Mariel’s drive time playlist

Mariel with baseball cap

The past few days were indeed rough patches. I missed Mariel so badly that I had some difficulty focusing at work. She still is after all my life’s only “anchor” and nothing would seems worthwhile without being able to share it with her. Good things, bad things only made any sense if she was there with me. And I loved her so much, more than life itself.But matters eased off a bit today though. I guess it helped that she had “told” me something I needed to hear, more so now that my life’s in the doldrums (I’d blog about this more in days to come, when I’m ready). I felt a little better tonight enough to open her favorite CD music wallet in our car. It’s a first. I could not attempt to play any of her familiar songs since she passed away because they’d open floodgates of memories. Much more than I can handle.

Mariel listened to music mainly to relax and sometimes to help focus at work. Her musical tastes were truly eclectic. Ranging from Classical symphonies to Broadway to Jazz standards and late 70’s disco. She welcomed them all. She adored Sinatra and mellowed Rod Stewart. She listened to Astrud, Satchmo, Ella, but enjoyed Hagabis, Apo Hiking Soceity, Hotdog and Cinderella too. She often asked me to make her song compilations for her notebook computer or mobile phone music player. She was constantly surrounded by beautiful music which I surmised rubbed into our daughter Sam, who now shows great musical abilities. In fact, she would even try to appreciate my own somewhat “unique” musical tastes, let alone tolerate the raucity on my electric guitar noodling. That’s why she’s an angel, nothing of my “noise” fazed her.

Tonight I randomly pulled out one of her compilations, played it on the car’s CD changer and just decided to “chill” while driving home tonight. I know Mariel was with me, hugging me and telling everything will be all right.’Love you Mommy.( Here’s “Of All the Things” by Dennis Lambert from Mariel’s playlist. This one contains only pictures, but the music should be good enough because it speaks of finding one’s true love)

My life in a flash

If you find absolutely nothing useful with the video I posted today, I’d also be very happy. Because at least you would’ve understood a bit how my life is now. It’s one that alternates between gnawing boredom and absolute panic. Since Mariel passed away, I find myself unable to plan farther than a couple of days. I guess it’s only now creeping that her loss is one that is final and irreversible.

I find no joy in “malling” anymore. When before it was Mariel’s and my national past time, I’m absolutely unaffected now by any advertising hype (some will say maybe thats for the better). While I want to enjoy things like I used to, I seemingly cannot find enough good reasons to really want to, when the very person with whom I love to share everything with, is no longer there. Of course, I try to live my life for Sam as she’s my last remaining hope. But I just had to go out alone today January 20 and lick my wounds in Bonifacio High Street, Makati because people had reminded me it’s four months since Mariel left for God’s bosom. And time again stood still.

I miss you Mariel. I love you so much.

Sam at Avilon

It’s been another week and I can’t really say this one has been much different from the others. Days seem to just whiz by when you’re grieving. Nothing makes it exciting even with Terrell Owens hysterics or Britney breakdowns in the news. Of course some days are better than others, but the little glimmer of sunshine you get, if any, are plainly unremarkable. And I can’t seem to get that “old” joy back into my life because Mariel’s not there anymore to share it with me. So at times, I just try to imagine going out on carefree adventures with Mariel and Sam as we would usually do on Sunday afternoons. And that’s exactly what I did in the last one. Oh, to be our family once again.Sam and I went to check out the new Avilon Ark in Ortigas. I was a far cry from the real deal in Montalban, but ‘ey it’s 15 minutes from where we live so I shouldn’t complain. It’s of course a petting zoo so the usual suspects are there. Miniature horses, exotic birds and certainly highly paid rabbits who get to eat from you for a fee. Sam, as some of you know, loves animals but only to look at from a distance. Yes, she was even scared of the nosy Ringneck Hens lurking around. But she had fun overall because it was definitely different from the accustomed mall fare. Mariel would have enjoyed the day with us. It would’ve been as always another opportunity to bond with just the three of us. And, I guess that it really may have been. I knew we were a family again at Avilon.Let me share some snapshots on January 13 at Avilon Ark with Sam, me and surely, Mariel too.

