Journal entry August 19, 2012
Just recently Tita Janet, one of our benefactors and friend here in the novitiate lost her mother Mommy Lourdes. It happened the same day when ate Len, our choir conductor lost her father. I wonder how these great women are coping up.
We first went to Tita Janet ready for a requiem mass, all the brothers prepared early after dinner. When we arrived at the memorial chapel all her family members were there (all Chinese), we found out that the body of her mom was not yet there. It was still at the morgue and that they have to wait for 8 hours as prescribed by their Chinese Buddhist relatives before they can take it out. It was already late in the evening so we decided to go home at go back the following day for the mass.
When we returned, the wake looked like a scene in one of the Chinese themed movies that we saw. There were Chinese characters in calligraphy printed on long sheets of white paper placed on the walls. Chinese banners also hang on the hall. There was a corner where they fold small sheets of paper which they said were paper money to be burned so that the dead can carry and use it in the afterlife. There were fruits, Chinese soup, tea and Chinese cakes placed in a small table as offering and incense burning continually at the side of the chapel which they said has to be lit until the last day of the wake. At the side of the coffin lies a big paper house. It was elaborately designed and comes with maid servants, a car with a driver and a horse drawn carriage. They said that it was all needed by their mother for the afterlife as advised by their relatives. Tita Janet’s family was Catholics but felt obliged to follow their Chinese tradition in reverence for their dead. I felt a deep sense of love for their mother because as what they had said, they made such preparations and followed the Buddhist rites so their mother will not have a hard afterlife. It was for me a showcase of love that goes beyond life.
On the same day in the afternoon, we went to Ate Len for the requiem mass of his father. In contrary with Tita Janet’s family who decided to hold the wake in the big mortuary, hers was held in their house. We were greeted by the laughter of the family members playing joke with each other as they prepare for the mass. They actually prepared a 9 day novena service for their reposed father, complete with response and song sheets. I saw their love and reverence for their father as they share stories with their relatives, tapping each other’s shoulders and making sure that everyone eats something before leaving the wake.
Just before leaving, Ate Len showed us pictures of his father. He said that they were preparing for his birthday, it would be a big family celebration but he died days before that day came. Now, they share stories about their father with smiles on their faces and laughter in their hearts. One strong family indeed.
The following day, we were invited to the 79th birthday celebration of Tito Jame’s Ima, mother. We were treated with a beautiful and bountiful feast. There were big prawns, fish fillet, cakes, coffee and food to our hearts content. What was even more amazing was that Ima was so happy with the celebration in their house even if she cannot remember why and what were they celebrating. Alzheimer struck Ima. It shows in the stories she tells, statements she makes which were incongruity with one another. There was a time she would say that she will give us money, everyone present in the party. Maybe perhaps, Ima was really generous way back or maybe because his son Tito James and his family gave all that Ima could ever wanted. I felt that it was out of love that they made a big party and celebrated Ima’s birthday. She may not have known it was her birthday but they celebrated it anyway. In her happiness, she would sing and dance cha-cha and would invite us to join her.
Tita Tess made her a beautiful cake. In the cake decorations, there were fruits wrapped in paper. She told me that Ima would wrap fruits and say that it was for her children but would forget where she placed it. She was very much like my Mama Luz, always wrapping something for her children. It is true that the mind may forget but the heart remembers.