Honoring my mother: Saying goodbye

When you think about it, the term ‘goodbye’ evokes a deep sense of finality that is so difficult to comprehend. It often begs the question, what follows after you have said goodbye?

I have often heard advice from some people to “move on” at the drop of a hat, as though in a race but, in the proper context, how easy is it really, to utter a final goodbye when someone you love is on the brink of death?

It is August 13 once again and she should have been 91 this year.

I remember too well that it was midwinter in 2007, around seven in the evening, and my son and I were all alone in the house, when I received a call from my sister in Davao. Her voice was firm and straightforward, “Mama’s unresponsive and slipping fast. We think she can still hear, so I’m putting the phone close to her ear so you can to talk to her maybe one last time.”

At that moment, my first impulses were to hurry and be rattled, being afraid that I might miss out on all I yearned to say in so short a time. It didn’t even occur to me to slow down and collect my thoughts. What came out was a rambling, incohesive string of mumbles. I remember little of what transpired then, but still clear to me were a lot of jumbled regrets, loops upon loops of I-love-yous, and finally, after realizing that she had suffered enough for years, me telling her to rest, everything was going to be alright and to stop worrying about us. The connection broke off for a few minutes. When the next call came through again, mom was gone.
Up until this day, 11 years later, I still find myself feeling that I had not said enough during that fateful night. Would it have made a world of difference had I been there, physically present by her bedside? If so, I might not have said anything then, and knowing myself too well, I might have simply sat there dumb-stricken and just held her hand. Eloquence was out the window when I needed it the most.

It’s been 11 years, but I still sometimes find myself stuck back in time to that wintry night, composing and recomposing that opening farewell. With still so many things left to say, I often imagine what her response would have been, had she been able to answer me back that night.

In almost every conscious moment when a decision had to be made, I often ponder, how would she handle it? Be it in the middle of a struggle or a small victory, I’m still wishing she were here somehow to offer counsel, even though in the past, there were countless times when I didn’t heed her advice anyway. In all, I always see myself wishing she could still see how everything unfold now with the family or the clan, or just share with her anything, including even the most trivial moments.

I will keep at this until who knows when, that’s for sure. Those who may have lost a loved one definitely feel the same way too. Throughout all these, one learning stands out and I believe this to be an absolute truth. When it comes to the ones we really love, the act of saying that final goodbye means nothing because their essence continues to live on within you and meld into your core, in all the memories, shared past experiences and everything else that has made you you, until that fateful day when you both shall meet again. Eleven years mean nothing because I love you forever, mom!

Posted in Opinion