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Sunday, October 18, 2015

Till We Meet Again, Caroline

Dear Caroline,

The three little toy dogs from you sat nicely on top of my computer. My blazer and the office drawer smelled like the potpourri sachets that you gave me for my birthday. It is funny how those last gifts are the ones that somehow stayed with me. We kept all your letters and greeting cards, and I still kept the necklaces that you made for me when we were first introduced to each other, but those last gifts accompanied me in daily basis. What were you thinking when you made it? Did you know your time has almost come? What thoughts did you have when you made the potpourri? Alas, I will never know.

I said "Alas", but I'm not even sure that you can answer it yourself. What I am certain, what I remember, is the memory of you presenting the gift to me. I was so proud of you, Caroline. The potpourri looked really nice and smelled subtle yet wonderful. And most importantly, you gave it to me with care for my birthday. That moment I felt like everything is going to be just fine. It was a tipping point for both you and me. We had our ups and downs, but that moment I knew it's going to be smooth sailing for both of us. Then you passed away a few weeks later. Just like that.

I never really knew you, Caroline. Except for the bits and pieces people told about you or what your son had shared with me, I barely knew you. But if, if people's reaction to someone else's death is a true reflection of who the deceased really was, then you are really something special. You are truly loved. 

We went to your church to attend the mass on your behalf. Everybody was smiling and was happy when they know we were your children. At that time they didn't know you've passed away. The mass was fun, joyful, meaningful. We were so glad to be there, to know that you were surrounded by these good people. Little did they know that the sermon that day about letting go of possession would come true. They have lost a member and a friend. A son has lost a mother. Family parted once again by the hand of death. And we all need to learn to let go. 

When we break the news, Caroline, the whole congregation fell into a deep hush. Father Richard, your priest, sat in disbelief and sadness was palpable in his face, in everyone's face. Help was asked and offered, and we manage to conclude the logistical details in record time. You are loved. I won't say "were", because they still love you. They still care about you. And when we went to your house your neighbour greeted us warmly and again, help was offered. Your son and I keep wondering why, why were you taken away from us when it seemed so many people here on earth love and care about you? But then again, maybe God loves you even more and that's all there is to it.

As always, there are many "Ifs" and "I wish" from people who love you; the all-too-common feeling of regret for not doing more, as if negotiation would bring you back. It wont. Death is not for the deceased, it is for the living. The dark shroud of death did not descend on you, it descended on us, the survivors; blinding us with grief, maddening us with the unknown answers, stupefied us with fear and loss. Even I who barely knew you felt a piece of myself missing. I felt alone and vulnerable knowing you will not be here anymore, knowing that a person that sincerely care about me is gone. But you won't come back. All the 'ifs' and 'I wish' are nothing. It is time for us to let you go.

I don't want to dwell on your death, Caroline. You deserve so much more. Let us celebrate your life instead. The pretty woman you once were, the kind soul you once had, all your dreams and hopes and passions. I want to remember you as the gorgeous young woman laughing gaily on a sailboat in one of your old pictures. I want to remember you as the doting grandmother that sat elegantly on your sofa, offering us cheese and pepperoni and olives. I want to remember us as the happy family that sat together eating breakfast after the thanksgiving day: you and your son and your granddaughter and I. 

If anything, I only need to look at your son to remember and cherish you. He was kind, he was caring, he was adventurous and inquisitive. Traits are passed with genes, but personality is taught and/or copied from the ones closest to them. And yes, his beautiful soul is a mirror of your own soul. I can look at your son and his children and see you through them, they are your legacy. How I wish more people could see this before you passed away, to see who you really are! Alas, here I go again denying and negotiating. How do I know that people don't already see your beautiful soul? This "I wish" wont change anything anyway. Had you still be alive we will still be living in oblivion because we never realize what we've got until it's gone. The boon of man.

Your ashes will rest very soon in that peaceful patch of land at your church. But even then the grief will not be fully eradicated from the heart of the people who loved you. Time heals what reason cannot. And to some, it will be a long and painful journey. Yet we rejoice to think that your trial is gone. No more sadness or grief, no more pain or anguish, no more loneliness for you Caroline. You are free. We will shed our tears now, we will be drawn and drowned in grief now, but when we are ready we will smile again. And we know you will smile with us.

Rest in peace, dearest Caroline. Till we meet again.

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