PERSONAL ESSAY: Babang Luksa: Me, My Mother and Death

ZAMBOANGA CITY (MindaNews / 25 Oct) — Babang Luksais a Filipino funeral custom surrounding where relatives and friends commemorate a death one year after it took place. A generation back, this also meant that immediate families are allowed to shed the black clothing worn for a year and return to the normal ward robe. For widow and widowers, this meant that they can already re-marry.

A year ago at this time, my mother called me to her room. With a straight-forward tone marked by a sense of urgency, she said, “Today will be my last day.” She asked me to help her walk to her favorite spot in our front yard garden. She loved gardening, tendering to ornamental plants. In our family’s journey, we have moved from one house to another, but always my mother would have a garden of plants and flowers.

Her breathing was weak, so we only managed to reach the living room, just a few steps from her bedroom. My mother, always poised when she would like to make her point clear, mustered her strength to make her last wishes. The “huling habilin” (last words) were all about how to do her wake. She said the neighbors, whom she had befriended, knew how to go about the prayers and all. Regarding my sister who is residing in the US, she need not feel obliged to come home for the wake as my mom was already happy that she was able to spend time together a couple of months earlier. What struck me most, though, was her realization of the finality of her life. There were a few other things that she wanted done for me and my siblings, like buying a water pump for my house and having the ancestral house repainted, but she said, “It’s too late for that now.”

Knowing that my mom was right about her impending sojourn with death that day, and yet, I was in denial of that certainty, I did not know what to say. I did not know what to feel. Looking back, it would have been a lesson in sociology and life, to ask how it feels like looking at death eye-to-eye. It would have been insightful to ask how she would sum up her life on earth. All I managed to ask was, “What would you like to eat?”

Nah, she did not bother about her last meal. I decided to prepare “biko” and help her through a couple of spoonful. I think I played a relaxing soft music as she rested on her bed that afternoon.

When my brother, the reverend pastor, arrived late in the afternoon, I told him that Nanay decided to die that day. He also appeared to have readily understood. We brought my mom to the hospital, as earlier agreed with her doctor.

In the emergency room, the hospital staff proceeded to do their usual protocol –insert an intravenous devise, and all. I said, there is no more need for that. I just asked them to call on her doctor. Her doctor arrived in no time at all and we talked. We had actually talked about what needs to be done earlier on.

My mother was given a pain reliever and I had to sign, after consulting with my brothers, a waiver.

The waiver was for the non-administration of medical procedures for the revival of the patient, or something to that effect. This, to this day, left a nagging sad feeling, “Had I not signed the waiver, would she have lived longer?”

Before my mother went into deep sleep where she had never awakened from, she momentarily became conscious and called my name. I embraced her and assured her that it will be alright. “I am here Ma, don’t be afraid. You will be alright.”

From the ER, we brought my mom to the executive suite. Trinidad Lazaro y Benitez stood her ground of being a master of her destiny, of her life. Shortly before that day ended — October 25, 2017 — there was no gasping for last breath, no struggle.

She left as she said she would.

(Trinidad Benitez battled a cancer for two years before her death. She was a public school teacher for four decades. She died at the age of 85)