This one has been in my mind for a while and I decided to write it. This is dedicated to someone I know who passed away recently. This is my way to remember her.
When I was in high school, I had a lot of places where I usually frequent.
There was the computer shop across the school which closed before I graduated, there was this fishball vendor whom I befriended and even used as a subject for a project, my dad’s offices when he was still working in an office and the restaurant where I usually buy supplies whenever I don’t have some.
Somewhere around those four years (I couldn’t really remember when), I also started to frequent a small shop beside the parish church.
The shop was popular to the locals. It sold affordable religious items, small knicknacks and occasional softdrinks for anyone who gets parched. Interestingly, the shop was near the official Parish shop but the parish didn’t really seem to mind it.
The shop was owned by a pseudo-aunt of mine. A classmate of my auntie when she was studying in the same high school as I did many decades ago. I don’t remember when I started frequenting the place, but everytime I did, there would not be a time I would be offered candy, drinks or snacks or get teased that I acted like my auntie or that my auntie was doing this and that. My pseudo-aunt would ask me about the latest about our family then she would tell me about her life. My young brother would join me in some of our trips there and it was always filled with laughter and a promise to come back to visit.
When I graduated from high school, my little brother and I (and sometimes, with the rest of the family) would try passing by during our yearly routes for Visita Iglesia whenever it was there. Sometimes, it was a quick chat but it was still fun. It was great to always see my aunt when she was at her happy place. Even if the shop wasn’t like the new shops popping near her, it was her greatest investment and treasure. Of course, the offer of free food and drinks sometimes went on deaf ears but she would give some anyway.
The visits became less when our Visita Iglesia route went on to Manila and even if i don’t really go out much, there wasn’t any reason for me to pop into the area since most of the things I needed to do can be done in Manila or in the town centers near my place. My last visit to my always happy aunt was at least 2 years ago. I came to visit to do an errand from my grandma, who wanted new clothes for her Santo Nino. The visit was like my usual visits, but unlike before when my aunt would greet me before I even went close to the shop, she was mostly confined to her little cot inside the shop. She was recovering from sickness at the time and her leg was giving her grief. We skyped my auntie during my visit (who was in the US at that time) and I took a selfie of us to prove it too. Our banters remained the same and even though I had to fly off to somewhere, I gave her a smile and promised to come visit when I was in the area.
I did get to visit the area several months later for another errand, but she was not there. Apparently, she was in the US at that time visiting her daughter.
My auntie, who was her best friend, often would tell the family news about her since we all got to be close to her one way or another. It was good to hear news about her even if some of it was mostly about the illnesses that she kept on getting. She did get better and some of the photos my auntie took during her last excursions showed that she was still the jolly aunt who would offer me food and drinks whenever I came to visit.
When I learnt she passed away during her layover last week, I did not immediately process it at first. I knew she was having health problems since my auntie would tell us about it. But when I did, I felt very sad because I never got to see her even if I was just here. I also felt sad because i wouldn’t be able to see her smile whenever we talk about the usual or tease each other. I immediately looked for the last photo I took of her, the selfie I took during my last visit. There, I said to myself, if she is returned back to the country, I wouldn’t look at her on the coffin. To me, it was better to remember her smiling like in the photo than seeing her there still and lifeless.
My auntie would keep me appraised about the whole thing since her friend had passed away in a foreign country. A lot of bureaucracy had to be done before her body was returned here. Her daughter handled that, the same one she was supposed to visit in the US. Eventually, her remains were returned home and we visited in the second day of the viewing.
When we came to the place, my aunt’s daughter welcomed us. She immediately knew me because my auntie apparently sent her the photo of me and her mum from 2 years ago. She told us that her mum’s death was due to a stroke and prior to it, she was even chatting with her fellow passengers. There were loads of plans prior to the tragedy and now, its all on limbo. As I promised to myself, I only looked at the coffin from afar rather than go to it upclose and just updated my auntie about what was going on. Stories were shared during our stay and when we went off, I had said a short prayer and said goodbye.
To my pseudo-aunt who is now watching me with the rest of our loved ones who have passed on to the next world, I hope that you are in peace. I hope your leg isn’t giving you any grief anymore and that all your stress has finally fade away. I hope you continue to smile and laugh with the people there much like you did when you were here. Watch over your daughter and everyone always and know that we will be ok.