Nothing prepares us for the loss of a loved one. Nothing. When someone vibrant, vivacious and full of life dies suddenly, it stops you in your tracks and things come to a standstill. You walk in a surreal fog and go through the motions and get things done and you consciously know what you’re doing and why, yet you can’t believe it.
We lost my mother-in-law this month. She died after a mercifully brief fight with pancreatic cancer that she faced with dignity, grace and bravery. She was resigned to the fact that she had had a good, full life and that if God wanted her, she was ready to go. She wanted us to remember her laughing and enjoying life and indeed we will as she was laughing and joking up to her very last breath.
In this sadness there is comfort and light. In reminiscing about touching memories of time spent together. In quirky mannerisms that we laughed about in life and will continue laughing about in the future. In family and friends that come together from all corners of the world. In the grandchildren who love her so. In community who embrace us as their own.
Ma’s community drew us in and held us tight with a tremendous generosity of comforting words, hugs, kisses, tears, prayers and food. During the mourning period before the funeral, our family hosted visitations and provided a customary sweets table for guests. Amidst the grief and sorrow, one after another tita brought platters of sweets that filled table after table: ube biko, cookies, orange sponge cake, brownies, mango, ube and pandan sponge cake rolls, ensaymada, kutsinta, turon, cupcakes, puto…. And they did the same thing the next day. This kindness and compassion, which I had never before experienced, brought me to tears. The overwhelming outpour of generosity was simply a measure of what my mother-in-law meant to the community.
After paying their last respects, guests gathered by the heaving tables and ate some dessert and talked and laughed and ate some more. And that’s exactly what Ma would’ve wanted.