I don’t like mortuaries. They smell like death, the rotting chemical humanness of death. And still, I found myself soundly asleep there for two consecutive nights.
Perhaps, it was Tito Monet’s way of giving comfort. After all, he is one of the few people who could make me feel homey in a place that cold; he has that effect. (And I’d like to think of it that way.)
Growing up, I’ve frequented their house with my siblings and he would always welcome us with a bright smile and an offer for merienda. He would kid my brother like a tito would a pamangkin, and his laughter would fill the room. He would check in from time to time and insert a joke here and there and I could tell, he was almost a carbon copy of my dad, their brand of humor alike. (It was a matter of being happy or making people happy for him).
He was also a solidifying force for every family gathering. Though he was away most of the time for work or for treatment, when he was in Lipa, he added an extra layer of fun (for the adults, especially for my dad). And, when his first apo, Leon, came into the picture, he became more lively, often insisting that Leon looked like him with his eyes closed.
During the times he was in Manila, I often heard stories about him from my dad and tita. They would tell me and my cousins about the times he would sneak out of the house and race my lolo’s car. Then, he’d climb the roof, wake my dad up and get back in the house through a window.
Sometimes, the stories were about rescues. He was the type of brother who was always there, always strong. My dad and tita always fell back on him. They knew that in whatever trouble they got into, Tito Monet would get them out.
Their stories, it painted me a picture of intensity, and so that was what Tito Monet became to me. He was intensely happy, intensely dependable and intensely kind.
For ten years- I couldn’t even remember that it’s been that long- he’s been fighting several life-and-death situations, from cancer to fractures. All throughout, he’s been enduring his pain and still projecting a cheery attitude. Never once did I hear him complain or blame God, and never once did I feel like he was already becoming hopeless because he always came through in the end. He was always recovering.
Like one of my cousins, Jude, said, one moment we’d find him walking with a cane and then we’d find him driving the next. (He fought real hard and you could tell, he wasn’t taken that easily.)
The hardest part about this experience is the ultimate loss of a good person and knowing that even he didn’t want to go just yet. It was his time and he probably is in his best state right now, no more suffering, but he’s been such a good presence that it would be very hard not to miss him. (The turnout during the wake and burial was proof; he made several meaningful connections in fifty or so years.)
What gets me by as consolation is the image of how I last saw him. There are a lot of reasons for me to try to forget that moment, one being how I saw a strong person like him really struggle, but I keep that in my heart because even when he was so exhausted, he still put an effort to tell us one joke (which I can’t remember). It showed that sickness cannot undo him; he is still himself despite all the hardships he’s been through.
Tito, wherever you are now, I hope you can see that your life has been spent well. You have touched so many lives and the lessons and stories you planted within us will continue to live on. Don’t worry about us. It may hurt now but we will get by, just as you have showed us to never give up and to keep fighting until the end.
Tito Monet, thank you very much.