Death in the family.

9 Aug

My Lola died today. She was 98.

I received the message from my cousin’s wife, Ate Bheng, today. She said that Lola died of sepsis (she had pneumonia), and that the last news was that her body was in the morgue, but she had no idea what will happen next.

And this is why.

My Lola had ten children. When they got older, these siblings grew apart, mainly because of or exacerbated by my Lola’s upkeep and later care. Auntie Bec, who was a ship captain’s wife and had the most to say because she was the most well-off, supported my grandmother financially. When Lola’s rheumatism worsened and she had to be rushed often to the hospital for hypertension, she stayed at my Aunt Nene’s home in Manila. It was there where she grew frailer due to advanced age and also lack of exercise. Auntie Ne took care of Lola, which was no easy task, and was still supported by Auntie Bec. Auntie Bec started to complain about having the sole financial responsibility of taking care of Lola, and eventually when Lola had to be in hospital for constant care, this worsened even more. This big family was essentially separated into two camps: Team Bec versus everyone else. At one point these two factions came to blows in a very public and embarrassing shouting match in the charity ward. My dad and his brothers, those on the other side, and then so many others who fell out of her favor, were alienated and practically not encouraged (if not forbidden) to visit especially when she was in town.

I, for one, had been in the neutral middle, regardless of what my Aunt has to say about my mom. Years ago when my aunt and I talked in the hospital on a visit to my Lola, she told me that there was a do not resuscitate agreement in place, and in case my Lola died, she wouldn’t tell anyone. Just perhaps a one night wake and she would be buried immediately.

And this could be it. Ate Bheng got the news very indirectly. She learned it from my cousin Leah, her husband’s sister, who happened to have a friend who lived near Auntie Ne’s place. It was Auntie Ne’s daughter-in-law who told this friend.

And so none of us from the other side has no idea what will happen next. Ate Bheng said that if she gets more information from my other cousin Jeffrey, she’ll inform me. Auntie Bec just might make good on her word on not letting anyone else except her favored people see Lola for a final time. In that case, forever dividing the family will be on her.

In a sense, I am relieved that Lola has been released from this mortal coil. Even before when she was still strong and lived with my family, she had pangs of sadness especially when her siblings, her friends, started dying. It must be have been worse when she was in Manila and few of her many children and grandchildren came to visit her, and much worst when she eventually lost control of her sight, her speech, and movement with the exception of her right hand. And to suffer like that for years. How unbearable that is, I cannot even imagine. The last time I saw her, I whispered on her ear: it’s okay, Lola, you can go anytime now. I should be happy that she is no longer suffering anymore. She deserves peace.

I’m not sure if it will be the same for this family, though.

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