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marcial tayag caniones
marcial tayag caniones I WAS in grade three when fear of death came into my mind. I saw my grandmother's cousin's wife lying in her own blood. She was accidentally stabbed by their house maid when she was trying to prevent another maid from stabbing her. I could still remember the stench of blood and the horror I saw in everyone's face as they stared in shock at our relative's dead body.

Since then death was what I feared most, especially the thought of death of any of the people closest and dearest to me— my parents, brothers, and relatives. At a very young age, I started questioning in childlike, innocent, anxiety how painful it might feel like to die. I tried to imagine the hurt. I would pinch my skin as hard as I could or pinch my nose until I was almost out of breath. I then imagined what heaven would look like. I visualized heaven as it was described by my grandmother (who prays the rosary daily at exactly six in the evening).

I visualized angels floating around me while a gigantic, serious-looking, Jesus sat on a shining throne of gold, surrounded by old bearded men in oversized white cloaks, looking below the clouds as if checking on us the living. The vision should have made me feel relaxed and peaceful, but it scared the hell out of me. (Try thinking of the vision I just described, alone in a dark room.)

As I grew up an old relative would die, one after the other, from my mom's side and then dad's. Every three years on average, as each elder relative died (either of old age or a heart attack), we attended all the ceremonies and participated in the tradition of bereavement. I was confident that our immediate family was still far from falling into the cycle as my grandparents and parents were then still young and strong. I tried very hard to avoid thinking about it, until the day that I feared the most came.

My mom (Perlita Nuqui Tayag-Caniones) died ahead of her mother. She died at 58, of breast cancer, in 1997. She died a brave woman. She died with "class"— as my doctor brother put it. I did not know what he meant by it, but I guess it had to do with how she kept the pain to herself and tried not to look (she had no teeth as she wore ceramics) as if she was suffering or in great pain. I did not know that there was still a kind of "class" in people while dying. But indeed mom died gracefully, as if to leave behind a powerful message: "There is more to life." (That was what I felt holding her hand during her final hours.)

Mom arrived at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport in Manila after a seven-year stay in California. She was on a wheelchair when we saw her at the ground floor of the arrival area. Her hair was already brown and gray. She was so pale and seemed unhealthily plump. (I learned later that it was water that could not anymore be processed by her kidneys.) But she appeared very physically brilliant among the other arrivers (at least as I saw her), and she still carried that aristocratic but embracing smile (at home she would wear worn-out dusters yet still looked very elegant).

During mom's last hours, I sat in a lotus position in front of her. Her eyes were closed as I started to meditate, wishing for a miracle to happen. That was one of the moments you wanted to let her go but could not, hoping beyond reason for something phenomenal to happen. I hesitantly asked mom, whispering to her ear, "Do you see angels? Do you see a light?"

Tears like pearls ran down from her eyes, and she nodded as if to say "yes." I held her hand tightly and whispered, again asking, "Do you want to follow the light?" (I asked her the questions in an attempt to confirm what scientists and psychologists wrote dying people saw. How rude of me! But I was sincere in asking.) Slowly, she again nodded and held my hand more tightly; I sensed that she was giving her last strength. Mentally, I was preparing myself to let go of her.

My brother asked her if she wanted a shot of morphine. She moved her body briskly for a second and said, "Enaku bisa! Eku na agyu!" She was given the shot. We knew the effect, but we did not want her to feel pain and suffer much longer. To our surprise she signaled us to come closer and then she hugged all of us.

Finally her spirit departed.

We did not know that she still had that strength enough; it was as if she had been saving it for the very last moment. We felt that she too did not want to let go but that she had to use her last strength for that final farewell.

Happy birthday, Mom. (November 6)

[About the author. Marcial Tayag Caniones, a Political Science graduate, is assistant manager at the Community Extension Services Office of Clark Development Corporation. He was born on the 10th of July, 42 years ago, became vegetarian 18 years ago, started serious reading 10 years ago, and began writing three years ago. He admits to being ugly but claims to ooze with sex appeal.]

-Posted: 11:11 AM 11/3/07 | More of this author on eK!

Papa Osmubal (of Macau) writes...

Peps, I just hope you still remember me— Oscar— LFS-HAU (League of Filipino Students-Holy Angel University). Remember I was the only one who was left with some LFS members after Pat Sembrano and Randy Flores got kicked out of the school? It was difficult for me and others but we managed. I left (to enter the seminary), leaving Francis Pangilinan and others doing their best— and I heard while I was on a mission in China three years later that they staged a big boycott.

I don't usually comment on write-ups. But this one on your mom really made me sort of emotional. And that is for some special reasons that I don't dismiss as coincidence or something like that.

1. My birthday is on November 6, your Mom's birthday (?).

2. My Dad, like you Mom, departed with a "class". The big "C" did him in, like your Mom. It was in his spinal cord. He was too dry (literally) when he died. It drained him good. It drained our family coffers as well. You know what happens when one stays at Saint Luke's for months, right?

3. My father died in 1997, the year your Mom departed. He was merely 56.

Bro, I am with you and your family in remembering your Mom. For sure your Mom and my Tatang are in the Celestial Pampanga conversing in Imanung Siswan. Kapayapan. Oscar Balajadia (Your fellow here in eK! who goes by the name Papa Osmubal)

-Posted/Via Email: Sat, 3 Nov 2007 03:53:28 -0700

Aida Aguas (of California, USA) writes...

Masanting ampong marakal ing ikwa mung belwan Marcial keng ikit mu. Itang makatakut at marayang ayalben mu map apagpag mu keng pamanyulat.

Ngeni pin Bulan da ding meyangu a biye aku man isipan ku at mipayntagun ing manakit kung babasan dikil king kamatayan at kaladwa. Class pin ing pamaglako at pamamun ning Meangubiye Pengari mu. Den ping matwa dakal karela ali la masaingsing patye tutu na ing sakit da.

Manatindi la karing anak da o kamaganak. Pakit ke ing sulat mu karing kalupa mung dakal ikit a makalungkut. Saupan daka tamu sa ding atyu na katayimikan.

-Posted/Via Email: Thu, 15 Nov 2007 11:35:45 -0800

Rogie Caniones (of Angeles City, Philippines) writes...

Yes, bro, our mom died with class because even when she was in great pain (think of having the big C on three major organs and on their terminal stages) she did not complain. She was also resisting the effects of morphine because she specifically asked me just to give her tylenol (paracetamol) for her pain. Maybe she did not want to fall asleep because she knew that day would be her first and last after being away from us for seven years... I was always told that I was the most obedient among us three, but up to this day I still feel the pain of following her wishes and giving her my word that I will not take her to the hospital no matter what happens... (she died in our arms, right?) far away from the indignities one suffers when a dying person is probed, pricked, and electrocuted in the emergency room. Even in dying, our MOM was still poised and elegant... she was still classy!

-Posted/Via Email: Tue, 4 Dec 2007 20:08:08 -0800

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