It sank in during Christmas.
I didn’t want to write this then, because the holidays aren’t for goodbyes. But now, with family flying in for the funeral, I suppose it’s finally time to bid farewell to my Lola Edith.
Most of my vivid memories of Lola E were on Christmas. It was a tradition to have her sleep over at our home on the 24th. She’d pack her bags, gussy herself up, and make sure to bring small gifts for each of us, despite her not really having much money.
She gave me a bar of soap once. I’m not sure what she meant by that, but it was sweet.
She also gave me my first issue of Bone (#7). I had never heard of it before, and the art was far from what I was used to in the EXTREME ERA of 90s comics. I gave it a read and tossed it away. I guess I was too young to appreciate it then.
Years later, in college, I picked it up again and fell in love with it. I fell in love with comics again. I fell in love with writing and art again.
Lola E’s gift gave me direction. It’s weird how that worked out. But I digress.
Whenever Lola E would come over on Christmas, whether or not she had life-changing gifts with her, Dad would always call ahead. He’d let us know when he’d picked her up and when they’d arrived downstairs.
“Lola E’s here na!” we’d announce to each other, and I’d go downstairs to greet her.
I’d take her bags and take her arm, and help her up three flights of stairs to our home. She’d clap her free hand over my arm, give an appreciative laugh, and call me her “escort”.
As the years passed, our walks up those stairs became slower. Her arm started to feel a little shakier. She’d sometimes forget my name.
But I was always her escort.
So last Christmas, when the thought finally sank in that I would never escort her again, I cried. I missed her.
I last saw her about two weeks ago. We — the remaining members of our family here in the Philippines — brought her body to the cremation chamber. She was absolutely beautiful, and I could see why my Lolo Ben would have fallen in love with her.
She looked younger. Less frail. Less ravaged by Alzheimer’s. She looked peaceful. She was loved.
I can’t escort you to wherever you’re going anymore, Lola. I can’t help you up whatever stairs you’re climbing. But you’re lighter now, free from your tired body. Wherever you’re going, you don’t need me anymore.
I wish, I wish, I wish I could bring you there, so that maybe I could say “Hi” to Dad and Lolo Ben before I come back down. I wish I could see them welcome you with the embrace you’ve been needing from them on your last days.
I wish I could see you all smile for one last time.
Thank you, Lola E, for being in my life. You will always be a part of it. I love you.