Death has visited our family once again. And so here I am today, grasping for words to make sense of this grief. After I wrote Memento Mori and Love, Life in tribute for my departed, good looking cousins, I never thought I would write about this subject again. But that’s exactly what death is, unexpected like a thief in the night.
I remember when I delivered my speech Memento Mori in front of an evaluator in a club I was used to be a member of. She said that my subject (death) is kind of inappropriate since I was not an expert on the subject. I was dumbfounded! Who can ever claim that he or she is an expert in death? Who can ever say that death doesn’t hurt him or her anymore? I was still grieving at that time and I really wanted to be mad at her. But I chose to be the bigger person and let it go instead. *sigh
Going back, will you allow me to pay tribute to my Tita?
The Best Cook Ever
My Tita Vicky, wife of my mother’s brother, is the best cook of our extended family. Her family lives in San Ildefonso which is an hour or more drive from where we live, but she travels to our home on special occasions to cook food. Every mother in our family consults her for cooking tips and recipe.
Her cooking is always as good as and maybe even better than your caterer. Some of my most favorites among her dishes are pork humba, relyeno, pininyahang manok and her most recent innovation, halaya with less sugar but as yummy as Good Shepherd’s. (Ooooh, tears started falling in this part. I remember the time when she gave me an extra lanera of halaya while everyone only gets one. I think she gave it to me while saying ‘don’t tell anyone.’)
She was the one who cooked dishes on my 18 th birthday which all my guests adored. She made sure that my handa was not the typical menudo or kaldereta. Tita Vicky made an effort to prepare me more elaborate recipes.
The Best Teamwork
I am hurting because of her passing and I am hurting even more because of the pain that her family goes through at this moment, especially for my Tito. My Tita Vicky and Tito Roland have the best teamwork I have ever seen. They didn’t need to tell the other what to do; they just do things for each other. My Tito does the laundry while Tita cooks. My Tito cleans the porch on early mornings while Tita fixes the home. The two of them were always present in our extended family’s difficult moments. Like when a cousin was fighting for his dear life in the ICU in 2013, Tita Vicky and Tito Roland was there first to give solace and financial assistance.
Actually, I am not in the best position to give testimony on how their marriage was a success, only their kids can do that. But I want to remember Tita Vicky not only as one of the kind-hearted persons I know, but also the best wife and mother.
The Last Memory
I regret that I wasn’t able to be with Tita Vicky even in one of her dialysis session. But I never regret to play the ‘madre’ of the family again on our last meeting. You see, I am called ‘sister’ (madre/nun) at times by my extended family ever since high school because of my active participation in church organization/activities. It’s not that I don’t like being called as such, but I would prefer if I wasn’t called sister because I don’t think I am called for that vocation. Haha!
In May of this year, Miguel, my inaanak (godson) and Tita Vicky’s apo (grandson) celebrated his birthday. Instead of bringing a gift for the kid, I brought with me a prayer pamphlet of Saint Padre Pio and holy oil for Tita Vicky. I handed it to her before leaving the party and told her that Saint Padre Pio is a miracle and healing worker. She smiled and said, ‘yung madre talaga namin o.’
What is death?
My tita’s passing made me ponder on what death really is. We know that death separates us from our bodies and our loved ones. But what is it really? I searched for answers in the Scriptures and in the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC) for my own peace of mind. Here’s what I found.
Death is a consequence of sin (CCC 1008). God designed man to be with Him in paradise forever and death was never in His grand plans. But when sin entered the world, when the serpent sowed doubt in Eve’s heart, death became the consequence of sin.
St. Paul in his letter to the Corinthians also called death as an enemy, the last enemy to be conquered by God (1 Corinthians 15:26). But he also mentioned in his second letter that death is not our normal state, for we shall soon reunited with God in a heavenly dwelling not built by human hands (2 Corinthians 5:1).
“My desire is to depart and be with Christ.” – St. Paul
While it is true that death can be ugly and heartbreaking and sorrowful, its meaning has been transformed by Jesus Christ when He became man. CCC mentions that with Christ’s obedience to embrace death to give humankind salvation, the curse of death has been transformed into a blessing. To have now a Christian death is to die with Christ and live with Him in paradise.
Remember the last time you stood up in church with your newest inaanak? The priest mentioned that through baptism, we have already died with Christ. I think this means that by embracing our faith, we have already chosen to take part in Christ’s suffering and death. And our physical death just completes this ‘dying with Christ’ and also completes our fellowship with Him. (gosh ang lalim ata)
The other night while I was seated in front of my tita’s coffin, I was looking around the house while saying ‘this home will never be the same again.’ I guess death is like that, inflicting permanent wounds and damages, leaving holes in our hearts. But when we look on what death really is as mentioned above, we realize that death is not the end, death is entering life.