This Thursday (5/23) is the 40th Day after my father’s death last month. During these 40 days, I have been pretty much out of touch with all of my usual activities, both offline and online. It’s been over a month now and I’m still not used to living at home without my father. Sure, throughout these days, my mind would be on its normal state, but sometimes I get flashes of my father’s memories from my childhood to his last few weeks before his health’s decline. When I get these flashes, I felt like dropping everything just to cry.
But, I’m not writing about my dad and how much I miss him throughout this entire entry. My father’s spirit would not be happy if I do such a thing. 1 So instead, I’ll be recapping about the things my family and I have been doing this period from my father’s final days until today (as of this writing).
Trips to the Bank
To being with, we already know what was going to happen. It was already a given. After all, all of us are going to die eventually, it’s just a matter of how, when, and where. That aside, in the beginning of April, my mom and I have already witnessing my father’s sudden decline of his health. The cancer became metastatic and has appeared on his liver. The ones on the lungs were already under control, but the ones on the liver was what interrupted my father’s progress, and that he had to take on new chemo drugs and even go through immunotherapy 2. Since the new drugs, we started to witness his decline.
A week before that, Dad and I have been to the bank a few times to deal with bank accounts. I have a joint IRA account with my dad, and when we got there, we met with a banker and requested her to close the IRA account and move all the money in that account to my personal bank account, thus removing his name. I was nervous at first with when he did that. When we got to the car, he simply said that we’ll decide with what we should do with the IRA money at a later time. 3
At the parking lot, as I was reversing and Dad was trying to converse with me, something just “flashed” in my mind and I accidentally hit another vehicle behind me who was also backing up. Luckily, there weren’t any severe damages on both vehicles, except for a slight dent on the back bumper. Dad, of course, yelled at me for that accident, but I didn’t want to tell him about the “flash” that just appeared right in front of my eyes and let him yell at me in anger. Dad told Mom about it also when we got home and Mom asked what was wrong with me. I couldn’t say it then because I didn’t want to jinx anything, and just said something like “I was startled at something.”
The “flash” that I saw was that I saw Dad lying on his deathbed with my entire family surrounding him with tears. I don’t remember how long it was, probably just a few seconds, but it was crystal clear to me. I never thought of it as a premonition, and that it will come sooner, and thought of it as a case of me “thinking ahead.” I haven’t told Mom about this yet and I didn’t want to. I didn’t tell anyone else within the family about this incident except my brother, since he was the one who noticed the dent.
A week since that day at the bank, Mom and I have been noticing my father growing weak. He lost so much weight, he could barely keep himself upward, couldn’t eat a single bite of his dish, and eventually, lost the ability to speak except for a few whispers. Mom continued to convince him to eat and that he should get well enough for us to come and witness my youngest sister getting married to her fiancee in L.A., but since Mom’s nagging and my silent concerns, Dad hasn’t been responding to any of our words. I also showed my concerns and the only thing that I got from him was something like “I’m fine, just go ahead and go back to what you’ve been doing.” Many times that I wanted to take a few days off just to be with my parents, but Dad always shrugged me and telling me to go to work anyway. As first-born, I didn’t really want to argue with my dad’s wishes, so I did what he wanted me to do: live normally by going to work, work on my coding studies and projects, be a MADKID fan, etc.
The next week, my dad had his regular chemo appointment, and that my younger sister volunteered to accompany him to the hospital, since he was in no shape to drive there himself. I was at work, as always. After work, I had my usual lunch, and then I drove the backroads to avoid the freeway traffic to go home. While I was driving, I got a call from my mom telling me to come home quickly and that we should go to the hospital. She reported that my sister called her stating that Dad was at the emergency room. I said to her “Why is he there? He was just having a chemo appointment right?” She didn’t say anything more and I eventually arrived home. I didn’t even have time to change clothes or even drop off my stuff. My mom was already at the door when I drove up the driveway. We made our way to the hospital.
