My previous post was scheduled to be published on November 18. I remember i was wrapping it up just a couple of minutes before i fell asleep. I had only been asleep for half an hour when my mother woke me up at 2:30 a.m. telling me that my 90-year-old lola (grandmother) has died. Mommy, as we all called her, had been trying to live up to my father’s birthday on the 19th. She didn’t make it.
I was reading my recent posts just before writing this and was surprised to see that i was preparing for what this year has yet to offer, that i was hopeful things would happen for the better. But i certainly didn’t expect or prepare for this. Nor did i think Mommy’s passing would be anything for the better.
I should find solace in the fact that she had been desiring that moment with all her heart–that moment when she’ll come home to her Lord (and with open arms as she would imagine). But it’s hard. I’m still so pained by her passing. I thought i was already prepared for this as my maternal grandmother also died last year. Both of them were dear to me.
When my maternal grandmother died last year, i had just started doing little zero waste practices. During the entire duration of her wake, i saw how wasteful an event such as death can be. I saw that again in Mommy’s wake.
Lamay (wake) in the Philippines is like a salu-salo, a gathering, a party–a party for the dead: the bereaved family and relatives prepare food and drinks for guests who have come to mourn with them. I just realized it’s the biggest party in a person’s life: it lasts for days, relatives abroad come home, families become complete, distant friends you’ve never heard of in years appear. Now. Of all the time that we had. Now, when the “celebrator” is not even here. It’s a sad party. But a party nonetheless.
Like any parties, a wake is wasteful. My lola’s death last year was the first death in the family in my adult life. I helped the family buy food for guests, which completely puzzled me because why? Why should we, the bereaved family, do all the hassle of preparing food for them? Didn’t they come to express their condolences? to join us in our mourning? Surely they didn’t come to eat, right?
But then what’s a party without food?
And perhaps this is a party no one prepares for. And with all the affairs and emotions the dead leaves us, convenience is the first and last resort. So hello, grocery food. Hello, single-use cups and utensils. Hello, Tetra Pak drinks and straws. Paper plates. Stirrers (stupidest thing invented ever). Tissue papers. Junk food in plastic-foil packaging. Instant coffee in sachets. Candies in plastic wrappers (seriously, is this Halloween? Why the need for candies??? Would visitors feel better if they suck on something sweet and minty?)
We humans are so funny. Doing all the hassle for the dead. All the making up (bec wut, life happened?). All when it’s too late. It’s such a waste. The dead doesn’t give a damn anymore.
She is not here anymore.
So much had happened in the very short time since i came home from Japan. And so much, too, had been missed. Perhaps if i knew how to manage and value time, perhaps if i valued relationship over work, i would’ve chosen to spend time with her. Perhaps if i knew better, i would’ve listened more, tried to understand, loved harder.
What Joshua Fields Millburn of The Minimalists once said is true:
It seems we don’t know how to love the ones we love until they disappear from our lives.
It hurts to realize it’s too late to wish i knew how.