WE WERE NO more than three hours at this wake, Sis Gelly and I yet I felt, heard and saw more than what I felt, heard and saw during the ten days of my brother’s wake. Were it not for Ate Car’s timely notice, I would’ve missed the therapeutic solace of sympathizing with Sis Becky’s loss.
Sabi sa “Bayaning Third World,” kahit nasa piso lang si Rizal, lagi naman siyang numero uno.
Sis Becky’s father must’ve been very much loved when he lived. The Funeraria Paz chapel, where his remains lay in state, was festooned with flowers of all shapes, sizes and stations. Steve received only three wreaths: one from the Mayor and his Vice; the Congresswoman (and her Vice-Mayor brother); and the Board Member and her husband. Although I thought they did more than his OTB friends who didn’t visit or his former officemates who said they were coming to see him at the hospital, their house and his wake and never came, Steve remained stiff and numberless. At least the wreaths bore his name.
Determined to go without sleep on his ninth night, I bought everyone who mattered a drink, lost the rest of my money in tong-its and didn’t steal a single wink. Steve gambled the remaining years of his life and left our youngest brother debt on his ATM card which was in hock. At least some members of the Digma family and the children kept us company every single night.
After helping ourselves to the bulging buffet, the many smiling servers at Chapel Number 12 practically inundated us with drinks, desserts and all imaginable eats. I saw two English-speaking kids playing with their cellphones and less significant toys; the food didn’t interest them until they were reminded by their English-speaking Mom. I remembered the children at Steve’s wake. They played cards until dawn (and up to their last loose change) so that, when the crowd dispersed, they would, hands wrapped in plastic, pick up the litter one by painstaking one. (The genius take on tradition by young minds boggles.) I didn’t mind their having coffee or cold water, crackers and incidental food as often as they pleased. I even reprimanded those who would call their attention to it. How cost coffee, cold water, crackers and incidental food so, for them to keep the children from helping themselves? The reception (no comparison) and the servers at Chapel Number 12 made me realize I did the children good.
The Chapel almost cramped with all the flowers circling Roberto’s coffin. The airconditioned room comfortably cradled the people and their conversation. Curiously, I recalled that no one complained of the heat or humidity at Steve’s wake; the solitary electric fan simply served a sufficient purpose. That most of the mourners preferred to be outdoors evidently helped that truth.
Sis Becky gave me honor by tasking me with singing at the Requiem. It was a given that Sis Gelly would sing along. The least we could do. Which Sis Becky thanked us profusely for.
Obviously, Sis Gelly and I had a lot of catching up to do. From 7-11, where she collected me, on the way to the wake and thereat, we swapped stories. Mostly about my brother’s departure, with her squeezing in how she and Matty and the others have gotten along. The gaps were few and polite, her condolences present progressive, our occasional laughter brief and shared. Without this sweet soul, I would not have been able to condole with conviction our mutual friend.
Before we went up, we passed by the resident florist to buy a Mass card. I recall that Steve did not receive any. Making his wake, save for the politicians’ wreaths, spare and spartan. And significantly close to my preferred stark disappearance.
Always decent and proper, Sis Becky thanked, at the end of the Mass, all who were there at the last night of her father’s wake. We said our goodbyes and drove home, chattering pleasantly as we picked up where we paused. As she dropped me off at our gate, Sis Gelly wished me well. I was – am – certain a lot of prayers will go with that fare-thee-well.
She will be appreciated again, and the many whose sympathy transcended presence and monetary relief and deeply felt grief and benediction, on July 2, when I return to my brother Prospero’s house to pray for the eternal repose of our brother Steve’s soul, no matter the tradition, forevermore. Amen.