Loss and Grief during the Pandemic: One Year Death Anniversary of Peque Gallaga

©Moira Garcia Gallaga

Today is the one-year death anniversary of Dad (my father-in-law). Except for Mom and one sibling in Bacolod, all of us (children and in-laws) were in Manila because of the MECQ  in place. No flights, and almost everything was closed. He passed away and we couldn’t be there with him and Mom in his final moments.

A death in the family is always difficult. The loss is painful and it rocks you to your core. You work through the pain by grieving, letting it out in the hope it moves on. Apparently, it isn’t that simple. It is a year since Dad’s passing and with no closure we continue to grieve. I could feel it in me, persistent and heavy, weighing me down emotionally.

When someone dies unexpectedly, there is the shock that comes with the realization of the news. This wasn’t like that at all. Dad didn’t die of Covid-19, but his body was letting him down. He was getting in a bad way, but we figured he might bounce back from it. When he had to be brought to the hospital, we had a chance to talk to him over video group chat and figured things might still turn out okay.

Except that wasn’t the case. I can’t imagine what Mom went through when the doctor asked for her decision, but she handled it with strength and a calm resolve. Dad was the spirit and soul of the family, but Mom is the bedrock that holds us together. When Mom updated us the harsh realization that we were going to lose Dad started setting in. This was a shock that leaves you numb. There was also a crawling, creeping fear, bubbling and simmering inside, increasing in intensity as days pass.

It just got worse from there. Bad enough we had to start dealing with losing Dad, it is further aggravated by knowing we couldn’t fly out to be with Mom and him because of the pandemic and lockdown restrictions. As he had to be sedated, we weren’t even able to say goodbye to him by phone or video chat, to let him know how much we loved him and how we were going to miss him. It’s like torture, I am haunted by the thought that if it weren’t for the pandemic, we would have been on a plane already the moment he was brought to hospital. It feels like some minion of Fate is mocking me, playing a cruel joke and enjoying my grief and misery.

Some say parenting is more art than science as there isn’t an exact formula or method to the process. Good thing you’re an artist at heart, Dad

It is one year from Dad’s passing and strangely, Metro Manila is still once again under MECQ. I still haven’t found closure. I miss Dad a lot and whenever his name is mentioned and something is written about him, I tear up and I think all of us do. I still grieve for his loss, as I’m sure the rest of the family likewise continue to do so in our own ways, fractured from each other and stuck in our respective isles of isolation.

Sharing these thoughts and feelings is I guess one way I deal with the loss and this grief I continue to feel. I know there are many around the world who find themselves in similar or somewhat related situations, grieving for a loss in the family from far, far away, waiting to be able to take that journey home to pay their final respect. I think this is a common and indelible feature of the human race, the need to properly mourn and pay respects a departed loved one. I sometimes take small comfort in the words of Helen Keller:

“We bereaved are not alone. We belong to the largest company in all the world—the company of those who have known suffering.”

In the meantime, I will continue to carry the hole in my heart created by your departure from this world Dad, and fill it with the pleasant memories I have of you.

It already has been a year,

Sense of grief is always there,

The loss and its pain,

Continues to remain,

Life needs to move on somehow,

But it doesn’t have to be now,

In time this grief will be a small part,

Tucked in some corner of my heart.

©moiragallaga

We saw this while we were in Istanbul in December, and we were already sobbing by the time the movie got to this part. That cane was like a part of him, I guess the tribute used it to symbolize the mark he left in this world. Farewell Dad, and I would like to think that you are now busy exploring the worlds you created.