Phuket Revisited

phrompthep-cape

Today being January 8, I thought that I might share some photos from our lovely Phuket, Thailand wedding some ten years ago. On this day we were married in a memorable Catholic ceremony midst the pristinely beautiful Promthep Cape near Nai Harn Beach. We had our civil wedding vows in the Philippines a few days back, then flew to Thailand for this one. It was something that was surely made in Heaven. Mariel and I had our whole life ahead of us… and had many, many dreams.

And I now promise to Mariel that I will try till my own last breath, to fulfill most of them for her and Samantha. I hope I can make her proud on that day that we again meet. When once more I can have her “to love and to cherish”… forever. I love you Mommy.

Sundays with Sam

Sam at Vietnamese Restaurant

It’s a new year but my heart’s left unstuck in the one before. I still miss Mariel very badly. I’ve made some progress though in the grief front. I know this is what my friends and family would like to hear. But I must admit it’s a day to day thing and I still get breathing problems when I start to remember Mariel and my hospital stay at UST. But let’s not get into that because I know that’s not what Mariel wants now. And that’s actually how I try to deal with the “pain” these days– doing what Mariel wants. Or more precisely doing things that I know will please or make Mariel happy. It’s the only way I can figure easing off the gaping wound in my heart.

For starters, I made sure to bring Sam to Holy Mass today. Mariel had always tried to make Sam understand the value of the Sunday celebration. Sometimes that included dragging me to the service too. Well today I’m proud to announce that she did not have to persuade me to wake up early for my weekly religious duty. I’m happy to go with Sam because I know that is what would have pleased Mariel. Of course, I know too that Mariel has helped save my soul in the process. That’s why she’s my angel now.

I also miss asking Mariel out to try some new, exotic restaurant. So I asked Sam to do that with me today. I was glad she said yes. We both tried to recall our happier times with Mommy while sharing some Vietnamese noodles at Pho24 at the Rockwell mall. Sam liked the Chicken Pho version but skipped adding the mint leaves. I did manage to let her try some fresh bean sprouts though midst my gulping down another cup of Vietnamese coffee. It was happy Sundays again… at least for some moments.

We still both miss Mommy. We’ll just try however to do something “for her” each time we start to feel the hurt return. As a little tribute or even as a way of thanking her for sharing with us her wonderful life of love. Love you Mommy!

It’s our Anniversary!

Civil Wedding in Tarlac

I remember waking up on this day some ten years ago shivering in the cold morning air. Looking back, I was probably just a bit anxious about making the three- hour trip with an entourage to Tarlac for our civil wedding ceremony. I had looked forward to this day but felt a little uncomfortable at having the spotlight on me. When we got there, Mariel was my exact opposite though. She was radiant and so well composed in her Filipino- inspired ecru dress. She was also relaxed but had one eye on the wedding details, such as guest lists, food etc. Things were as hectic as it could be but nevertheless I had my expert at multitasking on- the- job. In fact, many of you would know that we will still be flying to Phuket the very next day for our dream garden wedding in Thailand.

But I digress. For my key recollection was indeed seeing my wife Mariel glowing in the morning sunlight. She was so, so beautiful on that Saturday in January. This was after all, the day that the Lord has made for us. We had both waited so long for this time, to meet that someone whom we had finally decided to spend the rest of our lives with. We had so much to live for on that January morn. Like raising a family and building our little castle and you know, simply conquering the world. But as unexpectedly as she had come into my life, Mariel had to leave.

That is why it hurts so much remembering this, our special day. I know how much the day meant to Mariel too. (I can even reveal now that she had consistently used it as her “password” for things such as computer login etc.) She never forgot to mark the day. Although I must admit that there were some years when I had not. Of course, Mariel had always gently reminded me. Well Mommy, I know I will never now miss “celebrating” this day. For right now I’ve decided to make it as my day of thanksgiving– “Mariel’s Day”. For your having come into my life and having made it worthwhile. For your having shared with me my life’s happiest moments. For your having gifted me with our beautiful and talented daughter Samantha. For being that selfless, gentle and the totally loving wife and best friend that I can ever have.