When we got there to the emergency lobby, the receptionist mentioned that only one of us can go visit the patient, since they’re only allowing two at a time 4. I ended up sitting at the waiting room with my phone and my iPad (so I can do some eBook reading as I wait). But at the moment that I sat down, I received text messages from my sister along with my brother and my youngest sister in L.A. regarding Dad’s status. The “flash” that I saw ended up as a premonition and I broke into tears just reading the messages. My brother decided to leave work early, contact his wife and pick up their baby son (my nephew). My sister in L.A. decided she and her fiance will be flying up here to visit Dad and noted that they will be staying at our house “until it was the right time to go back home.”
On that day, I had another inner premonition that a countdown began for my father’s day of departure from this world. I was at the waiting room alone for about two hours until my sister’s husband arrived, then eventually, my brother and his family. We received more text messages from my sister that they have chosen to have Dad enter hospice care. Whenever I hear the word “hospice,” it means to me that there was no chance of Dad recovering and will keep on declining until the day he stops breathing.
The next day, the ambulance brought my dad and the medical bed home. Dad wanted to die at home surrounded with family and friends instead of having him stay in some hospice care center.
Parties and More Parties
My dad is a very social person. He loved huge crowds and plenty of friends and parties. Since the ambulance brought him home from the hospital, the house had become loud. Once again, I went to work as usual because Dad wanted me to continue on “living normally.” But with siblings being there at home, I thought it was a little unfair on my end.
Every single day, there were visitors – dad’s friends and past colleagues from his past jobs, even extended family members, who came by to visit Dad. In fact, Dad insisted for my youngest sister and her fiance to go back home to L.A. to prepare for their wedding, but the couple refused. We all took turns to sit right next to Dad, trying to talk to him about random things, read some comforting Bible passages, and even showing him some of our coloring book art and random art. Growing up, we were so used to having our house being loud because we are a big family. But when my siblings all moved on to other places and I remained with the parents, the house did become quiet, but Dad did many things to keep the house loud, from singing karaoke to playing one-on-one Wii with my mom to binge watching movies from Netflix and Amazon Prime. He even held basketball parties (watching the home team vs. another team) with his buddies too.
During those days of “partying,” we did hear Dad making some murmurs of his own, to the point that we’re all thinking that he was becoming delusional. For instance, he would randomly call out my aunt’s name 5 from out of the blue when we would remind him that she isn’t arriving until next week. Sometimes we would hear him murmur “I have to go…” We’d all assume “to the restroom?” and he would finish with “… with God.” During nighttimes, my brother would sometimes hear him call out for God to “take him in his arms” already.
Friday, my mom decided to hold a huge dinner party, not just for dad, but also an early dinner celebration for my sister and her fiance’s upcoming marriage. It was already clear that Dad would never make it to the wedding, and just decided to hold this dinner to celebrate both. So many people came, but most came to visit dad as a priority.
When the hospice nurse came for a visit the next day, my dad refused to take the pain-infusing drugs like morphine because he wanted to keep his sanity and recognize all the voices and faces of the people around him and thought he can endure the ongoing pain he’s going through within him. After some convincing from the nurse, he finally agreed to take the morphine in very small doses. My (extended) cousin gave me a book of ”self-reflection” prayers that I can read to my dad once a day, and that I should keep reading these prayers day by day.
Unfortunately, I only read one prayer from that book. After I read the prayer, Dad whispered to me to take care of myself. I never thought that those would be his last words to me, but I only responded casually with “You know I always do, and I’ll take care of everyone in the family too.”
On that day, my two brother-in-laws decided to take on my dad’s usual chore/hobby, gardening, and cleaned up all the mess and swept all the dead leaves away. My sisters decided to make dinner, while my mom and I continued to sit there making our presence to Dad.
Day of Death
It was Palm Sunday. I slept early last night because the parents reminded me that I have to be in church early, since I’m part of the choir. But everyone else present stayed up a little later to keep watch of Dad. Mom was the last person to tend to him (at 2:00 a.m.) before she went to bed.
When I woke up in the morning, I reached out to check my phone as usual for Twitter updates, etc. Just as I was doing that, I heard a door knock and I heard my brother’s desperate words. I got up and opened the door and noticed tears falling from his eyes while holding a quiet Baby Robbie in his arms at the same time. He didn’t even have to explain to me why. I ran immediately to my parents’ room.
