That Space Between Life & Death

On the 7th of October 2017, before I even start working, I faced one of my greatest fears. My phone lit up several times - I missed a few phone calls and I got a few unread messages. I instantly had a bad feeling about it, but I still decided to check at least one message. 

What happened the next few hours after I read that message (from my cousin) was kind of a blur. Was it denial, fear, paralysis, shock, pain or anger? I can't actually tell how I felt when I learned that the person I respect the most is already dead. 

I was somehow waiting for someone to wake me up from that horrible nightmare, or have someone say it was just some sort of a joke that is definitely not funny. I was afraid of having to wake up the next day without hearing anything from him at all. I felt paralyzed as I broke down like shit at a hallway in my office building. I remember hearing my office mates saying comforting words and extending their condolences but I was in shock for more than an hour - I can barely say a decent word nor raise my head to look people in the eye. I felt an unbearable pain as I wept twenty-nine years worth of tears for the man who never raised his hand nor his voice against me. And eventually, I started to hate myself for not visiting him during my days off when I already knew way back October 4th that he wasn't feeling very well. 

Every moment that I have shared with my Grandpa all came flashing before my eyes as I crumbled on the floor of our hallway. With a fluctuating energy and a hoarse voice, I tried to pick up my phone when one of my uncles (my godfather) called me. But I just couldn't say anything. He was trying to tell me what happened, but I played deaf. I tried to bury the sound of his voice as I howled like it was the end of the world. It actually felt like it was the end of my world. He somehow said through his cracked voice, that we should talk a bit later once I have calmed down. 

It's been thirteen days since my maternal grandfather passed away. Thirteen days without hearing anything from him - no text messages, no phone calls.

I have to be honest - I don't think I will be able to get over this. At least not any time soon. For the last 29 years of my life, I have gotten used to having my Grandpa listen to whatever shit I have to say, at any time of the day. It's only been thirteen days without him and I already feel like a total loser - like I didn't learn anything about life at all.

He was my rock. I learned almost everything from him and my living grandmother. I was taken to their house in the city soon after I was born. My parents were currently taking care of a one year old child (my older sister) that time. They were both not ready for another one yet. Sometime during my teenage years, I heard that they wanted to take my life while I was still in the womb. That never happened because of my grandparents. They promised they would take full responsibility of raising me. And they did.

All my life, I have gotten used to getting what I want. No, we are not rich. I do not aspire for things that I know my grandparents could not afford. But, the possibility of 'getting what I want' has been deeply ingrained in my brain. There were months or years when I would have to stay with my parents - I hated those times. I hate the fact that I couldn't choose the food that I would eat at a certain time of the day. I hate the fact that I am being suppressed and I would have to follow some sort of rules. At my grandparents' house, I AM THE RULER. They don't do anything that would upset me. Every single wish of mine is their command. Absolutely no one can touch me as long as I am under their roof. Though I was not living a 'normal' life back then - no parents nor siblings to grow up and play with, I felt safe. I was complete. Life was heaven. 

I was three years old when we moved to their house in the countryside. After more than 30 years of living in the city, my grandparents decided it's time to move back to their hometown.

I was born in the city and I spent a lot of time in the city as well, but I consider their hometown as my hometown. I spent my first few years in grade school at their hometown, but eventually, I was forced to live with my parents for a few years after that. Eventually, I found a way to convince my parents to send me back to my grandparents' place for my last three years in high school. 

San Rafael, Bulacan - this is the place where I spent most of my precious childhood memories with my Grandpa. This is where he trained me to be the person I am today. It has always been my happy place. I can still clearly remember our conversation on my first bus ride to that town.

October 8th, 2017, about twenty-six years after my very first trip to my hometown, despite all the memories that I made there, I felt like I was heading to a strange place.

I spent the worst five days of my life at San Rafael to be with my Grandpa one last time.

While I was there, I kept on snapping at my younger cousins, I yelled at an older relative and I almost punched a priest in the face. I was very sensitive and vulnerable and everyone felt like they were stepping on landmines every time I enter a room. Unless it's coming from my Grandma, I didn't want to hear how my Grandpa died in fifty different versions, so, whenever I hear people talking about him, I would walk out of the scene. I would literally drop whatever I am holding and WALK THE F*CK OUT of the scene. If I am outside, serving coffee and I suddenly lose my energy, I would go inside any vacant bedroom and listen to my Grandpa's favorite song with silent tears. If I am somewhere near my Grandpa's coffin and I start hearing shits from gossip makers, I would take a walk outside, breathe some fresh air and I would wish everyone would just go home and leave with their pretentious condolences.