Thank you Mommy for sharing your life with me. Thank you for loving me. I will love you always for the rest of my life. And I will celebrate today till that time we meet again. Happy Anniversary!

( I’d like to end with a song for Mariel. One that she liked very much and she had asked me at times to sing to her even with my “horribly squeaky” voice. I guess more than ever it best describes my deep longing for my love, my wife and best friend. “The Nearness of You” done so beautifully by Nicole Henry. )

Home for Christmas

Sam at home for Christmas 2007

I promised Mariel that I’ll be home for Christmas. And it’s one that I will keep despite the expected “lumps”. Most of you know that Sam and I have lived as voluntary “refugees” at my sister Alma’s home since Mariel passed away. It’s been impossible to live at our house knowing that it’s “soul” is now gone. For Mariel was quite simply the one that made it a place to call “home”.

Christmas Eve was spent with us hosting the traditional ” noche buena” or Christmas feast at Mandaluyong for my mom Conchita, sis Alma, brother-in-law Baguie and their two wonderful kids, Trisha and Gabby, who fondly call me “toto” and Mariel as their “naning”. It was a simple dinner with Mariel’s  favorite Spaghetti and various Filipino sweets and goodies. We reserved places for some friends and of course our beloved Mariel. We had the usual gift-giving and ended the night with a special prayer for Mariel. I missed though getting those nice shirts from Mariel this year. But it doesn’t matter, I’m sure that there will be some waiting for me when we again meet.

Mommy I miss you and I know you were with us that night. I promise that I’ll always be home for Christmas no matter what. So be sure to have some fresh pasta ready. Have a Merry Christmas with everyone up there in Heaven. XOXOXO

Not the Usual Christmas

Mariel and Sam at Santa Clarita mall 2004

It just hit me tonight that it’s almost Christmas day. I’ve been very anxious about its coming as it’s the first one that Sam and I will be spending without our love Mariel.

Grief counselors advise you to plan for these dates. But how can one really prepare for living life without that someone who had made it all worthwhile. I’m thankful though that I have Sam. For she’s the one that can sometimes ease the numbing pain.

In a way, I was fortunate that recent urgent concerns at the office had momentarily distracted me from brooding over my situation. But since “school’s out” now and I don’t think I’d be able to escape the usual gift- giving duties that come with the season, I had no choice but to make another brave trip to the mall to try to shop for Christmas presents.

Mariel was the genius at this craft She had taken extra care to match the gifts with the recipients and consistently ended up with some tastefully nice ones. With me however it was inevitably the ones nearest the check-out counter that found its way into the basket. And they were often horribly boring ones. Did I tell you about the time when I had given Mariel a “Mace” tear gas spray as a birthday present. I actually found it romantic and even got one for myself. Of course Mariel who was always so good-natured, only laughed it off and said sweetly, “si Daddy naman..”

So let me give advance warning to all those who might receive something from me this Christmas. Mariel had nothing to do with them gifts. And if you ever find some to be kitschy or downright uninspiring, you have no one else to blame but me. All the same I had done my best to recall Mariel’s usual choices. So it will be that nice fluffy comforter for my sister and some country-themed knick knacks for some others. Oh Mariel I really wish you were with me at the shopping center because only you knew my mom’s real dress size. Its one of those things that continue to be a mystery to me.

The night nevertheless closed surrounded by frenzied midnight shoppers and unavoidable Christmas muzak. It was a scene straight out of an SM commercial. And I had never felt so alone in my life. It was as surreal as it could get. Because it had just hit me that I may not have my Mariel with us on this Christmas day.

I miss you Mommy so much. I promise to be home for you this Christmas. Please promise to be somehow there for us too. We love you so much. Merry Christmas.

For Mariel- Sam plays “Annie”

December 15, 2007 was the red-letter day for Mariel. She had looked forward to seeing Sam perform as Annie in her school community theater (Assumption METTA). Sam was playing “Annie” in Annie the Musical. Unfortunately as most of you already know Mariel had to leave us to join our Lord Jesus in heaven last Sept. 20, 2007.

