Four years has now passed. It was my closest encounter with death and no words could ever explain how terrifying it felt, seeing and feeling death snatch someone you love right in front of you. It was the time in my life that I felt so helpless. Nevertheless, I believe it takes a lot of love to let someone go without questioning Him why it had to happen. Uwa, my late grandmother, gave me such love the day she left.
“I’ll look as if I’m dead, and that won’t be true.” – The Little Prince
Yes, I believe that you merely left your human shell that day, Uwa. Your spirit lives on, perhaps in another dimension that people call heaven. Wherever you are, I know that you are happy and at peace. :)
Below is the story of what happened that day. I wrote it 39 days after Uwa’s death- a day before we transferred her ashes to the ossuary. One of the things I learned from that experience is to respect the power of life, death and, ultimately, love. I am sharing this story as a reminder for us to start living each moment because, really, we never know when our time here in this world will run out.
Thank you in advance for reading it. Keep smiling and live on. :)
7 July 2010
I woke up around 8:30am. Mama entered the room and greeted me a good morning. She looked a little troubled. She sat on the bed and finally said, “Sabi ni Allan nanghihina daw si Uwa.” We thought of bringing her to the hospital that day. Mama decided that she would buy Uwa some food then go to her house to check her condition. I do not recall exactly what time mama left.
I started doing my homework at 10am. Around 10:30, I received a call from papa. He asked me if we knew that Uwa was feeling weak. He said that Allan, Uwa’s gardener, called Tito Gigo about Uwa’s condition. Having heard the news from mama, I said that we knew of it and mama was on her way to Uwa. I was wondering if Uwa’s condition was that bad that Allan had to call Tito Gigo who was living in Malabon. But I reckoned that Allan could not call us because our landline was not working that time.
10:45am. I just finished doing my homework when I heard someone knocking wildly at our gate. I think it was Allan’s brother-in-law. Ate Jo opened the gate and they talked for a while. After that, I was informed that Uwa collapsed and needed to be brought to the hospital. I was shocked. I immediately called papa using my cell phone and told him about it. Mama was not back yet. I could not call her because she did not have any cell phone. Papa said that Tito Gigo already called an ambulance.
After talking with papa, I changed my clothes very quickly. I was walking around the house, tensed, waiting for mama to arrive. I was beginning to feel nervous. Finally, mama arrived and I quickly grabbed my bag and ran outside. Papa called again, telling us to ask someone to wait for the ambulance outside our gate to give directions going to Uwa’s house. Allan waited for the ambulance.
Mama, manong, and I rushed to Uwa’s place. I ran into the house and the sight shocked me. Uwa was sitting on her rocking chair, head slightly tilted on one side, eyes open, mouth open, she was staring blankly at a distance. Allan’s wife and daughter were there, fanning Uwa. I took the fan (pamaypay), pulled a chair, sat beside Uwa, held her head gently, and started fanning her. I called her name. She did not respond. I told her that the ambulance was on its way. I do not know if she could hear me. I kept fanning and whispering, “It’s ok, it’s ok…” Whether I was whispering those words to comfort Uwa or myself, I do not know.
Mama ran to the master’s bedroom to get Uwa some clothes she could use when we bring her to the hospital. I can hear her yelling, “Nasaan ba mga damit niya?” I passed the fan to Allan’s wife again and I went to help mama. While I was walking to the room, I covered my mouth with one hand to stop myself from crying. But tears flowed anyway. It was my first time to see Uwa that way. I was crying when I reached the room and I saw that mama was about to cry as well. She handed me some of Uwa’s clothes and asked me to put them in a paper/plastic bag. I went to the storage room where Uwa kept all her plastic bags. It probably took me more than 2 minutes to find a bag (which was really just right in front of me the whole time). My mind was cluttered. Panic was starting to creep in. Finally, my hand got hold of the plastic bag. I stuffed all the clothes inside and went back to where Uwa was.
