What died didn’t stay dead
By Reine S. Alberto
Sometimes, I refuse to believe that my mom passed away.
It has been one year, six months, and 19 days since we last saw her. Everyone in the cremation room bid their goodbyes, but I didn’t because I could feel she was still here.
My parents and I used to share a bedroom. Every afternoon, my mom and I would watch infidelity-themed telenovelas on the television and listen to Papa Jack’s ‘True Love Confessions’ every night to lull us to sleep. She used to always leave the room spotless whenever she cleaned it every day. She used to. Because now, I have the bedroom for myself after 20 years of sharing it with them.
Whenever my dad mentions “kwarto mo” or your bedroom, it doesn’t sound real to me. No, this is not my room; this is ours. Despite my mom passing away, this is concrete proof that she lived a life.
My grief towards my mom’s death is seen on the dust-covered trinkets and bottles of perfume she last arranged on our vanity. Grief is her untouched folded clothes stored in the cabinet and sleeveless tops she last hung on the hooks on our door. Grief is my refusal and tardiness to pack my mom’s life. They have to sit there just like how she left them. I can’t put those in boxes or give them away because I will be reminded that she’s gone forever. These things cannot go just yet because I am not ready to accept the fact that there will be no more traces of her in this room, in our house, and in the world.
“Bitawan mo na, ‘nak (let go),” my dad told me while my mom was on her deathbed, and when I fought with him after knowing he gave away the pair of sandals I gifted to her.
Even if we let go of her on that bed in Room 403, she remained here with us. I can still see her in what she left me — in the eyes of all my aunts, grandmothers, cousins, and in my dad. I don’t always remember the lessons and pieces of advice my mom used to say to me, but these people never forget to look after me, like my mom always did.
Sometimes, I tell myself that she never really left — she’s just waiting downstairs for us to eat together, she’s on the terrace hanging our clothes to dry or gardening, or sleeping in our bedroom. In my most desperate times, I’d like to think that she’s just right behind me, patting my back, telling me that I can make it and everything will be alright.
She’s alive. So alive.