I spotted my youngest sis, sis-in-law, and my mom grieving. I walked closer to see my dad lying down with his mouth open and his right arm clutching on his chest. I broke down immediately calling for his name, but no answer. I held him and felt that his upper body was still warm, but his legs were already turning cold. I didn’t want to just leave the room and hide myself under the pillow crying, and just let everything out, just like the rest of the family.
My middle sister arrived to say her goodbyes, then moments later, my youngest sister’s fiance, who planned on going home today, decided to return back home after he received the news. My cousin and uncle arrived to also say their goodbyes to Dad. Eventually, my sister’s husband arrived to provide some comfort for everyone in the family.
The hospice nurse arrived after we called him, examined Dad’s lifeles body, and then declared the date and time of his death: April 14, 2019 at 9:30 a.m. Hours later, the paramedics came to pick him up. We all made our final goodbyes and we all went downstairs and let them take care of him. When they got down with the stretcher and seeing Dad in a body bag, I broke down once again.
Rather than spending the entire day grieving, we already began looking into the next steps, such as funeral arrangements and the reception (meaning more parties). We even started our nine-days prayer with family and friends closest to our location on that same night, so another round of partying, pretty much.
On that same day, I decided to take the rest of the week off. That weekend was also my sister’s wedding, and despite of the tragedy, decided to proceed. Dad would rather have that important event proceed than to see us doing nothing, crying our hearts out.
When families go through so much stress when a family member dies, it’s not because of the fact that family member died. It’s because of the funeral arrangement process that makes things a lot more difficult. It’s hard to focus on this process because you’ve got your beloved family member who passed away recently to think about. Luckily for us, Dad already prepared for this by purchasing the lot where he (and Mom) will eventually be buried and all the other extras that come with it (ie. hearse, flowers, services, etc.) 20 years ago, so we didn’t have to go through the stress regarding the money. We did have to pay a couple additions to the package, but we didn’t have much trouble with them. We wanted a simple ceremony because we felt it was a lot more intimate that way, plus we know Dad’s character and taste.
Normally, Catholic funerals occur at the end of the week from the day of death. But because the funeral home was completely booked, plus it was also Holy Week to Easter (in which no funerals will be held during this week as well), we had to wait 2 weeks until the day of his funeral.
My aunts from Canada arrived Thursday that week and we were getting ready to travel to L.A. for my sister’s wedding.
Funeral Arrangements (Part 2)
After we arrived back home from the wedding, we went back to the funeral preparations once more. My sister, brother, and myself started choosing the best photos of Dad from his younger days until the most recent. We opted to use our artistic skills to make a large collage frame of Dad. The funeral home does PowerPoint slides to show moments and memories of Dad, but it would cost us $300, so we decided to go “rustic and handmade” by making our own presentation the way we know Dad the best.
Mom also started becoming active on the phone and social media to tell all of the family friends of Dad’s passing. Sometimes, there is a huge advantage to having so many friends and hookups of all places that you get help and backup from them in preparing for this occasion. My dad has a friend whose wife owns a flower shop and decided to do the flower arrangements herself for free. We also had a discount on reserving an area for the reception from my dad’s favorite buffet restaurant. Plus, there will be some monetary donations coming from those who are coming or planning to come to the viewing/wake and funeral, so they helped a lot too.
My aunts from Canada did all the cooking for the refreshments during the viewing/wake. We had a week of waiting and used all of the time for all of these preparations. Still grieving for dad, but the preparations were perfect and complete.
I’m not going through the viewing and funeral in detail, as during that time, everything was a complete blur for many of us. We were able to see familiar faces we haven’t seen in awhile, and we were poured with so much love, blessings, and support from all our extended family and friends. Still grieving, but both events resulted in a happy, memorable occasion. We were still heartbroken, but we were also happy at the same time.
We learned that my sis-in-law’s mother, who normally takes care of Baby Robbie during the weekdays, will be traveling to the Philippines and will be away for a month. Because of this, it was also a good time for my mom and I to slowly move forward from our loss and sadness. Baby Robbie will be with us for the entire month. It was convenient for us to change our focus because, as Dad said before, “the children are our future.” Baby Robbie is our future, so now our focus is (temporarily?) aimed towards his well-being while the parents are out for work.
