Love them while they're around

Illustration by Robert Labayen

As a grown up, I would still lie down in bed like a baby beside my father.

I worked in Manila and I would often visit my parents in Bulan, Sorsogon about 600 kilometers away. My daddy was afflicted with a combination of emphysema and Parkinson’s disease. The effort to speak drained the oxygen in his lungs. So, he just smiled as I stroked his balding head, which was our “source of fun” when my siblings and I were growing up. I talked to him and he didn’t need to reply.

During his funeral, one of our aunts worried that we “didn’t love our dad very much.“ She observed that instead of weeping, I and my siblings were laughing,  sometimes loud enough.

I realized that we felt that way because we have shown enough love while he lived. He has experienced a man’s reward which is the love and respect of his own family.

I'm not suggesting that too much crying in a wake is a sign of a guilty feeling or an imperfect relationship with the departed. People are different. It may even be a sign of deep attachment. But I believe that regret over somebody’s death can be more painful if there was some unfinished business.  If there has been unforgiveness. Or lack of expression of affection.

Filipino families are close-knit but many are not touchy-feely. We are also shy to speak of love for our parents, siblings, spouse and children. Many of us plan “ to show love someday” but never really get to do it until it’s too late.

When my mom was going through therapy in her last days, I also lied in bed beside her. I embraced her like I used to as a child. I stroked her leg when the pain wouldn’t give her any sleep.  During the times that she was pain-free, I told her about my successes at work. That’s what she always wanted to hear because she was an achiever herself.

I am glad that all my brothers and sisters are tactile like me. Our parents got  more than enough dosage of touch while they lived.

Parents may not be perfect. But I think they deserve to hear and feel how grateful we are for all those sleepless nights they looked after us.

This week, my wife was on the phone with her mom in the province. My mother-in-law was recuperating after a week in the hospital. Her oxygen level was low so my wife said “ We should take you back to the hospital right now. “ Her mom calmly replied “ Not now. I’m feeling very sleepy. Tell everyone I love them. Let me sleep. “

Telling “everyone I love them” was her usual parting request. But this time, within an hour, she was gone.

My mother-in-law was so relaxed that my wife didn’t know it was going to be their last conversation.

But my mother-in-law didn’t die a lonely person. She was always surrounded with love from her loyal husband and adoring family. She was so “malambing” ( warm ) that’s why all the grandchildren and great grandchildren are coming to the funeral to show love beyond life.

We never know when that last conversation or phone call will come. So, in showing love, the best way is to seize the day.

“ Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the Lord your God is giving you. “  Exodus 20:12


Love them while they're around Love them while they're around Reviewed by Robert Labayen on 1:02 AM Rating: 5

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