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Arsenio C Jesena

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W H E N N A N A Y L E F T U S
By Arsenio C Jesena   
Rated "G" by the Author.
Last edited: Thursday, August 04, 2011
Posted: Tuesday, August 02, 2011

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all our lives were shattered -- forever

W H E N N A N A Y L E F T U S
by Arsenio C. Jesena


My dear Nyssa,


My mother, your great grandmother, NATY
CAJILI JESENA died when she was only 41. We, and
all our lives were shattered -- forever.

Little MILA and baby ROSALIE were in bed with Nanay Naty
when she had her fatal heart attack on the night of April 27, 1949.
PAT and YAYEE were sleeping in nearby rooms.

My father, ARCE, was not home. He was away in Isabela,
southern Negros, with my sister XENIA attending the town fiesta as
guests of my aunt VICTORIA JESENA LLAMAS.

I, eight-year-old ARSENIO CAJILI JESENA III, was not home,
either. I was away in Ma-ao Sugar Central, enjoying my summer
vacation with my grandmother, LOLA CHONG (Consuelo Felix
vda. de Cajili) and uncle TATAY PEPE CAJILI, the Sugar Central
Chief Engineer, and my cousins JOE and CAPID … and our many
other cousins there.

In Maao Central, with our Tatay Pepe and Cajili cousins, there
were lots of free space, and fresh air and movies and bowling, and
laughter, and plenty of good food.

The phone rang in the early morning of April 28. Nanay Pacit
woke me up. “You have to go home.” “Why?”I asked. “Because
your mother is sick.” “If she is sick, she needs a doctor. Not me. I
want to stay right here.” Nanay Pacit did not argue.” Hurry up and
pack your bag. You will take the next bus. I will go with you.”

All the way from Ma-ao to Bacolod, Nanay Pacit never spoke --
which was strange. She just stared blankly, silently at the window,
gazing at the endless sugarcane fields that unfeelingly zoomed by.

After that silent, somber bus ride we finally reached #108
Washington Street, Bacolod City. Everything seemed so different
and so sad. It was hauntingly quiet --- like death.

My father met us at the front door. His eyes were red.
He did not, he could not say anything.

“Si Nanay!? Diin?”

I ran in. I looked for my mother.
She was in her room. In bed.
Covered with a blanket, up to her neck.
She did not move. She did not breathe.
She was very cold. She was dead.
She was only forty-one.

I sat there, beside her. This was my Mother.
I was only eight.

I did not know Death.
I did not know very much. For I was only eight.
And my sister Mila was only four.

Then the people from the mortuary came.
They had all sorts of tubes and pails and sharp,
metallic gadgets.

“Get out, little boy,” they said, “We have work to do.”

Then they began their grisly, bloody task.
They were embalmers.

All Nanay’s siblings arrived, from different parts of the
Philippines. AUNTIE MEDING LEDESMA. TATAY PEPE CAJILI.
MANANG PURIT JALANDONI. MANANG GUISING HILADO.
(MANONG CARDO CAJIILI could not come). And my YAYEE was
already there. Yayee had even tried to save my mother, running to
the neighbors for help but she did not succeed.

My grandmother, LOLA CHONG FELIX CAJILI, blind and
weeping, arrived from Maao. She was really distraught, because
she had deeply loved her daughter. Lola Chong was almost
hysterical. She wanted to kiss my mother’s body and to touch her
coffin. But some relatives blocked and prevented her, fearing she
might get a heart attack if she touched my mother’s dead body. So
they firmly dragged her away from the room and the house.

Why didn’t they just allow her to grieve? She was forcibly taken
back to Maao, where she grieved apart and alone, and silently
wasted away. And then she finally joined her favorite daughter
Naty in death.


There were endless visitors who attended my mother’s wake.
Everyone seemed to love and respect her.

But there were some who did not sincerely grieve and pray.
They were only there for the social obligation, the mahjong, the
card games, the cigarettes, and the food. They had no reverence
and no grief.

I would get away from the gambling and the smoking and the
eating. I would quietly enter the room where my mother’s coffin
was resting. I would close the door. And I would just silently stand
there beside my dead mother. I did not know how to pray. I would
just stay there beside her. Often. And for long stretches of time.

What is Death? I did not know. Where was my Mother? I did not
know. That dead body inside the coffin -- that was not my living
Mother.

But standing there alone beside mother, I slowly received a
sense of God. And the eternal. The spiritual. And the true . And
what was really important in life.

God became real to me.
After, and maybe because -- my Mother died.

Before they buried her, they brought her body to the San
Sebastian Cathedral for a final Mass.

I realized that I had not kissed her. So I asked the adults to
remove the glass cover of the coffin so I could touch my mother and
kiss her.

But no one paid attention to me. I was not important. I was only
a little boy of eight.

During the funeral procession from the cathedral to the Burgos
cemetery the funeral car blared, again and again, the mournful
melody of Gounod’s, ‘Ave Maria’.

I remember my father warning me, “Juni -- when they bury
Nanay, DO NOT CRY!” I knew he was wrong. And deep in my
heart I rebelled at this. Why should I not cry for my own Mother ??
Because of what some people would think? Because men don’t cry,
and, if I cried, others might say I was not manly enough? How
could my father be such a wimp, afraid of what people might think?
Of course, I decided to disobey my Father, I would cry if I felt like
crying. This -- she -- was MY MOTHER!


They buried my Mother in a cheap grave in Burgos Street.

In the future, my sister Xenia, your grandmother, would often
and sometimes desperately steal back to Nanay’s grave -- to cry
there and to be with her, and talk to her, and beg her help.


  



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