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Being Parentless: the Two Lolas and the Circumstances of their Deaths

It's inevitable. One of these days, we'll all have to come to terms with the fact that we are truly alone, deprived of the hand that fed us, the mouth that made us who we are, the people that truly kept us from going over the edge. We'll have other loved ones around us, but nothing, nothing can replace the love of a parent for a child.

I remember two years ago of the events when my paternal grandmother died. The four Cruz siblings - my ate Yeyey, who commuted in from Singapore, my kuya Migs, my ate Carina, and myself - were caught unawares (death kinda does that) by my lola's passing, especially because my dad was at the time incarcerated in Makati Medical Center, recovering from a failed attempt to put his large intestines back together (he's been living with a colostomy bag ever since). We didn't have the heart to tell him, especially since it was early in the morning, I was supposed to be at school, and his blood pressure at the time was unexpectedly high.

My sisters were eventually able to tell him later on, but that was the start of a series of nightmares for us kids. This was, technically, our first attempt at handling a burial, since my mother was in Spain and was in no position to give us a hand. We all knew my dad had a plan regarding my lola Pacing's internment, but we didn't know what it was, or where the documents were. We were able to keep things together, though, and the entire ordeal pushed through without a hitch; in fact, people were amazed at how we managed the whole business.

Just a few hours ago, my maternal grandmother passed away as well. It was expected, since her health hasn't been anything too great for the past few years, from what we've been hearing (she lives in Canada with my aunts), but any death in the family is still a pretty difficult blow.

It's as if history's repeating itself, since just recently, my mother suffered an ischemic stroke. She is presently recovering, hopefully recovering well, and is undergoing speech and physical therapy for the right side of her body (her wrist and hand, to be precise). But one can only imagine the emotional pressure of being told of a parent's passing, more so since she is in no position to either express her deepest sorrows except by crying, or to travel to Canada to attend her mother's own funeral.

In hindsight, this pretty much mirrors the hardships my dad had to go through when Lola Pacing died. Now, on the death of Mama Ding, it is my mother's turn to show just how steadfast her character is. One can only pray for the best, especially since one is technically three thousand miles away from her bedside, at least for the rest of October.

Both of my grandmothers were pianists, and teachers at that. Lola Pacing was a virtuoso, a student of the piano ever since she could walk straight, going to extreme lengths to perfect the craft, purposely cutting the webbing between her thumb and forefinger in order to extend the reaches of her somewhat smallish hands. She taught piano at the UP Conservatory for most of her adult life, and retired to a life of one-on-one piano lessons (of which I participated in as a child) at our home in Pandacan.

Mama Ding, on the other hand, was a mestiza of rather noble descent, a product of the Medrano knights of Spain, and was a fantastic cook. Her piano skills were at par with my other grandmother's (they often bickered about it, as I remember), and taught, even way past her retirement, in Concordia College at Santa Ana, Manila. I don't really remember much of her, since I was a kid when they left for Canada, but I remember the stories of when her husband, my grandfather Papa Ton, was withering away due to a muscular disorder that eventually took his life. Mama Ding was never the healthiest person, due to a rather serious onset of type II diabetes, and had always been cared for by Papa Ton, but she took up the task of caring for her husband when his health began to fail him.

To my grandmothers, cheers to the two of you, and may the heavens ring with your concertos, now that the two of you are together.

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