t know how to say goodbye to you from way over here. Part of me feels guilty for not throwing the credit card down and catching a flight home to say my final farewell to you with everyone else. Will you forgive me? The truth is, I think I’m just too scared. I don’t know that I could face the reality of seeing your tender little body laying in a casket and knowing that you’re no longer in it. There is no more light behind those eyes, no more warmth in those hands.
So here I am instead. Looking at this photo of you and trying to self-medicate my pain by rambling on about my feelings in this thing called a blog. Something you probably never imagined would exist in your lifetime, yet here it is. What was life like for you back then, back when this photo was taken? Bet you had no idea you’d make it through WWII and live to see even crazier things in the world.
You had an entirely different upbringing than me, than Mom, than any of your children and grandchildren. And it’s really hard for me to picture it because from my perspective, you’ve always been at the top of the family tree. My existence dates all the way back to four very different individuals and you were the only one I really knew. You were the constant.
What was it like to be alive in your 90s? How did you feel? I imagine you’d feel much the same, just with an older body. Underneath it all, the years, the ageing, the external–it’s still just you and it always was. The same girl who grew up into the woman in the photo I’m looking at now. It’s as though we all change on the outside, but deep down, remain the same.
You weren’t always at the top of the family tree. At some point, you would’ve been at the bottom. Wayyyyy bottom, what with your 12 other siblings. You had a mother and father and grandparents. Was it weird when the roles reversed? Did you ever trip out when you thought about how many children and grandchildren you had? I can only imagine that would feel strange. To suddenly be on top. To have descendants, like all those people in the Old Testament where so-and-so begat so-and-so and the list just keeps going and going, generation after generation. But now you’re gone and so the top tier all rest in peace.
Does that mean my parents pick up the roles now? Is it time for them to fill those shoes? I don’t want them to. They can’t. They’re not there yet. Dad likes to joke and say things like, “Well, we’re next.” I hate that kind of talk. It makes me so depressed and angry and thoroughly disturbed. But why? Shouldn’t I know? Isn’t it a part of life?
Sure, but the truth is, I just can’t handle it. Maybe I’m actually battling something much greater. Maybe subconsciously I don’t actually want to see you or say goodbye to you because doing so would trigger reality–that everyone’s roles are shifting. The family tree is entering a new generation. One without you, and one with Mom & Dad at the top. That’s why Dad’s words haunt me. I don’t want them to be “next.” I don’t want anyone to be next. I hate next. Next is unpredictable and scary. And sometimes it hurts.
But next is necessary and next is real. I cannot stop it. I cannot predict it. I can only hope and pray that next is delayed for the rest of us. That next would not come too quickly. I don’t hope for 96 years, but I do pray that whenever my “next” moment happens, it would be after I’ve lived and fulfilled the things my Creator has put on my heart.
You always talked to the Creator. I admired how you were such a prayerful woman, passionate about the Lord and spent many hours on your knees to Him. Humbly and quietly you’d always be conversing with the Man who spoke stars into existence.
I’ll miss how you cooked and what you cooked. I have you to thank for my addiction to french fries. Nothing’s ever really tasted quite like yours. I loved how you were so independent. I couldn’t imagine losing my husband at such a young age, and yet you remained so strong. You even left your home and country behind to pursue a new life abroad in America. That took balls.
You were a fierce woman. Strong-willed, passionate, stylish, and musical. It’s easy for me to see you’ve passed all these on to your kids. I see them in my own Mom and know they came from you.
Mum, my mother-in-law, gave me a guitar tonight. It was hers, but she decided learning it wasn’t her cup of tea, so she offered it up to me. I was delighted. The moment we came home I busted it out and after doing a quick tuning, I began to play a few silly old jams. It felt wonderful to have music playing in the home. A musical instrument–there’s just something about the sound of one that resonates with the soul.
And so, as I prepare to lay my head down for the night, I want to sing you a song…
Goodnight my dear, sweet and funny Grandma. I miss you terribly but I know that one day, we’ll meet again and have lots of good talks with our Creator together, and there, we shall sing.