In a few hours, there will be one last feast in your honor, and everyone in town will come to celebrate your life. there will be gongs, there will be laughter, there will be dancing as everyone you know and love will remember and appreciate your life the best way Ifugaos know how. Then after the feasting is over, your strong and sturdy kinsmen will carry you around the house you’ve come to call home for such a long time, a home that was built on the foundation of your love and care for anyone and everyone who came to stay under its roof, and then lead the procession down to the church. After the rites and the eulogies, which I am sure will be beautiful, as beautiful as your kind heart; everyone will take you to your final resting place, in the same tomb as Daddy King. Everyone will get to say goodbye and godspeed…well, mostly everyone.

I can’t, ma. not just yet. Even as i sit here trying to find my thoughts i keep stopping myself because everything I want to say sounds too much like a goodbye. I was supposed to sit by your side while you laugh and try to guess which of your grandchildren I was. I was supposed to sit beside you with Rohan on my lap touching your face and calling you Appu, a word he has come to learn while pointing at your photo on the wall. You were supposed to look at Myles and ask me who that beautiful woman is. then you were supposed to call her my darling while embracing her. then again, look at me and ask, what was your name again? And we were supposed to laugh, because it wouldn’t have mattered, if you called me Jeremy, or Michael, or Ricardo. It wouldn’t have mattered because you would be looking at us with this glow in your eyes, this warmth and love that just… emanates from you. I couldn’t care less if old age dimmed your memory and you couldn’t remember my name because I do. I remember, Ma.

I remember being a kid who had to stay with his grandparents in the province while his single parent mom worked as hard as she could in the city. I remember the warmth in your smile everytime you woke up early in the morning to prepare breakfast for us before we go off to school.I remember you giving me food off your plate when you notice i was still hungry while being too shy to ask for more. I remember you humming while you worked on your sewing machine, I remember  how we took turns crying, then comforting each other while daddy King suffered, taking turns putting lotion on his back and legs, emptying his colonoscopy bags…

In High school i remember  climbing through your bedroom window trying to sneak back in to the house, and instead of being angry or alarmed, you would just ask me if I ate and would i like you to prepare a plate for me. I remember you asking the principal to give us hard labor as punishment when we were caught drunk in class. I remember you being so happy crying tears of Joy when the parish priest visited our house to tell you that I passed the entrance exams to the seminary, not knowing i took those exams just to get out of a tougher math exam in school.

And as your grandchildren started going off to college in the city one by one, you would always be there redy to greet us whenever we come home with such a happy radiant smile, sometimes you would even be jumping! sometimes we would take the late night bus and arrive in the early morning, you would be sweeping the yard, and when you saw us come in you would drop your broom and raise your arms up for a tight hug and touching our foreheads giving us your blessing,  and i swear, that is what home feels like.Like your warm embrace.

And I remember the last time you gave me a hug, a kiss and a blessing. I remember you telling me to make sure i take care of my son and my family.

And just this Christmas, you sang me a Christmas carol and told me you loved me, again and again. and as I sat there in tears, I knew i had to come home, we had to come home. So i said we were coming home and you said you were happy to hear that… but i am late again, aren’t I?

I remember things so clearly…and sometimes I hate it… but only sometimes.  Only if it pains me so much to remember because it starts to hurt so bad.

But mama, thank you.for taking me in.for how you never stopped. and I  know you wanted to wait…I know you wanted to give me one last goodbye..I know you wanted to hold Rohan one last time…I know you tried so hard to hold on….but its okay. there’s no more pain mama, dance a waltz with daddy, i’m sure he has been waiting a long time. I’ll see you when i get home. Its okay mama, rest now. We’ll be okay.. coz we will always remember. I will miss you terribly, but we’ll be fine.I love you so much.

This is not goodbye.I love you.we love you.

photo credit to adrienne.