I didn't have to tell anyone that I was at my worst.

I am not proud of it, but I can proudly say that I couldn't have gone through that hell week without my younger cousins. Everyone knows, even the youngest member of our family, that Grandpa's death has the worst impact on me. I highly appreciate every little thing that they did to make me happy. But that time, I temporarily removed that word from my dictionary. 

I never knew what death actually meant. I have never experienced this kind of loss.

I have lost quite a lot of relatives during my younger years, and yes, I have wept for them and I felt really sad that they are gone. But it is totally different to lose someone who made you who you are. Someone who has been with you throughout your journey; someone who inspires you to be the best you can be. My Grandpa was the only one who believed in me when I felt like everyone was against me. He understood and accepted my weird behavior and told me there's absolutely nothing wrong with me. He lets me be who I want to be. He was my support system. I tell him every single accomplishment I make, no matter how childish or petty it is, and he responds to me like it was the best thing he has ever heard.

Now that he's gone, I know that I will never get that kind of attention from anyone anymore. No one can take his place as my number one fan, and I would have to live with that. I would have to adapt to a life without him. People say it would get easier each day, so, I would always reply with a smile. But all I really want to say is "Exactly how many times do I have to feel shattered before I start to feel whole again?"

Though it is terribly hard, I am trying to get by - one day at a time. I am trying my best live my life as normal as I could. I wake up, I eat, I get dressed and I go to work. Then, I go home, go to bed, and do the whole thing again the next day. But if I can have it my way, all I really want to do is lay down in a dark room, not talk to anyone and not eat anything. I just want to be left alone, curled up in bed, not thinking about anything at all and not hearing anything at all.

But what exactly would I get out of that? It certainly won't bring back my Grandpa from the dead, nor it would make him happy, wherever he may be. There's also a huge possibility that I will unintentionally hurt my living relatives. The fact that none of them could physically be with me during this time is probably killing them. I get that.

It's been more than a week since my Grandpa passed away and it still kills me every time I remember that he's no longer here physically.

I'm not quite sure if this grief would be temporary or if it would last forever. All I know is that right now, I am smack in the middle of it. I'm not sure if I would stop feeling numb and empty when I wake up tomorrow. I'm not sure if I would actually learn to get my shit together. All I know is that my life would never be the same again without him. 

Thirteen days ago, I faced the worst day of my life. But today, I'm still here. I'm unsturdy, but I am here. Opening my eyes and getting up from bed is still an ordeal, but I get out of bed anyway. Finding a reason or motivation to eat is still an ordeal, but I eat anyway. Simply opening my mouth to talk is such a great pain, but I engage in conversations anyway. Why do I do these things? Why do I keep on doing these mundane things? Because I think these are the things that we are supposed to do in between life and death - grieving for what we have lost, healing from the unbearable pain it costs and whenever we are ready, we must continue living after that epic pause.


  1. I wish that I had met your grandpa while he was still alive; but just from what you've painstakingly described here, he was definitely an outstanding man. And, you are a truly brave young lady, Cyn-chan. My heart goes out to you.

    1. Thank you SO much, Liz-sempai! That first hug right after I learned about my Grandpa's death meant so much to me. :'( And we were just talking about him the day before he died~

  2. Death may be the greatest of all human blessings.
    By Socrates
    It will allow you to enter a new chapter in your life.

    Take your time to mourn, grief, resent and reflect.


    1. I read this somewhere - "If you know about loss, you know about life." Grandpa's death proved that line right. Thank you for the support, Sab! And for personally sharing your own story about grieving as well. I'm still learning A LOT from his death. :'(

  3. Hi Cyndy! Death and grief are just temporary things. I also believe that your grandpapa does not want to see you suffer. Make him proud and happy by being strong. I know you are!

    1. Thank you SO much for these words, Sandy! Thanks for being there as well that time I broke down like shit. I guess the strongest I can be that time was to at least acknowledge your presence since I was lost for words and was in so much denial to accept your condolences. But I saw you there and that's more than enough! :)


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