“To suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune…”
I’ve been mulling over that phrase a lot lately. I never quite understood what it meant until now.
I lost my father to lung cancer and my husband to a heart attack within a few months of each other the past year.
Add work setbacks, a car accident, my mother’s medical emergency and the death of two friends to the slings and arrows and it was almost too outrageous a year to take. So much so that when Covid finally hit what remained of our family... it was anti-climactic.
My Dad was brilliant and I was his proud daughter. I cannot forget an incident in Vienna, when a tour guide was so amazed that Papa could explain Latin phrases on the monuments and knew Trotsky and Tolstoy and a slew of historical anecdotes, that he asked me, “Who is this learned man from the Philippines?”
Famously loud and larger than life, Papa lost his voice in his final months and became so frail that his clothes were literally falling off his back. His transformation was quick and gut-wrenching to watch. But the cancer gave us enough time to say goodbye.
My husband was gone in what felt like an instant. One sunny, seemingly ordinary morning, I watched him work out on the treadmill and saw him off to work. The next moment, he was gone.
We were both almost 40 when we met. To mark the miracle of having found each other – if a tad bit late - we each had half a heart tattooed on our arms on our wedding day. The heart would only become whole when we were beside each other. We had just begun living our "happily ever after."
To mark the miracle of having found each other – if a tad bit late - we each had half a heart tattooed on our arms on our wedding day. The heart would only become whole when we were beside each other.
He was as solid and brave as real-life heroes come… a true gentleman, the kind of husband who quietly protects his wife and takes care of his family and community… old school cool in so many ways.
While I’d never dreamt of being a mom, his greatest dream was to be a dad. He grew up without a father and wanted our kid to experience all the love he himself had missed out on. Our home was full of hugs and laughter as he led our son through pillow fights and basic chess and Filipino assignments that would turn into comedy sessions. The hubby loved big bike expeditions – but he gave these up so we could go on family adventures together.
We were literally the happiest (not to mention most mobile) people I knew in the midst of a pandemic. Why God had to take him so early will always be a mystery.
His death marked the end of life as we knew it. I had to remember how to do simple things like put a spoon in my mouth to eat, make our bed or spell out his name for the death certificate. I had to remind myself to breathe at certain points.
Sleep was hard to come by as I could hear the doubly heartbreaking sound of our little boy crying himself to sleep beside me. Our son couldn’t verbalize the trauma but he changed – from this absolutely silly, happy child who adored his Dad – to a quiet, intense boy who won’t share his feelings, who no longer even says "I love you."
And so I’ve been thinking about death a lot lately. I’ve been thinking a lot about life. About what the point of it all is. Why my husband is gone. Why I am still here. Why it sometimes hurts too much to bear.
I see myself printing out billings for the shop I knew nothing about, counting out payroll, worrying about enrollment and insurance and internet problems... all the stuff the hubby used to handle so I wouldn’t get stressed.
Still, I look into my son’s sad eyes and know, I have to live my best life for him. I watch my Mama suddenly weak from open heart surgery and think, Papa would want me to be strong for her. I’m the only sibling left in the country to take care of her, it's all on me now.
My world that used to revolve around work and ratings and coming up with the next big thing now revolves around trying to keep myself and what remains of our family sane. And when it still makes no sense, I simply get up and seize the day with my son. We swim, we race, we dive into the unknown. We stay out in the sun till we turn several shades of orange.
And when it still makes no sense, I simply get up and seize the day with my son. We swim, we race, we dive into the unknown.
I could remain a sad, dazed victim just waiting for the next arrow of misfortune to finish me off. But instead, I will myself to live.