Forty-one days after her passing, I finally found the courage to write about her.
My Lola was 76 years old when she died. It was, I guess, one of the most painful events that crushed the family this year. She did not suffer from any illness, or if she was there was no sign of it. Her passing was unexpected, hard to accept. I recall what happened on that fateful day:
July 27, Saturday night. Lola joined us for a movie night at home. She loves watching movies. We watched “Mama,” a horror movie.
July 28, early Sunday morning. My aunt woke up to find Lola shivering, with a 39 degree fever. She was rushed to the nearest hospital, Manila East Medical Center. The doctors first checked for signs of dengue. She just had fever. No rashes. BP was okay. Platelet count was normal.
July 28, Sunday afternoon. We went to the hospital to visit her. In retrospect, I’m glad I went to see her, as it would be the last time I will hear her voice, see her alive. We ate lunch and watched TV in her room. She looked okay, a bit excited even. I know that she was looking forward to Monday. My aunt and cousin from Japan will be here in the Philippines for a vacation.
July 29, Monday. Everything seemed normal. I went to work. At around 6pm, I got a text message from my brother, saying that Lola needs to be transferred to the ICU. That made me nervous. It made me think hard and recall previous experiences with people being brought in the ICU… and what follows that episode is something I do not want to think of. I call my mother, but in vain. Nobody was picking up their phones and answering my calls. I rushed from work, got home, and asked what REALLY was happening. On our way to the hospital, my aunts were crying. I resolved not to cry and keep my composure. I volunteered to stay at the hospital with my aunt, while everyone else went home to try and get some sleep. I saw my mother, eyes swollen from crying for hours I’m sure. She asked me to call them for anything. We were not allowed to go inside the ICU anymore as the visiting hours were over. I tried to make a bed out of the plastic chairs in the ICU’s waiting area.
July 30, Tuesday, 1am. A doctor stepped out of the ICU and called out for a relative. I was all ears as he asked if it is fine with us to have Lola’s hands bound with soft restraints to her bed. Apparently, she was moving and lifting her arms and the tubes connected to her were dislodged. I signed the waiver. This, for me, was good news. She was fighting. She was not in coma. She wanted to live.
July 30, Tuesday, 3am. The door opened again, this time the doctor’s voice was grave. Her heart stopped, and they were trying to revive her. My aunt was trying to process this, but I knew right away what it meant. I sent messages to everyone else at home and asked them to rush and see Lola. Meanwhile, my aunt and I were ushered in to the ICU to see her. More tubes. A defibrillator. Flat line when the pumping is stopped. I knew what was going to happen, only I did not allow tears to fall. My aunt’s knees gave way and I had to hold her up while she was crying hysterically.
July 30, Tuesday, 3:45am. My mother, some cousins, and aunt arrived. They were allowed inside the ICU. My mother and I talked to the doctor. He finally said it. My Lola, even if she will be revived, will just be in coma for the rest of her life. He told us that they have tried to pump life back into her but it didn’t work. She was gone from us forever. I finally let the tears flow. And they did. I was sobbing at first, but I couldn’t contain it anymore so I broke into tears and cried out loud.
July 30, Tuesday, 8am. Back at home, we were planning how to get through the day. Who will do what. Sleep was something I didn’t need at this point. My mother and three aunts were all at home, grieving, and it was obvious that they were not up to the tasks that had to be done that day. We decided that I, my eldest cousin Joy, and youngest brother Kevin will take care of everything. We went to the funeral home and chose her casket and clothes. We drove back to the hospital and settled the bills. A trip to the memorial park followed to pay for everything and schedule her interment. Lastly, we did some grocery shopping. By lunch time, we were all so exhausted and famished. Yet we still couldn’t eat much. We headed home. I tried to squeeze in a few hours of sleep. It was restless and I was crying in between.
My lola was my only grandparent to whom I was close. For a few years, we lived in the same house. She has funny moments especially when my cousins and I goof around with her. She was always proud of us, and what I miss the most is the way she’d introduce me to people. She’d say proudly, “Itong apo ko, cum laude ito sa UP. Maganda ito, kahit maliit. Pero wala pang nobyo.” That line never fails to put a smile on my face. I also long for her laughter, her loud voice when she calls everyone at lunch time, the intent look on her face when watching TV. Lately, she’s been more conscious about her health and she’d always say that she wants to live longer.
We lost our Lola to septic shock. Apparently, a wound she got after getting a pedicure got infected. We don’t know and we would never find out if she was feeling something inside her, but one of the doctors said that the wound could have been infected already and it took days for the symptoms to manifest. Thus the fever, the slowly declining blood pressure, and temperature, the blisters which appeared on her arms and legs, and finally the failure of her organs to function. It was painful, but looking back, I’d rather lose her that way instead of seeing her suffer for a long time.
The last image of Lola in my mind isn’t something I like to think of often. She’s in her hospital bed, with three doctors trying to resuscitate her. I want to let go of that and just look back at good memories with her and that toothless smile when she’s not wearing her dentures. I browse my albums for photos of her and feel relieved I have some, which paints a healthier image of her now in my head:
Today also happens to be Grandparents’ Day. I know I’ve never made any effort to make this day special for Lolo and Lola when they were still alive. How I wish I did because I will never get the chance now. The least I can do is greet you and wish that you’d receive my greeting and kisses wherever you are.
I miss you, Lola. I love you.