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HONORING MY MOTHER | Grief is a brother

By Icoy San Pedro

IT felt so weird today, we’re all greeting you ‘happy birthday’ but everyone’s aware you’re really not with us anymore. The feeling that we’ve known you for so long still lingers, like a strange aura in the room. Yet in this very special day that we have always celebrated with you for so long, it feels so strange you are suddenly demoted to just a memory, despite the presence of a birthday cake. For a time, there were even pre-lunch prayers which you loved to lead while the rest of us eagerly eyed the lechon but unlike you, they’ve just been reduced to chitchat if we ever remembered them at all.

Old photographs from so many past birthday celebrations now act as our handy plug-in memory to aid us in remembering glimpses of those happy days. That’s the sad truth; and we resignedly just say ‘happy birthday in heaven’, to that effect. Wherever that is, keep in mind that we are happy you’re spending this day with your love, our Mamapin.

Time was when the old days through our eyes showed an all-star cast that filled the room. Lolos and lolas, uncles and aunts, brothers, sisters, nieces and nephews and finally mom and you, pops all waiting their turn at the sofa while old man Quirino set up the tripod and his beat-up F2 Nikon for a birthday or the Christmas family shoot. Perhaps not all were there at one time and my memory’s just jumbling them all together, but I know you got the drift.

With the coming of grandchildren and sad departure of those in Quirino’s original frame, the only consistency that had somehow remained is what Lola Titang once calls the ‘familia’ and that it still be intact. 

Now, during this, your first birthday away from us, a sudden realization comes that is almost as true as your lingering presence: from that old cast of characters in the old photographs, all who remain now is us, all grown up. Along with the rest of our younger generations still continuing down the line. 

Bittersweet as it is, you and the rest of the lolos and lolas, uncles and aunts, along with four of our siblings who have passed on now belong to our fond memories, especially whenever we celebrate your natal days and other special occasions spent with us. Eventually, the time will come when we will join you and a tilt in the balance would seem to have been done but it will never be complete. Already, your much-dreamed about great-great grandchildren are learning their first words and steps. Your memory will linger on and the tribe will increase. For all that it is worth, have a great birthday Pops. 

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