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So Long, Mama

The dreaded time came so very fast– my Mother’s funeral. September 30, 2007 was the hardest day of my life. I sobbed as men carried my Mother’s coffin out of the house. This would be the last time that she would enter or exit the house, ever.

The funeral march began at 1:30PM. Joseph and I, along with my family and friends marched behind the hearse carrying my mother’s coffin on the way to the (Catholic) church. We were walking in the middle of the roadway and proceeded at a snail’s pace. Along the way, people passing us tossed peso coins (by the hearse) from their vehicles. This is a Filipino practice that has folkloric origins to it. People here believe that it is bad luck to pass by a funeral march while driving, and that tossing coins would break the curse and prevent the vehicle from having any accidents on the road.

At the church, we found out that we were the 3rd in line. There was another funeral mass going on inside, and another one waiting before us. Somehow, somebody was late. My mother’s funeral was scheduled at 2:30PM but it finally started at 3:00PM. I was seated in between my father and my husband in the church, right at the pew where my mother used to love sitting when coming to the church. My father was teary-eyed as he shared this memory with me.

The mass was all in my dialect (Cebuano), so I was busy trying to translate everything to Joseph. The 30-minute ceremony was over before I knew it. The priest then asked the family members to gather around the coffin while he was blessing it with holy water and incense. I was staring at my mother, fighting the sob that was rising up my throat. One of my mother’s sister started to weep, and when I felt my father wept as well, that did it – — I couldn’t hold my tears any longer and I broke down along with my family. My husband, who is usually reserved also cried along with us. He, too, is missing my mother.

When the mass was over, the funeral march resumed. This time we were headed to the cemetery. The walk was just maybe about 10-15mins. My steps were heavy. I realized that we were nearing the end of my mother’s earthly journey.

After what seemed like an eternity, we were finally standing in front of my family’s burial lot. We waited until the men brought the coffin in front of my mother’s tomb, her final resting place on earth. We were again given a few more last-viewing minutes…. This would be the last time that I would ever get the chance to stare at the face of the woman who loved me and cared for me for most of my entire life. That’s when deep sadness overcame my soul and I wept so very much, wishing I could just have my mother back, but I know this is not possible. Inside of me, I was whispering “Mama, I hope you know how much I love you. I’m sorry that I wasn’t here with you during your last moments.” As I’ve said before in my previous blogs, this is my greatest regret and to be honest, I still am having difficulty coming to terms with this.

All of my family were weeping (again) with me. Joseph, too, “lost it” when he saw my mother’s name inscribed in the headstone. Then I felt my father’s hand go up my back and said to me, “that’s enough, let her go“. And so I said my final goodbye. “Buh-bye, Mama, so long. I will see you in heaven someday”.

A minister from my (Christian) church did the committal prayer before they finally closed the coffin and pushed it inside the tomb. Indeed from dust we came and from dust we return. As Christians, our beginning and our end doesn’t matter so much. What really matters is the in between — how we lived our life and what legacy we leave behind. Both my father and I agree that my mother lived her life as best as she could. She gave her best to us as a wife and mother and we both are thankful to the Lord for her life. We will greatly miss you, Mama.

To all my family and friends, thank you so very much for all your sympathy, support and prayers. May God bless you all.

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