reaping the cost of solitude

Tuesday, September 05, 2017

The Saddest Jollibee Meal in the World

We arrived in Ormoc, Leyte at 1pm and were immediately ferried to the hospital. There he waited. My dear grandfather, 94 years of age, lying unconscious on the hospital bed, only kept alive by an oxygen tank. His upper body swerved with every labored breath. The large nerves on his neck shifted with every desperate pump of blood from his weak heart. He was holding onto dear life one shallow breath after another as if only to wait for his grandchildren and relatives to arrive and bid him farewell. His eyes were open, but could no longer see. He certainly did not see my waving hand as we arrived in the room. We hoped at least he heard us when we told him how much we loved him and how it was okay to let go.

6:45pm. We were waiting for our food to arrive when his wife (my grandmother) noticed his breaths were getting fainter. She began to panic. She knew death was imminent. She frantically kept glancing at his body for a few moments then finally broke down in tears on my sister's shoulder. The people in the room began praying, and my grandmother managed to compose herself and joined in. A nurse came in and checked his heartbeat with a stethoscope and went out without uttering a word. We understood and continued praying. Another nurse came in to check on him. A few moments later, there was another knock on the door. "Jollibee delivery". Our dinner had arrived and we quickly paid the bill. We sat for a moment, defeated, and - as if to preserve any normalcy in that completely abnormal moment - we began eating what was possibly the saddest Jollibee meal in the world - right next to our dead grandfather. His eyes were still open but began to dry up and become opaque, his mouth agape. The nerves on his neck had finally stopped twitching. He lay completely still and motionless.

There were no formalities in death. There was no ceremonial 'closing of the eyes' like you see in movies, no climactic hug as life slipped away from his body, no music to accompany the somber atmosphere - at least not at the exact moment (Patti Page's "It's A Sin To Tell A Lie" was playing non-stop earlier). But in that quiet and strangely serene moment, there was his daughter, my mother, broken and tired, singing him sweet melodies as his life slowly left his empty husk that bore the scars that come with age; in a world physically cruel to people who overstay. He finally let go.

Ultimately we humans are miserable at death. But my grandfather lived a full life in 94 years. It was a blessed life he shared with his family, his wife, daughters and their families, and he continues to live on through them. He lives on through me and all fond memories of him will remain.

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