OFFLINE: A father’s farewell to a daughter

“No parent should ever experience the pain of losing a child.”

How true. This is a message that I received from a friend this week. It is a message that I recall sending a relative or friend who had lost one of their children some years back.

In fact, it is happening now to tens of thousands of parents of Russian and Ukrainian soldiers and civilians killed in the course of Russia’s invasion of its neighbor. It is happening too in Gaza, after Hamas began a war by slaughtering hundreds of Israelis, mostly women, children, and seniors.

It could potentially happen should Chinese president Xi Jinping be dumb enough to try and invade Taiwan and/or the Philippines. Or if North Korea’s Kim Jong Un launches his missiles against his perceived enemies.

In times of war, parents lose their children involved in the fighting. In times of peace, it should not happen, but it does.

Parents can lose their kids to illness or accidents. I have friends and acquaintances who lost their children to COVID-19.

We all have to live with the fact that death is life’s only certainty. Death and taxes, as one wag said.

In a normal world, we will eventually lose our parents. And grandparents, of course. In some sad cases, we will also lose our siblings, particularly those older than us.

Married couples will end up with one passing away ahead of the other. When that happens, it is not unusual for the partner left behind to wither away and want nothing more than to follow his or her loved one to the other side.

Many years ago, I worked in a company that sold memorial plans. Some grimly referred to it as death plans, because essentially buyers are asked to buy a package that takes care of a family’s needs when a loved one passes away.

The package includes the service of retrieving the recently deceased, and preparing them for burial. There are many documents to process and there is the usual wake where the remains of the deceased are viewed for friends and relatives to see and bid their final goodbyes to.

Of late, cremation has become widely accepted in the Philippines, as this dispenses with the need for a memorial plot where the dead are buried. Or mausoleums if the family is well off.

But most still prefer the old way of having the remains interred in a cemetery or memorial park.

That last is excluded in the memorial plans that I helped sell in my younger days as regional manager of one of the pioneering memorial plan companies in the country, set up by the late taipan Alfonso Yuchengco.

(The company would then introduce education plans, which proved easier to sell than memorial plans.)

Long before I entered my senior years, I had already gotten used to death.

As far back as my grade school days, a friend and classmate died in a drowning accident during a school-sanctioned outing. The friend was one of those guys who liked to do everything. He was usually in the top 10 in terms of grades, and was active in various extra-curricular activities.

An award was later set up in his name.

A cousin was also lost to us in a similar drowning accident, except it happened on a beach in our home province of Batangas, and his body was not found until a couple of days after he had been pulled below the surface by an undertow.

I was a kid back then, and said that maybe one of those mini submarines that the Philippine Navy displayed during one Independence Day celebration could be tapped to find him. Rescue him even, in my odd belief that maybe my cousin and childhood playmate was still alive and well somewhere.

Yes, I had a pretty vivid imagination back then.

I would also lose acquaintances and relatives at relatively young ages, mostly to accidents but sometimes to serious illnesses. In my teens, a slightly older distant cousin whom I used to see a lot of passed away after a short illness.

As the decades passed, people close to me likewise moved on to the great beyond. As I approached middle age, my precious mommy also fell ill, and soon died in a hospital, felled by a smoking habit that she could not kick.

And when me and my wife and kids moved to the US for a couple of years, my papa also passed away.

The older I got, the more friends and relatives I lost. But this was just the circle of life at play. Of my high school barkada, four have passed, mostly from illness.

A beloved sister-in-law, wife of my kuya, was stricken with cancer for a few years, until her body could no longer take it. She headed for heaven last year.

Yes, I believe in the Christian concept of a heaven and hell, but am not too sure about purgatory.

Some who went ahead were lucky, like a friend named Roland who had a sudden heart attack and died before reaching the hospital. Another, Joppy, however, had a massive stroke and lingered for a few years before passing.

Two weeks ago, yet another of my friends from way, way back suddenly died. Vincho appeared to be in relatively good health, being an active golfer and regularly traveling locally and globally after retiring a couple of years ago.

All this is leading to my third child, a daughter who was my favorite in their youth.

Like my sis-in-law, she too had been stricken by cancer. She fought as long as she could, as she had a beautiful son who has become an overachiever, thanks to her upbringing.

The grandson of mine has won every academic award there is to win, and he has even flown an ultra-light plane by himself before he turned 10. He also plays the guitar and engages in any and all activities that challenge him physically.

He is also kindness, personified.

A few days ago, my grandson Connor lost his mom, my daughter Noelle Marie, who turned 40 on December 25, last year.

We never had the opportunity to say good-bye to each other.

I know I may not have been the best father to my four kids, or husband to my only wife. If I have any regrets in life, it is that I did not spend as much time with them as I should have.

I will try to do better with my handful of grandkids.

Good-bye Noelle. Love, Dad.


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