Also, I was able to go back to work, but lately I haven’t been in the mood to get motivated for work. I started going back to working on my resume again and find a more stable job that would allow me to work remotely 6 and to finally aim for my dream goal: getting (back) a career in the web/mobile development industry. Even if it was just tech support or technical writing, it’s better than nothing.
We cleaned and trimmed my dad’s garden. When my dad’s health began to decline, the garden itself was losing its life too. But when Mom and I did more cleaning and trimming, all of the flowers that were wilting suddenly began to bloom. I don’t know about Mom, but to me, just seeing the flowers bloom after we did some cleaning gave me a sign that we’re definitely going to be alright from this point on. I’m not saying this is a sign that eventually we’ll forget about Dad, but I’m also saying that we can still live happily and accomplished, with or without Dad’s presence with us.
The 40th Day
After we did the nine-days rosary prayers prior, Mom and I went on praying the regular rosary with special mentions to Dad’s still-lingering spirit. It’s said that a deceased spirit still lingers on Earth for 40 days, visiting families, homes, favorite places, etc., and is put on a “waiting list” to have the gates of heaven open for him to enter. The nine-days prayer were more like petition prayers to convince God of Dad’s good deeds and true character and why he should be admitted to heaven. The rosary prayers after that are just prayers that wish Dad’s spirit to be safe from any harm and his transition from Earth to heaven be safe and smooth.
This Thursday, May 23, is the 40th Day. We plan on having another dinner party and gathering among friends and family to celebrate Dad’s life again. Sure, we’ve celebrated many times already, but that’s just how we are.
There was a prayer that we chose for the thank you cards that we gave out to all those who knew Dad, whether they were able to come to the funeral or not. It said in the lines of “this isn’t a forever goodbye, but more of a see you later, because we will see each other again.”
I haven’t been active with this blog, true. It’s mainly because of my dad’s illness and everything else real-life related. I rarely have time to spend studying on coding and development, not even through mobile apps. I rarely have time to socialize and hang out with co-workers with our usual lunch periods after work. But, I’m still updated with MADKID because they’ve been busy with events that I already wrote and announced about weeks ago before my father’s death.
I think that right after May (because we still have Baby Robbie to take care of for the rest of the month), I can finally make my move. I want to go back to my usual tech communities who can help me get back into coding again and guide me into finding a job as a developer or anything related.
Last week, I wrote a one-page letter and printed a few photos of my Dad’s rose garden to my favorite MADKID member. It’s not because that he’s my favorite member, but because I actually thought about him during my grieving period. He already went through a painful period as a child when he lost his baby sister to leukemia and how his thoughts of his sister made him become motivated to move forward and reach for his dreams. It was because of his sister, he said, that trademarked his smile as a J-Pop artist and a member of MADKID. I met up with my friend last weekend, who will be traveling to Japan to see MADKID’s live tour, and handed her my letter so she can give it to the staff and then inform him in person about the letter. I hope he does get it and takes the time to read it. He doesn’t have to tell me or inform me that he read it or not.
I actually wasn’t sure if I were going to write this entire experience or not in this blog. I know I pretty much “abandoned” this blog that I’m only writing on it once a month. In fact, I thought about how I’m going to make a tribute to my dad, whether I should make a one-page webpage about him or something, but I think that, thinking back as I write this, I’ve made more than enough tributes by the deeds I’ve done to this day.
I know that I’ll probably never get over the loss of my dad, but I do know that I’ll be able to move on forward with my life without the tears.
On the sidenote . . .
- He used to remind me (since my youth) to avoid being repetitive and redundant when it comes to my personal issues and problems because people would be sick and tired of hearing the same thing over and over again.
- … which didn’t help… but I don’t blame the doctors or the medications if you’ve got a disease that deadly…
- That never happened. The money is still in my account, but since it’s my money, I can just save and spend and save again.
- My sister was the first one, so Mom decided she will go
- My aunt in Canada, who is Dad’s closest sibling.
- So I can be more available for my mom and baby…