As an unassuming kid who pretty much spent most of her childhood playing in the streets and making up games, I never in my wildest imagination thought that I would be here at this moment in my life right now. Yes, I was young, probably naïve, but I was smart enough growing up. In my mind, I knew I didn’t know everything but I was holding bits and pieces of something. I at least had a better grasp of what life was all about, or so I thought.
Coming to terms with the person I’m becoming, part of me would like to think I’m an idealist but with boundaries, a dreamer but with both feet on the ground. I knew life was not all black and white. More often than not, it is a spectrum of colors unidentifiable for many. But then in one of those days when life decides you’ve had enough ice cream and cherry, I came to the realization that what I knew for most of my life was incomparable to the realities of what my life would turn out to be. It was far and beyond, compassionate but cruel, amazing however heartbreaking. I was filled with doubts. With anger. I felt undeserving for the inconceivable pains. I didn’t think I’d ever be grateful, but then again, I didn’t know any better.
I woke up to the sound of my mother shouting and kicking our bathroom door on one of those typical August school mornings. My father, who was taking a bath before anyone of us even gets up, was not responding to my mother’s calls. There was a loud thud, and nothing. Nothing beyond the door. My mother had to break down the door only to see my strong father, naked, face down on the floor, unconscious.
I couldn’t even fathom the idea of my father dying. Not until that day when the possibility came to life. Not until that moment when we had to drag him and bring him to the hospital with panic building up every second. I’ve never been face to face with death. Or better yet with life on its most unwanted, unexpected, and unkind certainty.
We all thought it had to be a stroke; after all he had always suffered from high-blood pressure. But when the doctors and nurses couldn’t figure out what had happened to him, we were instructed to get him a CT scan. That first night at the hospital, I didn’t know what to feel. When the room had quieted down, and silence was all there is, all I could hear was the beating of my own heart and the sound of overwhelming fear becoming louder and louder through the night.
I remember holding his hand so tight. And all I kept on doing was pray, pray that just for one day, he’d be alright again. That he’d be back to normal, that I would be able to talk to him like I used to. As I prayed to the corners of my bones, I realized that prayers are not always meant to be answered; sometimes they themselves are the answers to what we seek. A mere answer to an unwavering of faith.
And God didn’t leave me that night, I felt it, I knew it. He had made his way to make me feel that my father getting that ‘one day’ back was truly possible. I began to feel stronger, more positive that indeed, miracles can happen even the small ones. I am happy to say that through those trying times, my father didn’t just have one day, but we were lucky enough to have several days with him just like the old times.
I love my father like nothing you can imagine. He was my hero. My rock. My saving grace. And I knew difficulty. I knew heartache. But nothing, nothing could ever prepare you for something like this. Nothing could ever make you ready for the moment when the one that you loved would be taken away from you.
After eight gruelling months fighting off brain cancer, my hardworking and funny father decided to take on his next journey with God. Even after five years, I can remember how his skin smelled with oil and sweat as he lay in bed. I remember how he tried to comfort me when he’s the one getting sicker as days passed. I remember how he cried when it dawned on him that he was dying. The fact was, he rarely cried, he never showed us that he was scared.
I remember sitting beside him everyday as he drove our school bus for a living. I remember him not remembering who I was after months of radiation treatments. It broke my heart. And as I write this down, I couldn’t help but cry as I remember most of all, the love that could never be lost even as life itself was slowly fading away.
I guess that’s what life is really all about. So many of us fill our lives with unnecessary details that we often forget what’s most simple yet meaningful. It is never about the material feats, expensive trips, stylish cars, or detached people we surround ourselves with. Rather, it is about learning that life offers unbelievable adversities for us to define who we truly are. For what is life without struggles? What is life without us knowing that humanity can prevail even after the battle? At the end of the day, life is merely about discovering that we are capable of loving in the deepest of depths. I knew this the moment I saw my mother’s eyes looking at my failing father. It was like touching love on its fingertips. Love at its finest.
I lost the man I’ve looked up to my whole life. My mother lost the love of her life. But we can not stay bitter. We can not stay in disbelief. After all, his death taught me that life is much peculiar, extraordinary, and even more beautiful after every anguish. He taught me that all you can do is hope, nothing more. Hope that you have enough courage to make it every single day. Enough love in your heart to touch a person’s life. And enough common sense to know that beyond every rush, after insignificant choices, or painful circumstances, what we have left is not what we make to have a living, but what we make out of living. This is what my father has left me, a legacy of his own. It is the hope that by now I already know better, that by now I already know enough to make this strange life truly worthwhile.
Joanne Crisner is a Journalism graduate from the University of the Philippines Diliman (UPD). She had previously worked as a writer for a Public Relations firm in Makati but is now working as a Technical Analyst while doing freelance writing in her spare time.
Though she studied Journalism, Joanne is more passionate about creative writing, mainly doing personal essays, poems, and short stories on the essence and beautiful complexities of life.
About the Artist
Mark Vincent Pelingon took up BS Computer Science in the University of Santo Tomas (UST). He currently resides in Brisbane, Australia, where he works as a SAP consultant.
His hobby of drawing and creating digital art stems from his innate artistic potential and his fascination for Japanese Anime and Manga. With a mind full of ideas and with his trusty Intuos tablet, he aims to one day, release his very own manga.