Tuesday, December 20, 2011

2nd Pops-less Christmas

This will be our second Christmas without my Pops. I miss him very much especially during this season.  He had always been our Christmas designer at home: he assembled and decorated the Nativity Scene and Christmas tree; decked our veranda with a star-shaped lantern made of bamboo, Japanese paper and surround it with rice lights.  He made sure that you could feel the Christmas spirit in our home as early as first week of December.

Last year, we still decorated our home but it was very minimal--not as much as Pops did. Since he passed away early September last year, my mother and I also opted to celebrate Christmas eve at my sister's place as it was really gloomy and forlorn at home. It was never the same sans my Pops.
This year, however, I pledged myself to enliven up our home with the same decors that Pops used during the past Christmases that we had with him. His red lantern now hangs in our front porch filled with lights. Glittering gold, green and red garlands that he used for our Christmas tree now adorned our screen door. 

Though Pops is no longer around, I know that wherever he is (I believe he's in heaven with Jesus), he's happy to see that his lantern hangs brightly in our front porch. It's Christmas once again in our home.  Merry Christmas, Pops. Happy birthday, Lord Jesus!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Pops' First and Last Banner

In January 2006, we celebrated Pops' 70th birthday. It was the grandest celebration I had ever organized and managed in my entire life.  No stones were left unturned to make it a very memorable occasion. Banner, 70 balloons, wines, cake, & lots of food! It was held at my friend's restaurant, Vieux Chalet, in Antipolo City, east of Manila. I asked Pops to invite his very close friends from way back his RCC (Republic Cement Corporation, his first employer) days in late '50s.  Three of his best pals, together with their wives, went to celebrate Pops' special day. Family, church friends and relatives were also there.

Our family picture during Pops' 70th birthday at Vieux Chalet in Antipolo City, January 2006.
One of my sisters, Nenette, is not in this pic. She lives in the US.
Four years later (September 2010), the banner we used for his 70th birthday was the same one we hang at his wake.  This time, not as a reminder of another year of his life, but of his final day on earth. It was posted strategically at the entrance of the funeral chapel, near the snacks & coffee bar.  Pops' happy face welcomed every visitor with a sweet smile that portrayed his contented and calm demeanor during his senior years.  His banner became our "photo wall" where many of those who mourned with us posed for some photo ops with "Pops"...for the last time.
Pops' same banner became our photo wall at his wake. September 2010
Pops' 9th day memorial, Sept. 15, 2010

(To this very day I am very thankful to the Lord for giving me persistence, patience, and love to convince my parents, especially Pops, to celebrate his 70th birthday. I am also forever grateful to some of my dearest friends, who made Pops' banner: Toto the Artist, who unselfishly shared his talents by making the layout, and; Orange Lim, who printed it on tarpaulin, free of charge, as his "gift" to Pops.)

We've used Pops' banner in all his post-mortem memorials: ninth day, 40th day, and first anniversary. It may have been rolled away and stored after his death anniversary, but his smile will remain in my heart and mind as long as I live.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Pops and the Doorbell in my room

When I started working as a Virtual Assistant (mid-November 2008), my bedroom had also became my workplace. And since our bedrooms are at the second floor, my parents had to holler my name "Leaaaaaaaaaaaaaa!" from downstairs whenever they need my help or just to call me at dinner time.

It was almost Christmas, Pops and Inang were going to the mall to buy groceries. Pops asked me what Christmas gift I wanted.  "Doorbell," I said. "Why a doorbell?" Pops asked me. "So that you don't have to shout whenever you call me while I'm working in my room."

