I was away for several days because I lost my grandmother (actually my wife’s grandmother) to coronary artery disease and we just really needed the time to reflect, grieve and think of perhaps, one of the most challenging phases we had to face as a family.
Here in the Philippines, our culture strongly dictates close family ties. Our parents would prefer that we stay with them as long as we can, have their grandkids around whenever they feel like wanting to be with them, share homes, unify budgets. I mean, yes at some point, our parents would want us to be our own selves, but to them their involvement shouldn’t be limited to weekend visits, birthday lunch outs, christmases and other family holidays. I guess it’s different in other parts of the world where moms and dads encourage their eighteen year olds to leave the house and try their luck somewhere else, on their own; where living out of your parents’ couch when you’re on your thirties is a slap to your reputation and sense of individualism.
Despite a culture that encourages familial connection, fall-outs are still rampant among Filipinos – especially when the kids get to have their own families, search for their own professional and personal ventures, make their own niche in this world. Visits to the ‘rents go rare, calls too seldom, how are you‘s almost never.
Funerals, to me is never effervescent, of course. Who would want their loved ones to depart and pass on? I think the only consolation during these events is that families come together, make a stronger bond and tend to be closer to each other. Locally, funerals become a bit of a reunion of families. Members who live in not-so-close proximity make an effort to go home and be with everyone, share the grief, tell stories of the past.
Funerals shouldn’t be about feelings of disagreements and estrangements , but rather a celebration of life and gratitude, don’t you think so?
While having breakfast after a long and tiring wake, we heard my wife’s uncle talking to his wife on the phone. I don’t know why he might’ve forgotten to turn off the speaker option but the woman’s voice was just too out in the open. And it was ugly.
She was concerned about her husband’s and kids’ name if they were included in the ribbons pasted in the casket window (tradition/superstition to show love to the deceased); she was almost shouting asking how much her husband had spent so far, in helping out with the finances; and worse she didn’t have a bit of concern addressing the dead as “your dead”, obviously excluding herself from everyone else. Though I didn’t hear the rest of it, parts of it were very disturbing and my wife was shaking with anger I had to comfort her and keep her calm and composed. I know my wife’s family and her uncle’s family had an ill past but I didn’t think that up to this point that somebody as significant as the family matriarch died, hatred and loathing is still the dominant feeling to some.
A couple of days after, when we were given a chance to say a few things about Lola (Filipino term for grandmom), we were enlightened on why she was like that. She spoke and honestly admitted some of the things that she disliked and we were just relieved that after everything, she still loved her and wanted nothing more but for everyone to be in good terms.
Sad thing is, for me, the person’s already dead and you know, the proverbial, “hug them when they’re still there, love them while they’re alive”, applies in this situation. It took someone’s death for everyone to be okay and I just can’t help but think that things could’ve been a whole lot better if reconciliation, forgiveness, and love are expressed when everyone’s still alive and can express gratification for such. This happens everytime and I just don’t understand why people never learn, really.