He will never come back, that’s the only thing I’m certain of. I know that no matter how much I long for Papa, no matter how many times I pray, and no matter how many times I play his favorite songs, I will never see him again.
Death does leave a permanent void to those left behind.
Maybe I was fooling myself when I told my friends that I was prepared for what was bound to happen to Papa. Despite all the signs, no amount of preparation is enough for saying goodbye to one of the reasons you’re alive.
When Papa was diagnosed with lung cancer, everything was put on hold. The days became uncertain. He lost his vigor and his body weakened as months passed. Online articles, my neighbors’ stories, and even my college professor all said the same thing: Lung cancer patients have a life span of up to six months. It was a piece of harsh information that never escaped my mind after I visited a cancer-specialized website that Papa’s doctor had advised me to check.
We were told the diagnosis in October 2011. It meant May 2012 was going to be a dreadful month for my family. Papa was able to finish a cycle of chemotherapy (six sessions). The sessions ended last March, and then he was advised to undergo a CT scan.
I thought everything would be okay again after the chemotherapy, but it didn’t go as planned. Papa’s body did not respond to the treatment; complication after complication occurred. Papa knew what was happening, which worsened his condition. He lost hope despite everyone urging him to pray and maintain a positive outlook. He used to ask me if he had a great chance of surviving. At times, he’d tell me that he could no longer endure the pain, and that he knew he wouldn’t get better. There were times when he would stay in one position all day because if he tried to move, he would soon gasp for air. We could not bring him outdoors because he was too frail, and when he took a bath, a tiny oxygen tank would be on standby.
It pained me to see him that way. I knew he was suffering because he put himself last just so he could provide for us. He did everything a selfless provider would do, to the extent of missing out on appointments with his doctors. He even refused to spend money for himself despite his illness.
Came the month of May, and Nanay and I were always worried. There were days when Papa felt better, and days when he couldn’t even move. We prayed together every night that he would gain enough strength to withstand a trip to the hospital to schedule him for more chemotherapy. We didn’t want him to undergo more sessions in such a bad state because it would have been too risky and we didn’t want to put his life in danger.
His doctors kept telling us that chemotherapy was not the cure for cancer. They kept saying that all we could do was hope for a miracle.
We never failed to include Papa in our nightly prayers. We never lost hope. We remained strong in front of him no matter how much it pained us to see him struggle each day.
We got through the month of May and somehow, it made me think that my family would get through this ordeal. I even found an article saying cancer patients could live up to eight months. “Two more months with Papa,” I told myself.
On the first Saturday of June, Papa’s colleagues came to visit. They talked about the times when Papa was healthy and recounted funny stories of him. Before they left, they prayed for him. One of them advised me to call a priest to hear Papa’s confession.
After they left, I immediately went to our parish church. The next day, the first Sunday of June, the priest came and anointed Papa. Nanay told me that Papa felt so much better afterwards. But come the evening, he felt like giving up again.
I watched him from afar as he slept. I waited until he opened his eyes and called my name. He said he wanted to pee, so I assisted him and opened the new pack of wet wipes I had bought. I kept on telling him that he would soon feel better. I kept on talking because if I stopped, I knew that my tears would eventually fall and I didn’t want him to see me cry.
He asked me for a hug—the first time he did so in a very long time. I gladly obliged. I wanted to hug him tight but I was afraid that if I did, it might affect his breathing. I hugged him briefly. I was crying as I rested my head on his back, quietly so he wouldn’t notice. I started rubbing his back but he told me to stop and asked for a hug again. I couldn’t do so because I was afraid my tears would wet his shirt, so I asked him to hug me instead. He put his thin and weightless arm on my shoulder but it immediately slipped and fell, and he didn’t move again. He was so weak. When Nanay came, I left the room to wipe my tears and stayed outside.
That same night, Papa asked my two little brothers to hug him as well. Nanay told my brothers to ask for Papa’s forgiveness for the things they had done that might have hurt his feelings. She also asked Papa to forgive her. I can’t imagine how I would have behaved had I been present during that moment.
When I returned, they were all crying. My Ninong, Papa’s youngest brother, kept saying that Papa would soon feel better. But it was evident on his face that he didn’t want to cry in front of Papa, which was why he chose to scold Papa for supposedly being overly emotional.
Because of everything that occurred that night, Nanay told me and my brothers to sleep in the same room with Papa so we could keep an eye on him. We took turns in assisting Papa during the night.
In the morning, Nanay’s loud cry awakened me. I jumped out of bed and stared at Papa. Nanay kept saying that he was no longer breathing but I kept insisting that he was just sleeping. I put my hand on his chest. His heart seemed to have stopped beating but he took a deep breath—his last breath—which made me think that he was still with us. I reached for his hand and called him. He didn’t reply. I pulled at his hand but there was no response. I didn’t know what to do. I kept calling him. Nanay was crying by my side. She told me to call my brothers who were then busy preparing for school. I rushed out of the room and called them both. It was 5 a.m.
When the three of us got back, we saw Nanay crying as she held Papa’s lifeless body.
Months have passed since that painful day. I will never feel Papa’s hug again. I will never see him waiting by the door again. I will never see his tummy bouncing as he danced to Train’s “Hey Soul Sister” again. I will never taste his cooking during weekends again. I will never hear him say how proud he was that I’m his daughter again.
Things will never be the same again. Everything I have grown accustomed to is now just a memory.
I know Papa is happy wherever he is. I hope that he felt loved by everyone when he was still with us. I never imagined this would happen to us, that those hugs were Papa’s subtle way of saying goodbye.
I miss you so much, Papa.
Dairen Mosqueda, 21, is a graduate of Far Eastern University, where she wrote news articles for its official publication, the FEU Advocate. She works as a copy editor at Toppan Best-Set Premedia Ltd.