SUNDAYS WITH PAPA: Light In Darkness

FOREST LAKE CEMETERY, General Santos City (MindaNews / 29 September) — It has been 31 days since you passed away. I can still remember everything. I was planning to visit you that night at the hospital, after supper, thinking that you would be feeling better after your dialysis and that I would be able to converse with you again. So as soon as I arrived from work, I prepared supper for Mama and myself. As a habit, I checked on my phone just before Mama and I were about to eat. My call log showed missed calls from Caca and messages telling me that the ICU medical staff were giving you a CPR.

While I know what CPR is, it took my brain a long time to process what that three-letter acronym meant in relation to your life. Literally, I wanted to run to the hospital but I could not do it because I do not like rushing Mama when she is preparing herself to go out of the house. It also took time to get a taxi; add to that the traffic was heavy. We were almost at the hospital when I got another call from Caca telling me that you were already gone. I wanted to cry out loud but considering that Mama was with me, I did my best to control myself. In my mind, though, I kept telling you, “Why did you not wait for us, Pa? Ang daya mo!”

At the Forest Lake Memorial Park in General Santos City, Patricio Ponce Diaz’ last words before he breathed his last on 29 August 2019, are written on his grave marker. Photo by MARGARITA DIAZ

On my last visit to you at the ICU, I witnessed how uncomfortable you were with all the medical device connectors attached to your body. I admit, as soon as I was out of the ICU, I talked to my God and asked Him “Lord, sige na kunin mo na si Papa because I do not want him to suffer any longer.” God heard my very simple prayer, indeed. He took you back last August 29. However, even if I prayed for it I was not prepared for that moment.

I have been continuously visiting you here for three Sundays already. It is always heartbreaking coming here. I sit here, at the empty lot next to where you are buried. (I thank Mama for buying this lot, too, because I do not have to worry that I am stepping on somebody else’s grave). Here, I silently talk to you. I tell you all that has been happening in my life from the time you physically left us. You may not be totally happy about what I have been sharing to you but I know you are there, with your listening and understanding heart and your smile. Yes, Pa, I miss your smile… especially that smile every time you approached the dining table and see the meals I prepared. Yes, that smile when you told me how terrible my fried sili leaves tasted and never again to cook that recipe.

Earlier I told you that it is heartbreaking coming here, but I find this place a place of love, hope, and connection. Despite the heaviness, this place gives me light and life, too. Here I allow myself to spontaneously express my grief. Here I continue to ask how I am I going to live the rest of my life without you. Here I find the strength to think and work towards achieving the things that I know would make you proud of me. Here I continue to say “thank you, Papa, for your life and for mine, too.” Here I continue to find the light in darkness. (Maria Margarita Diaz is the middle child among nine children of journalist Patricio P. Diaz. The 93-year old Diaz passed away on August 29, 2019 after declaring in his hospital bed “I am dying” followed by “I feel better.”)