Life After Death And What It Means To Me
Ever since my dad passed away early this year, it has been difficult for me to go to Sunday mass. And it's unusual because ever since I was a child, I would go regularly unless I'm sick or I'm in a situation that makes me unable to.
But the reason for this isn't because I am blaming God for what has happened, lol, or that I don’t believe in him anymore. It's just that when I do go to mass, I try to make the moment as solemn as possible. I’m in deep reflection and I "listen to the whispers of my heart" so to speak. I try to pray with an open heart, honestly and sincerely, in the silence.
And ever since my dad left, I would end up crying (or stopping myself from crying) when I'd hear mass. I guess opening my heart and soul during mass automatically means also releasing the pain, sadness, and grief that's welled up inside me. And so I tried to still attend the Sunday mass but be indifferent about it. I tried not to participate as much, go through the motions, get my prayers over and done with, mutter “wshwshsshhw” mindlessly instead of “peace be with you”, and so forth. If I don't make myself fully present, I thought, I'd be able to compose myself, put on a cool, calm, and collected front, and ultimately, ignore my deepest emotions.
But then I said to myself, what's the point? Why even bother when I'm doing it only for the sake of obligation? And so I stopped going to mass altogether, save for the certain few Sundays when I'd feel strong enough (or stronger than usual?) and be able to go.
But the funny thing is, despite not going to church, I think God found a way to send me his message. I know it sounds odd, but I do have a way of relating things that happen miraculously, magically, or serendipitously with God's work... or with the universe's timing, the natural order, or good karma, or whatever greater being it is that we hold onto and allow us to be our guide.
Back in college I remember not waking up to my alarms and still manage to get up in the nick of time—without anyone waking me! I'd always tell my friends "God woke me up!" and would receive a lot of lols and to this day I still can't tell if they took me seriously.
And so I finally accepted that okay, maybe while I'm not ready to be a regular Sunday church-goer yet, I should find a different way to be keep my spiritual health. And then I saw a friend post on Facebook about how she finds God in works of nature. And I find it truer now more than ever, especially when the sun is high and the weather is fine, when I’m by the sea or I’m passing through fields.
And then I get an opportunity to work for brands run by two amazing women who are very passionate and meaningful with their work. What I’ve always admired about their brand is how they get their message across, without coming across as too preachy. I feel blessed to be able to work with two very modern women (who are super stylish, too, if I may add) who I actually share a few similar values with! And whenever I do work for them, I always feel like I'm pulled back to the ground, I'm reminded of my purpose, and I'm inspired to do more and better.
And then, I interview a prominent fashion designer who, in the process of talking about where he got to where he is (read: very, very successful), talked about his parents, who both have already passed away. He talked about how his mother was his worst critic and most difficult client ever and how his father was strongly opposing his chosen path (or lack thereof—this was during the time "fashion" wasn't seen yet as a sustainable career); but in the end they gave him the best support he could ever ask for. "Honor your parents and I will bless you," he told us, referring to God's message from the bible. And that line stayed with me.
To be honest, I'm not a bible reader. I hardly ever quote it, except for the "Love is patient, love is kind, love is not rude" line we once used for a college film. I don't bring a rosary with my everyday because not all my outfits have pockets and I forget to put one when I change bags. I'm usually very skeptical, I question things at face value, and I'm not exactly as prayerful as I'd like to be.
But these recent encounters have been really making me feel God's presence, despite my absence in church.
We’ve commemorated All Souls' and All Saints' Day recently, and this year is quite special to me. As we remember our dear departed dad, it was also a time for our entire family to be together. The best part was that my five-year-old niece came over and stayed with us for a week! I know mothers always say this and I will never fully understand it, but it's really true how a child can bring joy and light and a whole new energy to a home, and it makes your heart full.
Death impacted my life deeply, and to say I ended up a complete mess is an understatement. Of course, cutting my hair short was part of it. I dyed it black, too, in anticipation of my grief and because I couldn’t find the time to retouch my roots while care-giving. Those are the things you may only see on the surface but inside is a blur, a whirlwind of emotions, an eternally confused mind.
I keep thinking of every encounter as a possible last moment. I lost my sense of purpose to work (even to shop, which is my first love!) seeing as to how all the worldly things don’t really matter in the end. I struggled with myself and I still do.
But there is life after death. My advice is to embrace it all—including the memories you’d rather forget, the not-so-good parts you’d rather not relive, and the pain of knowing it is the end… The universe (or God!) will help you—through people, through the awe in nature, through your experiences. It will come so be watchful. Keep an open eye and heart and don’t ever stop trying. Trust me, there is new life. I’ll even hold your hand until you finally see or feel even a glimmer of it, too.
And so I share this personal story to give those who are in darkness (as I once was, and occasionally in) a speck of light. The sadness and grief I used to feel has diminished. It won't be completely over, but I believe I've found my little light again. This time around, I look forward to this new life with my dad watching over.