What good would Christmas be without you, Papa? How can we enjoy the Noche Buena without seeing your face light up at the sight of your favorite crab or Chinese ham? How can I sing carols when you are not at the choir singing your heart out, albeit softly, on bass? How can we pose for our Christmas family photo without you there beaming with joy and pride to be with your children and grandchildren?
I am wallowing in pain and fear. It is the first Christmas without you, and I have been missing you terribly since cancer took you away from us last May. I am afraid that this fear may paralyze me, and I will not be able to feel the merriment in Christmas. The truth is it will never be the same without you.
By now you would have been done nagging Mama to buy Christmas presents for your grandchildren and godchildren. I would ask you, “What about me, Papa? What’s your gift for me?” And your reply would be: “You’re too old to want Christmas gifts from your parents. And besides, you already have a job.” I would have been annoyed but would forgive you anyway because, well, you have a point.
I have been busy attending Christmas parties and exchanging gifts with colleagues and friends. But at night before going to sleep, it dawns on me that all I want for Christmas is to hug you tight, to talk to you, to feel your presence, and to tell you I love you.
“Pasko na naman, ngunit wala ka pa/ Hanggang kailan kaya ako maghihintay sa iyo?/ Bakit ba naman kailangang lumisan pa?/ Tanging hangad ko lang ay makapiling ka.”
It’s funny how Jimmy Borja’s Christmas classic means so much to me now. With Papa gone, is there a reason to celebrate the holidays?
I want to believe there is, and with prayers and God’s grace, I am slowly able to banish the negative. I hold on to the poem “Death is nothing at all” by Henry Scott Holland: “Whatever we are to each other, that we are still./ Laugh as we always laughed at the little jokes we enjoyed together./ Play, smile, think of me, pray for me.”
I know Papa would love to see us as a complete and happy family this Christmas. You may be gone, Papa, but your memory remains. And we will always relive our happy moments. You are not here, but I will see you smile when your apo Dale opens his gifts on Christmas Day. I will feel your excitement overflowing and remember you as the happiest man in the room.
This Christmas, I will try my best to focus on life, not death, on hope, not fear. I will remember that Christmas is about the birth of our Savior Jesus Christ, the ultimate expression of God’s love and grace for humankind. I will seek peace in knowing that Papa is with the Son of God now: No more sorrow, just eternal happiness and salvation.
“Kahit wala ka na nangangarap at umaasa pa rin ako/ Muling makita ka, at makasama ka sa araw ng Pasko.”
Fatima Reyes, 26, is a resource mobilization officer for Childhope Asia Philippines.
Editorial cartoon, December 23, 2017