Imagine flying back home not knowing if you’d still see your dad alive. Praying to all the archangels to please let your first love hold on just a little bit longer. Running around Hong Kong Airport with a toddler in tow just to make it to the boarding gate on time because your flight was delayed, of all times. Making it just in time for your connecting flight when the passengers are already lining up to board the plane. Breathing a sigh of relief as soon as you take your seat, only to be asked to file out of the plane again because of technical issues that needed to be fixed.
Every delayed minute felt like hours. I’ve never been more anxious in my life.
That was me December of last year. Fighting the urge to break down at the airport terminal in the midst of travelers excited for their Christmas holidays. Trying to get my shit together while trying to keep Raven occupied. Thank God she’s such a trooper. Give her a pen and a paper and she’s all good.
I remember looking out the window right after the plane took off at sunset. The world looked so beautiful amidst the fire blazing in the horizon, turning the clouds into a dark sea whose waves carried me home. Memories of me and my dad on boat rides to Bohol surfaced. Wave after wave of memories flooded me the whole entire trip.
Daddy, please wait for me. Almost like a mantra in my head.
I like to think he woke up briefly to see me after having slept almost continuously for three days.
“Hi daddy,” I said, looking him in the eye as he lay on the bed, trying to smile even as tears were forming in my eyes. “How are you?”
He nodded his head weakly to say he was okay even though we both knew the answer. At that point he couldn’t really talk anymore. I just held his hand and his gaze, telepathically sending him all my love. And believe me when I say I had A LOT of love for my dad. I still do. I always will.
He passed away on the 19th of December. The funeral was held in our house which meant we had funeral lights instead of fairy ones. Floral wreaths instead of a Christmas tree. Condolences instead of presents.
That was my Christmas. Definitely nothing merry about it.
But for what it’s worth, the kids didn’t even complain about the lack of festive cheer. Perhaps, on a subliminal level, they understood. But kids will always be kids. And my 6-year old niece’s attempt at decorating was right on point.
That Christmas held a deeper meaning for our family. Nothing like the loss of a loved one to genuinely connect you with those who are left behind.
Indeed, more than presents and decors, whether it’s a tree or a casket, Christmas is all about the love of the family and friends around it.
*Raven at 3 years old