My grandmother, Mamang

I got a message at work last Friday to call Canada urgently. My grandmother, whose cancer had relapsed, had been readmitted to the hospital. They had taken her off of chemotherapy shortly after my visit in July. She was weak in July, but in September, she seemed improved. The chemo wasn’t making her weak anymore, but we all knew it was going to be a temporary thing.

My grandmother was really special. She was feisty, defiant, and very loyal to those who were special to her. Even though she lost her husband eighteen years ago, she has been amazing on her own right, helping rear her grandchildren, trekking out on her own daily via SkyTrain, hopping on a plane to come visit the east coast without nary a mention. While she lived an entire country’s length away, her inspiration lives on in her children, and in turn grows in us, her grandchildren.

I wrote this e-mail to my family one month ago on my way back to Seattle shortly after I saw Mamang for the very last time. When I returned my mother’s message last Friday, my aunt picked up the phone and told me Mamang was gone. I could hear my mom in the background going over her last will and testament. I burst into tears.

Hanging out with Mamang was pretty surreal. Her condition is worsening and she coughs a lot. She is frail but still tries, more than when I saw her in July. She came out on our trip to Superstore and out to dim sum, and also to Deep Cove where she enjoyed being outdoors in the shade while we went paddle boarding.

We went to the nail salon today and Mamang came along. Auntie Julie chatted up some of the other patrons, a nice Filipina lady and an elderly African woman. They talked about family, and cancer, and Mamang got her hair cut. As we were leaving, both ladies gave Mamang a big hug. The African woman held Mamang’s hand and told her she’d see her around soon. Mamang exclaimed, matter-of-factly, with no anger in her voice, “But I’m dying!” and the lady responded, “We are all dying. From the minute we were born.” Mamang nodded in agreement and smiled at the lady before leaving.

As they dropped me off at the SkyTrain, I gave Mamang a big hug. I said bye to Mamang and said softly, “I love you, I’ll see you later.” Mamang smiled and shrugged and said, “Well, I probably won’t see you but, take care.”

It is haunting to see how she has accepted it, but it is amazing that she is making the most of her days watching TV and enjoying what will probably be her last summer. I am writing this and crying and listening to Bon Iver which is probably not helping. I am really glad I was able to see her and spend some time with her, perhaps for the last time.

I am incredibly blessed and proud to be such a tremendous woman’s granddaughter.”

I love you, Mamang. May you find eternal peace.

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