Tita Lola spent her last several months living with my eldest sister and her family after she had a gallbladder operation. I believe it took place about a year before she passed on. Tita Lola was well taken care of during her recovery. She certainly was in very good hands.
My sister and her husband are both doctors. And where they live was an ideal setting for Tita Lola — in the suburbs, in a volcanic region located in the southeastern end of the island of Luzon, the largest in the Philippines.
Fresh food. Fresh air. Peaceful and quiet surroundings. No scolding. No energy of irritation or rejection being hurled at her direction.
Freedom. Much freedom and breathing space. She was pampered. She was given much room to breathe. To freely be herself. To live freely. They let her be. She was loved. Totally.
Part of the freedom accorded her was to give in to her indulgence — an occasional partaking of foods which were not supposed to be part of her restricted diet. Each time she’d get a taste of some of them, like crabs, especially the aligue (crab fat), she’d light up so brightly! Like a little girl given an extra scoop of her favorite ice cream!
Tita Lola’s stay with my sister and her family truly brought her so much joy and happiness, peace and bliss. I’m blessed to have witnessed it when I lived with my sister and her family for a few weeks. I became a recluse after my own pivotal thyroidectomy, when I experienced vocal cord paralysis following the surgery. I was accorded the same freedom and loving and supportive treatment and environment. Something which surely contributed to the miraculous and speedy return of my voice, and something which I will always be grateful for to my sister and her family.
And one of Tita Lola’s sources of joy, as was mine, was being in the company of my nephews and niece. Interestingly, Tita Lola was reprising the role she once played for me and my siblings — being there in whatever way she could, to her grandnephews and grandniece. To shower them with her love.
So the thought of missing her grandnephew’s graduation was so inconceivable. But miss it she would because my mother simply decided it to be so. Something to do with a grudge that my mother was holding against my eldest sister.
My mother’s inner turmoil and unresolved issues
In order to get even, Mom scheduled a trip to the U.S. for her and Tita Lola — just around the time of my nephew’s graduation! She could have scheduled it before; she could have scheduled it after. But she didn’t.
Mom was intentionally going to miss my nephew’s graduation, her very own eldest grandchild’s graduation — and take Tita Lola with her! I’m sure it would have brought so much joy to Tita Lola for her to visit my brother and his family. But certainly not at the expense of being unable to attend my nephew’s graduation.
I already had a felt sense back then, and especially more so now — Tita Lola’s huge disappointment over Mom’s decision triggered her heart attack. I know it caused Tita Lola so much frustration and heartache. My nephew’s graduation was something she certainly wouldn’t want to miss.
Mom’s decision, scheming I might add, was something so beyond me and my imagination. Yet it is something that my mother had been doing, knowingly or not — getting back, hurting back, getting even, even with her very own children. Especially her children. One of her habitual dramas.
My mother had so much inner turmoil and unresolved issues. Displaced anger. Deep-seated, long-standing inner conflicts — be it from her own childhood or marriage to my father, conflicts with her children or issues with her own siblings or other relatives and friends.
All these would render her so irrational that she’d come up with such absurd decisions like skipping my nephew’s graduation, and purposely dragging along Tita Lola. Not knowing of course that it would lead to the unexpected — Tita Lola’s cardiac arrest which would cause her sudden death.
The trip that never was
To this day, 14 years after, the vision of my aunt’s last moments is very vivid in my mind. Something that will probably be forever etched in my memory.
On that fateful morning of March 1999, I accompanied Mom and Tita Lola to the hospital for their routine medical check-up. Simply and supposedly only to get the doctor’s go signal that they were both fit to travel. I was to take them back to my mother’s home for them to eventually prepare for their controversial U.S. trip.
That was the plan.
But fate would have it otherwise. Tita Lola had chosen to embark on a different journey.
During the check-up, the cardiologist must have detected something quite alarming for him to have required Tita Lola to be immediately admitted. And things were happening so fast, perhaps as fast as Tita Lola’s blood pressure was shooting up, and as fast as her racing heart beat, that the next moment, Mom and I found ourselves in the ICU — with Tita Lola lying in bed, helplessly fighting for her life. Facing death.
Death. The unavoidable. The inescapable.
When Tita Lola passed on, it was the first, and so far, only time that I witnessed someone’s transition. Something so unexpected. Something I surely didn’t see coming. Yet something so inevitable.
Was Tita Lola prepared for it? How does one prepare for such eventuality anyway? For death? For dying? Can one ever truly, completely, fully prepare for it — be it one’s own death or someone else’s? Can we, should we be ready? If so, how? And what does one experience while dying? Who or what dies? What is death? And is it real or is it simply an illusion?
To be continued – Why Does A Soul Choose Mental Illness As A Growth Opportunity?
- To publish or not to publish my post
- Childish and child-like was my aunt – In memory of Tita Lola, Part 1
- Getting her dolled up – In memory of Tita Lola, Part 2
- Releasing the ties that bind – In memory of Tita Lola, Part 3
- So long, Tita Lola – In memory of Tita Lola, Part 4
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