26 November 2008

'Lola Oas'

TWO DAYS ago, we finally laid her to rest at the Bagsa cemetery in Oas, Albay, beside her husband she outlived for 18 years, the last 13 of which she spent with us in Pacol.

During the funeral discourse given by Ramil Martinez, our circuit overseer, I couldn't hold back my tears, as I do now while writing this post, as we sang "The Resurrection Joy." Ordinarily, when attending the funeral of other Jehovah's Witnesses, I would sing that melancholy song with gusto, fired up by the biblical hope of resurrection, knowing that our sorrow is but a fleeting pain we all must bear.

But that warm afternoon, my voice gave up right at the end of the first line. I ended up sobbing quietly and wiping my tears on my little Nokie's red dress. When the talk ended and it was time for us to close her casket and take the two-kilometer journey to Bagsa, my wife Lynn and other kins were crying hard, especially Nana Puyet, her younger sister whose house in Tobog hosted Mama's last two nights in her hometown.

My Sofia and Pep were crying inconsolably, especially the latter who doted on her "Lola Oas," as the late Corazon Recongco Reoveros came to be known among my children and close family friends. The night before, a relative installed a karaoke at Nana Puyet's frontyard, where anyone, for five pesos, can sing any available tune in the songbook to his heart's content. I asked Pep to sing "Panalangin" once more, knowing how special that song is to her grandma.

Alas, what that song yearned for was not to be, at least in this earthly life. For glioblastoma multiforme (GBM), the deadliest and most devastating form of brain tumor, took her life. Death came rather quickly, though not suddenly. Last summer, we took the car and drove to Manila, where I brought Mama and Ophelia Bianca to Tata Tol (as we call her brother Melchor), in San Pedro, Laguna. Despite her advancing age, she was still vibrant and full of life and love for her grandchildren, especially my seven who literally grew at her feet. Little did I realize that it was to be their last time together as siblings.

About a month back, she was still her usual self: the overly protective lola who will never allow anyone at Grandview Elementary to mess with her grandchildren, the able overseer of the Prilles of Pacol household while I and my wife are away for work, the steadfastly faithful witness of her God, the glue that for 13 eventful years held our family together. Until one fateful Saturday morning in mid-October, when after securing our daily fill of tsamporado, macaroni and pansit from the neighborhood joint, she inexplicably slipped and hurt her head.

As Mama wouldn't get well as she used to, two CT scans confirmed the unthinkable: our Lola Oas was dying from brain tumor. When she was discharged from the hospital on November 1, her doctors wouldn't tell us how long. But we did not realize Mama would leave us so quickly.

Last Wednesday afternoon (early evening at the US West Coast), as we were preparing to board our return flight to Manila from a San Francisco conference, Lynn's text message came swiftly: Mama has passed away. Pep's slighted grandma was 75 when she left us, but God willing, we look forward to seeing her again, in her usual hopeful, zestful and vibrant self, in the near future.