When I was young, my parents both worked overseas. Although I remember having them around for some time during my childhood years, it was actually my maternal grandparents who stood as my guardians. I stayed with them in our family home until I finished 1st grade and went with my parents in the Middle East to continue my studies and to finally be with my parents. My grandfather, whom I call Papa, passed away 17 years ago. He was 84.
My grandmother, whom I call Mama, stayed in our family home with house maids while we were abroad. I came back to the Philippines and in the arms of my Mama in 2003 to study in the university. Mama was still in great shape during that time and can even move around and about the house. It was in summer of 2005 when she had her first and only mild stroke. I still vividly remember the scenario. I was upstairs in my bedroom, having just woke up after coming from ‘alay lakad’ the night before as penance for the holy week, our house maid, Ate Ana called me to come down because they couldn’t open Mama’s bathroom door. She was in the bathroom taking a shower with doors locked. Luckily, our house help’s husband was at home and it him who heard Mama calling out for help. I was asking Mama to help us open the door but she just replied she can’t open it and when Kuya Toto looked inside through the bathroom window, he saw Mama on the floor. This was when we started to panic. I was shaking when I was talking to her on the other side of the bathroom door, asking her how she is feeling and to stay awake, while Kuya Toto was getting the hammer to open the door. When we finally opened the door, she was on the floor under the sink. I tried to help her up but couldn’t as Mama was on the heavier side, so Kuya Toto did it. I didn’t waste time and immediately took her to the nearest hospital for tests. She was 83 that time so incidents like this should not be ignored. She was diagnosed to have had a mild stroke.
After that incident, the right side of her body, particularly her right leg and arm, became weak. As the years passed, after having to walk with a cane, she then had to be assisted by one of the maids to stand up, sit down, and walk. Years passed and she was generally fine aside from occasional difficulty in breathing and UTIs. She had her maintenance medicine for hypertension and ate well. She always like sweet and cold food or drinks. But due to old age, she became weaker every passing year. Sometime last year, she had stopped walking. She used to walk at least from her bedroom, to the living room, to the garage in the morning and back in the afternoon. They had to use a wheel chair to mobilize her. The amount of her food intake also decreased as time passed. My mom had decided to finally go back home early last year to take care of my grandmother. She regretted not being there for my grandfather when he became sick and passed away so she did not want it to happen again. In November, they had to take her for checkup because Mama was complaining of difficulty in breathing. Her tests were all good. Just about a month back or so, I found out from my mom that she had to mash/blend my grandma’s food just so she can eat. I was always telling my mom that they should arrange to have my grandmother checked up just to see if she is still in good shape despite her age. They did take her to the hospital for checkup in late April and again was discharged for being okay.
On 9th of May, my dad told me that he spoke to mom and they would be taking my grandmother to the hospital in the morning because she is now unable to drink. I felt alarmed and sent my mom a private message in Facebook telling her to find a way to take Mama that night to the hospital as she might get dehydrated. She was confined that night in St. Vincent Hospital in Marikina, Concepcion. We stayed in contact from then on regarding Mama as her condition seemed to be getting worst. Dad and I spoke and decided we’ll fly home over the weekend. But that seemed to be too late as my mom asked me to come home as soon as possible. Mama was deteriorating fast. I asked permission from my supervisor on Tuesday, 13th May, if I could take an emergency leave the following day until next week and explained the situation. I wanted to fly out that night but my husband wouldn’t let me travel with Lucio alone. I decided to wait until Wednesday evening in hopes that either my dad or him (or both) would be free to travel with me. I was restless because I know every second counts.. I know my grandmother was just waiting for me. My dad, Lucio and I were able to travel home on Wednesday night and arrived in Manila on Thursday evening. I was able to see Mama and talk to her. She was no longer responding and only her eyes would move once in a while. My mom and her sister decided to request to have the oxygen mask removed the following morning and let Mama have her rest. But even before they were able to do that, Mama left us quietly. She passed away on 15th May at 6 in the morning at the age of 92.
During the funeral, I somehow felt relieved that she is in a quiet place now, no longer suffering. I was just happy that she witnessed my wedding and saw her great grandson. I am also at peace that I was able to see her, hold her, kiss her and tell her that I love her in the nick of time. But sadness still lingers in my heart when I think that the house won’t be the same without her. After the funeral, I stepped inside her bedroom and strings tugged at my heart. I couldn’t stay long seeing her bed and packs of her unused adult diapers. When coming home and entering the living room, it felt different not seeing her there waiting for us to arrive from wherever we came from. I will miss hugging her, tickling her, kissing her and just calling out “Mama!” just because. Memories of her and our time together will remain in my heart. And I’ll be telling my son and future children the stories I have of her. “Que Sera Sera”.
RIP – Justina R. Rimando | 22 September 1922 – 15 May 2015