she was 97.

i was there.
i held her hand.
whispered “i love you” close to her ear.
even if i wasn’t so sure she could hear me.
but i knew she was listening.
somewhere, she was listening.

and in as much as i wanted to tell her to let go,
i couldn’t bring myself to say the words.
because a part of me wanted her to hold on.
while the other part of me felt her burden.
the burden of being alive.
the burden of breathing.
the burden of trying.

the audible crackles her lungs made told me something was not quite right.
but i wasn’t scared.
i’ve seen death far too many times.
it’s something you learn to accept.
it’s something that embraces you in a vise-like grip
until you can’t breathe
and you want to faint.
until you stop fighting and you embrace it back.

but it takes a lot of psychological and mental and emotional preparation.
and even then, at that moment, you realize you can never arm yourself well enough.
you still start to break.
if not externally, at the very least, internally.
a hairline fracture of the heart.
you can’t see it but it’s there.
you know it’s there.

i don’t know which stopped first —
her breathing or her peripheral pulse?
or was it both at the same time?
her carotid pulse throbbed visibly.
her body’s last attempt to deliver blood to her brain.
i wanted to make sure her heart was still beating.
as the heart is always the last organ to give in.

but the lady who led the novena prayers for the dying asked me not to touch her.
it was frustrating not being able to hold her hand as she breathed her last.
because if it were me and i were exhaling the last of my breath,
i’d want somebody to hold my hand to chase the fears away.
the fear of the unknown.
i’d want somebody to tell me that everything would be all right.
that i’m going to a nice, safe place.
that i’m going home.

my grandmother died yesterday.
she was 97.
and although i wasn’t able to hold her hand at the very last second,
i knew she was going to a nice, safe place.
i knew she was going home.

rest in peace, lola.

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