She’s 96 and I have never seen her frown at all.

I have always believed that my Nanay is going to be the centenarian in the family. You will never see any trace of feebleness in her. She can even carry a pale of water all by herself! She’s as energetic as her grand grand children and as charming as her grandsons and granddaughters–those are us. ūüôā

¬†I remember talking to my mom a few months ago because they wanted to buy a rocking chair for Nanay. I asked her, “How old is Nanay?” and she quickly replied, “She’s 96”. I exclaimed, “Wow! Her energy is way beyond her real age! I think she will pass the 100-year old mark! She might even get a Guinness record for this.” because I knew she will! At that age, her strength and vigor is exceptional. She was never sick, she never showed any pain of old age.

Recently, I celebrated my birthday in the Philippines and I visited Pangasinan. It’s almost a rule, which we adhere willingly and happily, to visit the province when taking a vacation in the Philippines. It’s automatically included in our itinerary to visit Nanay, our uncles, aunties and dear relatives. Our trip just doesn’t feel complete if we don’t drop by to say hello.¬†I was there only for two days and I still recall the conversations that I had with Nanay. I still remember how she asked me how’s Singapore, how’s Kuya Jao and how’s my work. It’s really fascinating how sharp and retentive her memory is. She can tell you stories which have happened way way back. She is like a walking story book with endless pages and she delivers each story with life.

She was already sleeping when we arrived. It was past 11PM and she normally goes to bed early. My mom surprised her in her room when we came and she quickly got up and prepared dinner for us. She’s always caring. I guess being a mother of eight, four boys and four girls, had trained her how to instantly switch to a motherly role–full of affection and love. This kind of love was passed to generations and generations. It has brought a sense of cohesion to each member of the family; a bond that is more than just being blood relatives.

¬†When I read an sms from Kuya Jao that Nanay has passed away, I thought I was fine. I also received a missed call from my brother so I called him back. He told me that it happened around 4PM. I called my mom immediately. I still have this sense of hope that maybe Nanay is just in a coma and that maybe she’s just sleeping. My mom is in the hospital so I wanted to get the firsthand news. My mom said that Nanay has already left us and that they’ve already accepted everything that has happened. She was speaking calmly until I heard the little sobs that seemed like restrained bursts of sadness. I was in a shopping mall with friends and when I heard those suppressed cries, I know that it will just be seconds before I’ll feel the choke in my throat. My friends knew what happened to my Nanay so they asked me if I’m fine. I just nodded and smiled, couldn’t even speak a word because I know that my heart feels the opposite.

Indeed it’s true, you’ll realize ¬†the value of something ¬†only in its absence. While attending the mass, while sitting alone in the bus, while carrying grocery bags on the way to the house, I felt it. Nanay is really gone. I won’t be seeing that toothless genuine smile when I go back to Pangasinan. I’ll miss one person that I’ll hug when I bid goodbye. When these thoughts flash in my mind, I felt like being drowned. I, just a grandson who has not really stayed and lived with Nanay for a long time, is already cracking up. I couldn’t imagine how much pain my uncles and aunties are carrying now.

My uncle, whom we’ve been used to calling Papa Nelo and the eldest in the family, has these best words regarding our Nanay and the family:

To all of you my brothers, sisters, sons, daughters, nephews n nieces n loving in- laws: By God’s Will our loving Nanay is gone. She is gone to join her Creator and we will miss her forever…Let’s all be strong and calmly accept our loss, though with a heavy heart. During the last few days/weeks that she was in the hospital fighting for dear life in the hospital, you never heard a word of caring or love from me but never did you know that I was in the shadows reading¬†admiringly n with emotion all your messages of love for Nanay. At times I have to control my tears rolling when those messages of love comes from no other than Nanay’s grandson/granddaughters. I have never been so proud of you all! And truth be told, Nanay is not my real mother for I lost my real mother when I was 4 yrs old and in fact does not know her face to this day. Nanay is the only Mother that I know. She raised me, loved me and watched me grow…I LOVE YOU NANAY!! GOOD BYE … TILL WE MEET AGAIN…!

I read Papa Nelo’s message in Facebook when I thought I was over with my emotion. I guess I wasn’t. I probably am not as strong as Papa, I just couldn’t hold back my tears once the thought of Nanay strikes me.¬†

My pretty cousin Suzanne shares her 25-day experience with Nanay:

25 days of the last 22 years I spent with you. Forgive me for that. Forgive me for all the times I failed to greet you happy birthday or say I love you on the phone because I was more concerned about how my Tagalog sounded. I wonder now how you would have reacted. Forgive me for all the birthday parties I missed, for all those times you were sick and I wasn’t there. I hope I made up for some of it during those 25 days. But most of all, forgive me for being selfish to think you would live forever. That you would be there at my wedding to see me walk down the aisle. Or for you to meet another one of your great grandchildren when that time comes for me. How selfish of me.

But Nanay, I’m thankful for those 25 days to have held you, to have kissed you, and hugged you before the Lord felt He needed you more than we did. You were truly a wonder woman. You remembered every one of our names. Children. Grandchildren. Great grandchildren. Great great grandchildren. You never had a health condition your whole life other than a bad knee. It is an honor to have your blood running through my veins. Thank you.

I love you. Forever and forever.

Ate Cez, who has always been so active ¬†asking about Nanay’s status, says:

Nanay has given us 97 years of her life. She was always ready to listen, always with a smile. I’ve never seen her have a bad day. Never said anything bad about anybody and I’ve never heard anybody say anything bad about her. She prayed the rosary everyday and has remained active in church. She was in perfectly good health despite her age. The accident, as freaky as it was, must have been God’s way of saying her time on earth is enough, it’s time for her to be with Him in heaven. I have to accept the fact that she is not gone but simply moved on to a better life.

Lord, please bless my Nanay’s soul that she may enter your kingdom.

My mom’s message in her facebook:

Nanay Guadalupe..Guada she was called lovingly by us…Good by Nanay! You are now at rest! Thank for everything…You were a great mother, grandmother to us!! We love you…

At first I thought of writing this to alleviate the pain. Writing has always been a good way to console myself. But then I realized, I am writing this not for my own, I am writing this because the person whom I’m trying to describe is worth more than the words and adjectives that I picked. I am sure that there are so many things that my uncles and aunties could share about Nanay and that this piece of article is just a preface on how great she is.

She is 96…and her name is Guadalupe Mercado… my grandmother… and I’m proud to be her grandson.


Videos courtesy of Suzanne: