My Tatay

It’s a walk I’ve walked before.  Halls that smell of sickness and fear.

Head hung low. Eyes bloodshot from tears.

Glances of sympathy from passersby.

But this time, I didn’t have hope deep seeded in my soul.

After a long fight and a blessed life, my grandfather – my Tatay – is home.  To the place where his ailments are gone. To a place where he will be reunited with his wife and the 5 children he buried in his lifetime.

My first memory of him is of a perfect apple that was peeled.  I was probably around 3 or 4. My parents were probably at work; trying to make ends meet in our small 2 bedroom apartment in Berkeley.  My Tatay would watch me and my sisters every now and then.  He would always peel my apples because I hated the skin on them.  Another memory – I would also sit next to him in the bathroom and watch him as he dyed his hair.  He was a man that liked to look good.  He’d tease me and try to comb the gunk in my hair.  I would giggle.

My last good memory of him was the day after his spine surgery.  Iz and I walked into his room to visit him. He was sitting up and having a snack.  He asked me in Tagalog – our native tongue – who was with Evan? Where was Craig? Did I want to sit down? I laughed and gave him a kiss on the cheek.  Less than 48 hours after spine surgery, 92 years old…and he was STILL trying to take care of me.

Those memories – the firsts and the last good one – embody the man that I will always remember.  A man who put others first.  A man who wanted and loved laughter. A man who loved his family beyond what love should look like.

Because of him…I’m here.  Literally.  In this moment.  He was the first generation immigrant to come to the USA.  He took the risk to live the American dream.

Slowly, he started to have his kids come over.  My dad was one of them.  My mom was able to get a teaching job in San Francisco in pharmacology. She left her life as a doctor to start our life over to give us an opportunity to better our lives. We lived with Tatay until we got on our feet.

Everything good about my Dad I see in my Tatay.  He is strength and courage all wrapped in one body.

Tonight, as I listened to the machines beep in his hospital room signaling the danger signs that it was almost “time,” some may have seen a sickly, old man laying helpless in a hospital bed.

But me.

I saw a man surrounded my his family as he bravely took his last breaths.

I saw a man who prayed of giving his children the “American” dream…surrounded by those dreams come true.

I watched as those I love most cry out in pain, in sadness, in emptiness of death.

But, I also watched God work a miracle.

I watched as healing – ultimate healing – took place.  I prayed over my family.  Verbalizing what the Holy Spirit was doing in my heart.  Realizing that God’s grace and His mercy over Tatay was not in his life….but in his death.

God’s rich blessing filled Tatay’s life with the family he created.

In his death…he experienced nothing but peace.

As he took his last breath, he was finally reunited with the wife he loved dearly and the children he lost.

It was then I realized…there is still hope.

A hope that is found in the legacy my Tatay leaves behind.

The hope in the whispers of goodbyes that are intertwined with the welcoming open arms of  Heaven.
The hope that is found in my God who finally called him home.
I’ll miss you, Tatay.