27 June 2017

Memories of Grandpa: last days

Long after a loved-one is gone from your life, you can still feel the piercing pain when you think of him. Indeed, a person is irreplaceable. Only his memories will keep your heart warm and you want to hold on to those memories forever.

Yesterday was our maternal late grandpa's 11th anniversary of passing. As always, I missed him so much that I couldn't bring myself to write about him. But I have promised myself and the family members that I will write and keep him alive in our hearts.

There are too many memories of Grandpa that even after all these years I am still at loss to begin writing. Maybe starting backwards will help.

Grandpa passed on after more than a year of suffering from colon ulcer. My little boy who was then 3 years old and I got to spend time with him for two full weeks before he passed. At that stage, the extended family members took turn trying to make him as comfortable as could be. What I remember the most was his constant moaning because he was in so much pain.  Every day each of us would spend an hour or so by his bedside. Whenever it was my boy and my turn's, I would rub his stomach in circular motion to ease the pain; at the same time suppressing my tears because it hurt so much to see someone in great pain. Sometimes I just let the tears fell silently and say as many prayers as I could. My little boy, being only 3, would innocently ask me to sing the 'Our Father' prayer, thinking that the prayer would make Grandpa fall asleep like it did him.

It was during that time that I could really feel the extended family's solidarity. Aunts, uncles, cousins, nephews...they would all take turn accompanying grandpa. Sometimes talking comforted him. Strange requests and conversations took place but we just said yes to everything.

The strangest request he made was for the family and neighbours to beat the gongs for his funeral. Of course it was a scandalous request! According to the Dusun culture that we adhere to, when there is death in a household, no music of any kind is allowed. Not even TV or radio until the person has been laid to rest. In fact, if I remember correctly, no musical instruments for a week.

(I wasn't in the country when grandpa was laid to rest. The family honored his wish and did a round of gong-beating. His neighbours told us that on that day, they all heard beautiful gong beatings out of the blue, just as grandpa wished. Maybe coincidently, there was a wedding at some neighbouring village...or...)

One time when I made my daily visit to grandpa, he opened his eyes and asked me "isai pama i hiti di tinu ddi?" (Who was it that was here earlier?). Puzzled, I said the name of every possible relative that was there on that day. "Okon, kirasuk toitom-itom do kisalip miagal di dampaado. Numaan dau pohitio'd kangkab ku i buuk do tagayo". (No, he wore a dark coloured robe with cross like the priest's. He put a big book on my chest).  I felt my goosebumps raising when I heard that. Somebody told me that a person who was about to leave for the other world would see things that revolved around his faith. Grandpa was a Catholic. Could it be possible that he saw Jesus, the sign of his faith? Not knowing what to say, I told him it might have been the priest who came to visit him.

On 26.06.2006, grandpa passed on. (I wasn't there to bid him final goodbye. But at the time he drew his last breath, from far away I experienced a great sense of sadness, like my heart was ripped from me. For a few minutes, I was sweating like I was sick. Then it ended. And a text from my family came to tell me he was gone.
Maybe that's why I still miss him so much to this day).

The family said it was a beautiful day when he was laid to rest. Many people from various places came over to pay him final respect. Not surprising as Grandpa was a very popular person- always good-natured and helpful. Even his resting place was quickly prepared, because a backhoe driver who  happened to pass by the cemetery offered to dig up the burial place instead of it being dug up by the villagers following the tradition there.

Eleven years later, he is still deeply missed.

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