A Death in the Family

March 19, 2017

A month ago, my 92-year old grandmother passed away. It was something that the family had expected since she had been bedridden for a while but it was still a bit of a shock. I guess in a way a part of us still hoped that things will not change, that she will always be around to bind everyone together.


My grandmother is the reason that my cousins and I get together during the big occasions like her birthday, Holy Week and Christmas. We are a big group – my mother has 9 other siblings and except for one, all had children (and some already have grandchildren of their own). During her funeral, all of us who were in the country got together again to say goodbye and it left me wondering how things will change now that our Nanay is no longer with us.

Nanay left us with so many good memories of spending summers at her home when we were kids. I remember she used to make us sago when it was too hot and cooked the meals that we wanted. I remember how we used to try to get away (try being the operative word) from praying the rosary with her because it was a must every 6 PM. She also used to scold us for laughing and messing around during Holy Friday because she thought it was disrespectful of the occasion. She used to send all her grandkids greeting cards on their birthdays – way before Facebook reminded people of the birthdays of everyone, she already knew all our birthdays by heart. We were a big bunch so that was amazing – even I don’t remember the birthdays of my cousins because we’re just too many!

The past month from the time of her death has been very full for the family. Funeral arrangements had to be made, papers had to be sent overseas to help relatives abroad to have the proper permits from work to go home and see our grandmother one last time. A couple of uncles who haven’t been home in a decade or so managed to make the trip home, along with a cousin who is in the US Army. It’s been good to see them again but at the same time it’s sad that it took someone dying for all of us to see each other.

The wake for my grandmother took longer than expected since we had to wait for the ones who were in other countries to book their flights home. Every day me and my sisters joined our mother at the hall where our grandmother was and met with people who came to pay their respects and offer their condolences. By the time the funeral was over I must admit that the smell of flowers doesn’t seem too appealing to me because it reminds me of the smell of funeral service flowers and naturally reminds me of death. I think it will take a while for me to disassociate the smell of flowers from that.

My grandmother was eventually buried at the cemetery next to the Catholic church where her own mother is buried. Burial is more expensive considering the cost of cremation these days but since there really isn’t any space in the Catholic cemetery for funeral urns, it isn’t the practical choice. Hopefully there would be columbariums in the future since the cemetery is crowded as it is already.


Even after the funeral things have been busy for me and my family. I had work to catch up on, we had relatives to entertain until their scheduled flights back home and we had the 40 Days celebration for our grandmother to take care of. To non-Filipinos who are reading this: Catholic Filipinos celebrate the 40th day from the death of the deceased with prayers and a little get-together because they believe the spirit of the deceased leaves for the next life on the 40th day.

This coming week marks the end of all the “events” that started from Nanay’s death since the last of our relatives to fly in from another country is going home. It’s been a crazy couple of months but it’s been good to spend time with family, catch up and make new memories together. I just hope that the next time that we all get together it won’t be because of such a sad occasion.

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