Guess what? I got my wish! :-)

Saturday, September 24, 2011

An email in behalf of Pops

It was January 2010 when Pops had some health issues; he had difficulty walking, gait problem, and memory lapses. That same month (also his birth month, born January 19, 1936) was his first of three hospital confinements prior to his demise. Changes in his behavior and physical health were becoming obvious. This was an e-mail I wrote to Pops' siblings and relatives, in appreciation for their support and at the same time, requesting for more understanding, patience and encouragement. Pops' siblings responded by giving him, and us, his family, all the love and support they could extend as they journeyed with us throughout those trying times.    
Dear Kamag-anak Inc.,

As many of you had already known, our Pops (Susing) was hospitalized last month (Jan 22-25, UERM) due to diabetic neuropathy and myopathy.   To all those who came to visit him, in behalf of our family (Inang, Ate & Kuya Vic, Nenette, Lita, Pam, Hans & me), we thank you for your presence and presents, which really helped us a lot, especially Pops. We really appreciate it, especially your presence, which encouraged Pops to get well and try hard to recover from his illness.

May pakiusap lamang po kami sa inyong lahat: 

Now that he is on his way to recovery, aside from your continued prayers, please be careful po when talking with him, especially pagdating sa alaskahan. Due to the medications that he is taking, he is having depression and mood swings, some of its side effects. (Lyrica, try to google it.)   Kaya, please po, we request you to be more sensitive towards Pops.   More than anything, he needs encouragement from all of us.

His limited mobility also affected his activities thus he couldn't go out on his own.   He hasn't fully regained his balance and his neurologist also told us not to leave him alone.   Kaya, Inang and I take turns in keeping him company.

SA MGA KAPATID NIYA, Tito Mon, Ninang Lina, Tito Pito, and Toots: ngayon lang po ako makikiusap ng ganito sa inyo : please try to call Pops kahit once a week.   Yung mga nasa ibang bansa, kahit po once a month (or 2 months), 5 minutes lang, that won't cost so much. (Our landline is -------.)   Give him words of encouragement. Words are not enough to describe how much you make him happy kapag nakausap niya kayo sa telepono.   He may not be as articulate as you are, but often when you call him, after hanging up, I could hear him say, "Mahal ako ng (mga) kapatid ko. Tinawagan ako." I'm not asking you to visit us here kasi po alam kong malayo ang bahay namin pero Metro Manila line naman po kami, so walang cost sa phone calls (except for those abroad).   I don't know how you all grew up together, pero kung me pagkukulang po siya sa inyo noon, please find it in your heart to forgive and understand him now.   He did the best he could in the way that he knew how to be a big brother to you.   He needs your love and understanding now more than ever.

His doctor also told us he has dementia (google nyo na lang), which will be scheduled for treatment after his diabetic myopathy and neuropathy. In his case, the cause is, as his MRI results showed, an arachnoid cyst was found on the left side of his brain, doon sa portion where the seat of memory is. Some of you may have noticed na minsan paulit-ulit siya magtanong. That was our main purpose for consulting a neurologist. He was given a drug for it but it has adverse effects on him.   And since he is having medications for his neuropathy/myopathy, the doctor said one treatment at a time because the drugs might have side effects, it will be hard to pinpoint which one is the culprit.   Besides, it's part of aging na rin daw. Una-una lang. Let's all pray na hindi kayo magkaganito.

So, we ask for your understanding and compassion. Pag paulit-ulit po ang tanong, please be patient with him, ulitin nyo na lang uli ang sagot at huwag po kayong maiinis.   He is very sensitive these days too, may mga mood swings brought about by the drugs and his depression. And please continue to pray for his complete healing and recovery.

God bless our families,

Friday, September 23, 2011

Pops and the triumph of the human spirit

My sister Sr. Lita, me, Inang and Pops proudly displaying
our collection of academic medals. Pops has always encouraged
us to excel in school.
I missed watching the Miss Universe 2011 coronation night. My gosh!  Where in the world was I? While millions of people around the world were hooked on their TV sets cheering for their countries' bets, I was obliviously busy at work in front of my computer.  A day before I read  in one of those online newspapers that it would be Miss U the next day.  Oh, well, I totally forgot!  Thank heavens, for the internet...and facebook, that's where I saw my friends' posts that Miss Philippines made it to top 5. Yay!  I hit "Most Recent" and then came the big news-- Miss Angola was crowned Miss Universe and our very own Shamcey Supsup was 3rd runner-up.