Manong was inside now and he was the one supporting Uwa’s head and fanning her. Mama was beside the rocking chair, crying, holding Uwa’s hand, and assuring her that the ambulance was on the way. I do not recall if it was I who called papa, or papa who called, but I was speaking to him, crying. I told him that Uwa was no longer responding but was still breathing. Then all of a sudden mama yelled horrified, “Mommy! No, no! Pumikit na siya! Pumikit na siya!” I was in the kitchen then talking to papa. I ran to the rocking chair and I saw mama shaking Uwa, trying to wake her up. It was like a scene in a movie. But I was a part of that terrible moment in the movie. I embraced mama and pulled her away from Uwa. We were both on the floor. Mama can hardly breathe and this scared me. I kept saying, “Shh, please mama… be strong… be strong… Shh…” After she calmed down, I called papa. My crying turned into sobbing when I said, “Papa, pumikit na siya… pumikit na siya…” Papa asked me to check her pulse. I knelt beside the rocking chair and held Uwa’s wrist to check her pulse. At first, I could not feel anything. Then my fingers felt something. It was weak, but there was a pulse.
I called my brother. I was sobbing, “Yads… pumunta ka na dito… pumunta ka na dito… si Uwa, si Uwa…” My brother immediately became worried, “Nasaan ka? Nasaan ka? Anong nangyari kay Uwa?” I told him what happened. Then the ambulance called Uwa’s landline and I answered it. The girl said that they were near. The only thing I remember telling the girl was, “bilisan niyo po… pumikit na po kasi siya…”
Mama was now sitting on the sofa. I knelt beside Uwa and felt her pulse again. I held on to her wrist gently, as if that could keep the pulse from stopping. My chin was at the armrest of the rocking chair and I was just looking at Uwa. I do not understand what I felt at that point. Tears just flowed continuously. I held her hand.
Finally the ambulance arrived. The medic checked her pulse. I was still holding her hand when I asked the medic, “Meron pa po [pulso]? Meron pa kanina…” He kept checking and did not answer me. The medic checked Uwa’s blood pressure. Another medic asked if there was breathing. “Negative”, he said. I still held Uwa’s hand. They got the cardiac monitor and mama saw that it was a flat line. No more pulse. More tears flowed, but I was still holding her hand.
Mama was talking to Tita Lelia when the ambulance arrived. When mama saw the flat line and the medic said, “sorry po”, I heard mama shout to tita, “…Mommy’s gone!” then the words that followed were inaudible. Mama passed the phone to me and I was the one who broke the news to Tita Lelia, Papa, Tito Gigo, and Yads. The medics, together with manong and Allan, transferred Uwa to Tito Louie’s bed. I remember the scene that followed: the front door of the house was open, straight ahead was the ambulance. The ambulance was leaving…leaving… then it was gone. We were supposed to be in that ambulance with Uwa. Instead, we were left in the house. Papa told me to call Dra. Regalado—our family doctor who also lives in Antipolo. Only a doctor can declare someone’s death. So I called the doctor and told her what happened. Manong left to fetch her.
After mama, Allan, and I have calmed down, I remembered Uwa’s green box. She showed me all the pictures she kept inside the box during Father’s day. That was my last conversation with her. I told her that I’d come back to scan all the pictures in her green box, but I’m afraid I did not return soon enough. After escaping from my thoughts, I went to Uwa’s room to get the box. Then, I sat on the floor beside the bed where Uwa was lying. I curled up, hugging my knees, the box supported between my chest and legs. I was alone in the room. I talked to Uwa, I talked to God, and I talked to Lolo and Tito Louie. Tears were still flowing, but I was smiling. I could imagine her very happy now. Uwa and Lolo Nelson, they love each other so much. They love each other so much that Uwa left us two days before their wedding anniversary- July 7.
The doctor arrived and instructed us on what we had to do. She told us to light a candle in the room, then she and mama talked in the dining room about the funeral plans. I stayed in the room with Uwa until papa and Yads arrived. When the four of us were all there, the doctor advised that we clean Uwa with a bimpo and change her clothes because according to her (and rightly so) Uwa would not want to be picked up by the funeral service people in her pajamas and with her hair messed up. So we cleaned her. Mama wiped Uwa’s whole body with bimpo soaked in water, while papa assisted her. I helped mama change Uwa’s clothes. Yads assisted me in lifting Uwa’s head as I combed her hair and tied it in a ponytail. Dra. Regalado finished it off with a spray of perfume. And there she was, lying on the bed with decent clothes, clean, and fresh. It looked as if she was just sleeping. She looked beautiful, as always.
I miss you. I love you, Uwa! :)