Thursday, February 3, 2011

A Tribute to My Grandparents on Lola's Death Anniversary

One year ago today, my Lola took her last breath and joined the rest of the stars in the sky.  She wasn't the first of my grandparents to pass, but her death was the one that seemed the most imminent.

Her husband passed in April 1989.  He was a heavy drinker and smoker.  I believe he died from lung cancer.
My first taste of beer
It was the first time I had returned to the Philippines after moving to the US in 1986.  I remember him being extremely loving towards my mom and me.  But the stories of his infidelity to my Lola are what I remember most.  My Lola would talk about how his mistress would even accompany them to church!

It's ridiculous, really, considering that he fathered 12 children with my Lola, that he would still need to get booty elsewhere.

When I was 17, a couple of weeks before my high school graduation, my paternal grandfather passed away.
The Villero Family circa 1988
My Lolo is on the right, holding my brother.
My family lived with my paternal grandparents for about 9 years when we first moved from the Philippines.  He was my chaperon when I would walk back home from school, and he would always treat us with Kit Kat's.  He was an extremely hard worker, and moved to the United States to work so that he could move the rest of his family here.  His boss happened to be named Cecilia.

When I was in my last year of high school, and preparing to graduate, my Lolo had a heart attack.  My memory of it is a bit fuzzy, but I remember him being in the hospital.  Then, my dad came home from the hospital one day and told us that he died.

I was extremely saddened by the news.  He didn't get to see me graduate from high school and go on to college, and I wanted to make the man who literally joined me in my school journey proud.  I'm sure I did.

Luckily, my paternal Lola is still around, tending to her garden and being the fortress that she is.

At that point in my life, I was already creating my own understanding of death and the afterlife.  While I accompanied my Lola's to church every Sunday, I knew that I was not really a religious person.  I am somewhat spiritual, and understand that I can't possibly understand everything about this life and the universe.

Throughout my college years, I would talk with my Lolo (my paternal grandfather), and ask him to keep us all protected the way he did when he was living.  I honestly feel like he did.

So, at this time last year, my Lola was extremely ill.  She wasn't eating much, she wasn't moving around much.  The nurses knew that we all needed to say goodbye.

A week before her funeral, I flew to LA to say goodbye.  I had been living away from home for a long time, so I didn't watch her health steadily decline the way some of my other relatives had.

The day I flew back to Boston, I sat with my Lola in our computer room - which had become her bedroom since she couldn't climb the steps anymore.  I watched her straining to breathe.

I remember it being somewhat awkward.  I wanted to say a lot of things, but the nurse was in the room with me.  I couldn't say anything, really.  I just tried to send my thoughts to her.

I could feel her holding on, and it made me wonder if being religious made you fear death.  Why would she need to hold on?  I told her we would be fine, that we would all be okay.  That I was visiting from Boston, and I would be leaving again that day, but coming back next week (because I was being fairly realistic about her health).  Even in her failing health she was trying to be strong for all of us.

Maybe that's where I get my strength.

And so, today, on her death anniversary, my parents flew back to the Philippines where they buried her next to her husband.  There were multiple days of mourning in 2010, from the wake in Los Angeles to the wakes in Manila.  Then she was finally laid to rest on the 17th of February.

According to Filipino tradition, family members get together again a year after someone's passing to feast and remember.  It almost signifies the end of mourning.

I wish that we were wealthy enough that my whole family could have joined my parents to the Philippines.  But we are all spread around the world remembering our Lola today.

I'm sad that she's no longer with us physically, but I was more sad that she was in so much pain near the end.  In fact, I don't really believe she's any less with us just because she's passed.  If my Lolo's are able to watch over us, then she's surely doing the same.
Lola and me.
I'm kind of hoping that I have a dream about her soon.  I'd like to see her and ask how she's doing, and if she gets to watch the Game Show Network all the time.


  1. Hello Cecelia,
    Your Lola sounds like a wonderful person! I think she still feels your love and respect!



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