If Pops were still here (and healthy the way he used to be), I (we) wouldn't have missed the Miss U. He loves watching beauty pageants and he'd have his own bets too, aside from our country's very own candidate. He's also fond of watching awards shows on TV. He would even stay up late at night just to finish a local film fest awards night every December. In the morning, I would ask him, "Who won?", he would simply give us a rundown of last night's winners.

Pops was an avid sports fan, too.  It's a routine for him turn on the TV at 4:00 in the afternoon to watch basketball, volleyball or boxing.  International sports competitions such as the summer Olympics, Asian Games, SEA Games, and boxing title fights, especially Manny Pacquiao bouts, were in his mental calendar of events to watch. And he would remember those dates!

April 1988, our V-day. Our family graduation picture. 
Looking forward to and watching beauty pageants, awards nights and sports events was his way of celebrating the triumph of the human spirit.  As I see it, while watching these shows, he was reminiscing the days when he himself was rejoicing over the victories of our family. He'd never miss school recognition and graduation days.  Many of our old photos would show Pops pinning our ribbons or medals during those special events. He has always encouraged us to excel  and actively participate in school activities. 

My parents, Pops and Inang, ordinary employees that they were, told us that education is the greatest legacy they could give us. It was their ultimate dream that we all finish our college education and become degree holders.  We'd been through hard times but we all endured. In April 1988, their dream became a reality. My youngest sister Lita and I graduated from college! To capture our family's moment of triumph, we went to a studio and had our graduation picture taken. A big framed version of it is proudly displayed in our home. :-)

Beauty pageants, awards nights and sports events...more often than not, I'd miss watching them.  But the one who I would always miss the most is my Pops.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Crossing Over...Silently...Peacefully

...that's how my father Jesus Cabigao Santos (whom we fondly call "Pops", "Amang" or "Popty-Wopty") met his Creator on Sept. 07, 2010.

He was bedridden for almost four months before he finally succumbed to cardio-pulmonary arrest and overall system failure brought about by his brain lesions. MRI results said it was primary CNS lymphoma but we are not sure if it really was because we never submitted Pops to any further invasive procedures such as biopsy or lumbar tap due to risk factors that go with these. His oncologist recommended radiation treatment. In fact, she gave Pops a referral to a radiation oncologist, who was supposed to determine if he could still undergo the treatment. But we opted not to submit him to further treatment as there were so many co-morbid conditions like his age, diabetes type 2, etc.  Our family chose to have palliative care for him at home.

When we brought him home last June 13 (feast day of St. Anthony), the only thing unusual about Pops' look was the feeding tube inserted in his right nostril which goes down to his stomach. That's the only way we could feed him because he doesn't wake up anymore even if he wants to. He couldn't do anything.  That's how bad Pops' massive brain lesions, which were situated in the frontal lobe, affected him: he couldn't move, talk, or even blink.  The last time he talked was June 4 and his last words were counting one to 10--not voluntarily--I even had to prompt him to talk using my fingers as visual aids.

Our humble home became a mini-ICU (Intensive Care Unit) during the latter part of his sick days (though sans the complicated heart machine and respirator). Pops had a total of four (4) life-support lines attached to different parts of his body: an IV line on his left hand, a feeding tube and oxygen line in his nostrils, and a foley catheter.  His neurologist sent us home to prevent Pops from contracting hospital-acquired infections which would aggravate his condition. Well, he actually did get pneumonia at the hospital and had to stay for another week of antibiotic treatment before being sent home.

Every thing had to be done at home. My youngest sister--a nun--and I became nurses and caregivers overnight. We had to learn tubefeeding and pushing mannitol, changing diapers, bathing, turning Pops from his side to the other, dressing his bedsores, injecting insulin, and a whole lot more. My mother was our pillar of strength during all these trying days. She would do all the household chores plus took her turn in watching over Pops in the wee hours of the morning.

Through it all, until his last day on earth, Pops laid there silently...by God's grace, he endured his sickness peacefully and painlessly. None of the doctors who treated him were conclusive if it was really brain cancer. Even his neurologist said that Pops didn't look like a cancer patient. He was just "sleeping".