I’m awash with grief.
And I must apologize beforehand to anybody who would be reading this post. Sorry for putting a damper on the festivities.
Anyway… it came about like this:
Ten months ago, the woman who used to tend my brother’s grave died of bone cancer and other complications.
The death of my brother had made her family and mine close over the years, and there were numerous moments we’d spend sitting by my brother’s grave talking of life, of death, of the preciousness of our loved ones and the necessity of telling them how much we love them while we are still alive, lest we run out of time because we are suddenly invited to a one-way, all-expense-paid holiday with the Grim Reaper.
Now, this woman was quite rough on the edges. She used to bawl out instructions and reprimands (often reprimands and threats of bodily harm, although never carried out) to her assorted family members who usually romped around the cemetery, using the gravestones and the usual bric-a-brac of the memorial park for their kiddy enjoyment, and she usually was unkempt, hair reenacting World War II, face smudged with mud, and clothes furred with Bermuda grass, after spending the entire day cutting cemetery grass and scrubbing the gravestones to earn a living. And yet… I would say that she was always full of love and generosity; gentleness, even.
This morning, I went to the cemetery with my mother and Tata, Faith, and Tata’s father. The woman’s husband was there. After all those months since his wife died, he still looked shell-shocked and lost — like anyone who would after losing someone so dear to them. Still, he managed to smile and converse with us about mundane things. Nevertheless, his aching and loneliness borne out of his wife’s death made it unavoidable for him to insert snippets of what was once were his wife’s habits, her usual reactions to things, and her general take on life.
As he talked of how, in their thirty-three years of marriage, he has never seen anybody as forgiving and as gentle as the woman for whom he left his former job as a chemist (the wife told me about it some years ago) early in their marriage. That for the thirty-three years they were together, there was peace and harmony in their home. That he was always pampered, a ready steaming cup of coffee always at hand after a long day’s work, the kids well-fed and happy, the grandchildren growing up with potentially good manners.
He told us of how, in the last days of his wife, he took her for a drive all over the nearby towns, visiting their favorite and memorable places… for her, it was for the last time. for him, it was as a desperate bid that it wasn’t going to be the final road trip they will take together as a couple.
But the Moirae have already done their work; Clotho has stopped spinning her wheel. Lachesis has stopped her hand after a full width of measure. Finally, Atropos was already poised with the dreadful scissors. Time was slipping.
His wife’s illness progressed and made him sell their invested properties and several personal possessions at rock-bottom prices, just so he could buy the medicine that, although could alleviate the pain of the cancer, wasn’t any help at all in prolonging the life of his beloved.
She died on March 6 of this year. On her deathbed, she bade his husband farewell, asked him to come nearer so she could kiss him for the last time. She gave her final injuction, that time not bawling out as she usually did, but in the softest whisper of someone who hears Death calling her out the door.
He buried her in the grave supposedly reserved for himself. He made apologies, half to us and half to his wife’s spirit, that the gravestone was still temporary — he is a tombstone engraver by trade. He told us he was having a hard time carving out his beloved’s face on the black marble he chose for the grave marker. His final offering, a show of his love.
After his telling, the husband smiled. “Bernie,” he softly said, murmuring his wife’s name as a prayer. “She showed me what love is all about.”