Quiet Storm by Fr. Nicanor F. Lalog II, 26 July 2022
Today is supposed to be a day for grandparents being the Memorial of St. Joachim and St. Anna, the parents of the Blessed Virgin Mary – therefore, the lolo and lola of Jesus Christ. When my father Wilfredo was still alive, he would always tell as that if he had been a girl, he would have surely been named Anna because in 1932, it was only St. Anne who was celebrated with a feast in the Church.
Now you know, today is my dad’s 90th birthday but now that he is in heaven, I am sure they are no longer celebrating any birthdays at all for they are in eternity, forever happy and joyful, no more sufferings and pain.
It is us who are left behind who celebrate their birthdays here because despite the 22 years that have passed since his sudden death, the pain and emptiness have remained. That is the saddest and most difficult part in the death of a loved one: I cannot say we just get used to “it” because though he is absent, deep in my heart I could feel him present in me and with me.
Maybe that is what they call as healing – when we learn to live, find meaning in life, and most of all “mature in life” as we age hoping someday we would finally meet in eternity when we shall all be totally complete again, literally and figuratively speaking.
Lately as I age, I notice a marked change in me in remembering my dad when I see myself more in him and likewise see him more with me. Somehow, every day I have slowly realized that old age indeed is the final stage of human maturity with all of God’s bountiful blessings while it subtly reminds us of our own twilight too.
Maybe that is the reason why we mellow and become more spiritual as we get older. Our departed loved ones, especially with those we are closest with, continue to teach and guide us just like when we were kids. And stupid.
The more I look at my face every morning and see those wrinkles and lines topped with white hair, I get more convinced I look like my dad.
Anak nga ako ng tatay ko! – whatever that means.
Perhaps, like in the experience of St. Mary Magdalene, we learn to relate with our departed loved ones on a higher level, no longer physical but something spiritual and more personal.
Basta! It is difficult to explain but we move on with life, still limping and complete without them on our side yet we feel more intensely them with us at the “other side” looking at us, laughing or smiling at us, sometimes irritated or covering their face because of shame, but always loving us, believing in us.
And that is why for me, especially as a priest trying my very best to live my celibacy as faithfully as my dad had been as a husband to my mom, he has always been my inspiration in everything. In fact, he is always the one I think as my audience every time I write these blogs. Every Sunday, I imagine him one of those seated on the pew celebrating with me in our Mass, imagining how he would be bored or delighted with my homilies. And I am very sure of him, whether he liked or not my blogs and homilies, he would never tell me and just keep it to himself but would surely call his brother Arturo or sister Neneng or nieces Toots and Joji how he liked my stories and preaching.
A few years ago when I started blogging by relating a secular music with the Sunday gospel, I learned that David Gates of The Bread actually had his departed father – not his girlfriend at that time as inspiration in composing “Make It With You” in 1970.
During an interview at the peak of their success, Gates was asked of one more thing he would wish in life as they were so famous. He told the interviewer that he wished his dad were alive to experience his joys in having a successful career. And that was when he explained it was actually his father he was referring to in every line of their greatest song that was repackaged as a love song addressing it to a girl.
Hey, have you ever tried
Really reaching out for the other side?
I may be climbing on rainbows
But baby, here goes
Dreams, they’re for those who sleep
Life is for us to keep
And if you’re wondering what this song is leading to
I want to make it with you
I really think that we could make it, girl
Like Gates, that is one thing I have always wished for since my dad passed away 22 years ago: how I wished he had heard me for 16 years having regular programs at Radio Veritas to which he had always been glued to since the time of the late Fr. Ben Carreon; how I wished he could have visited me in my own parish when I finally became a parish priest; and now, how I wish he could see our beautiful University where I am the chaplain.
It is a grace to get old most especially when you have old folks to look up to, those who have gone ahead of us to eternity as we now approach its threshold too.
Life can be short or long
Love can be right or wrong
And if I chose the one I’d like to help me through
I’d like to make it with you
I really think that we could make it, girl.
By the way, my dad died on my mom’s birthday on June 17, 2000. I always say that’s a proof of how much my dad loved my mom so much, his birth into eternal life was my mom’s birthday. But, that is easier said than done because the reality is it was doubly hard for us losing our dad on my mom’s birthday. Especially for Mommy who had never been happy in life. And that fact makes his death more painful and even difficult for us.
My father loved my mother so much. Since childhood until I became a priest, he never ate without my mother with him at the table. He does her coffee and did all the cooking at home. Every Sunday was a feast with his pochero, chili con carne, mechado. Bulalo was our simplest fare that is why we all have gout too!
On the first two years since his death, I would ask him whenever I would visit his grave why did he die on mom’s birthday? Why that date when there are 364 other days?
After two years, I felt his answer: me and my mom had some LQ at that time and I did not go home for a month but I would still visit his grave when I felt him telling me, “Nick, I died on your mom’s birthday so you would also love her as I have loved her.”
And that is what I have always tried to fulfill until now. Like what the late Luther Vandross expressed in his 2003 hit “Dance With My Father”.
Sometimes I’d listen outside her door
And I’d hear how my mother cried for him
I pray for her even more than me
I pray for her even more than me
I know I’m praying for much too much
But could you send back the only man she loved?
I know you don’t do it usually
But dear Lord she’s dying to dance with my father again
Every night I fall asleep and this is all I ever dream
My father never asked me to become a priest but it was him who unconsciously planted the seeds of my vocation when I would always see him praying before our altar before leaving for work and upon arriving home in the evening. It was from him I have learned and realized what true love is and most of all, that indeed, God is love. He loved us so much and even though it has been 22 years since he died, I can still feel his love.
How I wish his grandchildren have all met him too.
Thank you in taking time to bear with me, in listening me bare my heart out.
God bless to all the grandparents! And moms and dads too!
*We have no intentions of infringing into the copyrights of this music and its uploader except to share its beauty and listening pleasure.