Sam’s performance last night, more than anything was a tribute to her mommy’s love. For Mariel had brought up Sam to work on her gifts and to share them with others, just as she did. Mariel was a giving person and last night was Sam’s turn to give a little back to her beloved Mommy. I know Mariel would have been very proud and happy to see Sam’s rendition of Annie at Assumption. I know she was with us. I had reserved a seat beside me for her at the theater. As usual, it’s one with the best view. For the best mom in the whole wide world.

We miss you so much Mommy and we love you forever. — Daddy and Sam

Mariel’s Christmas Tree

xmas-tree.jpg

I had originally written- off Christmas this year. Of course, I could not get myself to get into the holiday mood because of my present situation. I’ve told you before how it breaks my heart to even hear “Silent Night” played on radio or at the mall. It just reminds me once more how my life is now so utterly incomplete. And that maybe I can never be happy or whole again. How can I even think about being “home for Christmas” when Mariel’s no longer there to make it a joyful reunion for us. For she had simply made it all worthwhile. And now it pains me to even think about “noche buena” and the coming yuletide season. Days are filled with bitterness and lamentations.

But even if it resulted to another Sisyphean ordeal for me, I had decided to put up Mariel’s Christmas tree last night ( you can see a photo of my “valiant” attempt above). Because I knew how much Mariel looked forward to putting up our Christmas decors each year, I had to do this one even as it meant tears again with each “unwrapping”. Because even tiny little colored balls had heaps of memories in them. For I know how Mariel had carefully chosen each one. We had spent countless hours together looking for them at shops in the mall, even though I was not quite totally enthusiastic back then. For you know, we husbands and men often see these things as cheerless chores. Now I know better.

Mariel had planned for the yearly themes. Sometimes it was lilac, sometimes it was blue and silver. Or red and gold. There was even a time it was traditional Russian motif, complete with the onion-shaped golden ornaments. Mariel was a genius at getting our humble abode to look like a perfect “Homes and Gardens” scene. She was very creative and never really spent extravagantly on the project. ( I’ll let you in on her “trade secret’, she actually thought it best to buy some of the Christmas decors in January when they are on “sale” and find imaginative uses for them at the year’s end. Now you know why I loved her so)

I also managed to set up only the Christmas tree on Saturday night. The are many more Christmas “touches” and adornments that I know Mariel would want me to put up from her boxes of goodies. And, I do this wholeheartedly for her. For as long as I can and no matter if I may have to roll that boulder as Sisyphus would forever, I will make sure to have Mariel’s Christmas tree up each year. If only to again serve her memory. If only to get a chance to once more tell her how much I love her.

I love you Mariel. I hope my little decorating “experiment” made you smile tonight.

(I promise that”I’ll be home for Christmas”, for you Mommy)

A Road I Must Travel

Grieving is a lonely road I must learn to travel by myself. There are no road maps to hasten the journey. Only anecdotes and tear-drenched stories of those who have gone through it before. And with gratitude I take comfort in their promise. There are many others too who want to join me on my passage. Family, friends and even faceless people who share my deep anguish. And I thank them all so very much from my heart’s depths for their caring and affection.

But I alone can make this trek through the valley. And hope to maybe make it through the other side. Sometimes it’s cold and desolate, sometimes so full of suffocating regrets. And I pray to God that He may hold my hand as I make the crossing. But I’m not ready to “let go” just yet. Not just yet. Please forgive me Mariel for being so spineless now. I love you so much and have only your memories to keep me going. Give me a little more time to learn to live with the pain and accept that you are in a really, really better place. And as Linda once said ” to find reasons to wake up each day, knowing Samantha is enough”. I love you Mommy. I will always love you.

( I’d like to sleep tonight with thoughts of Mariel and a song which I know she liked. This one’s “Somewhere Over The Rainbow” by Katherine McPhee)

To Love and Honor Mariel

Mariel and Sam at Sentosa I go to Heritage Park to “talk” to Mariel as often as I can. I was there again today, Sunday. No, I am not turning delusional. It’s just that I try to find time to have some moments with her in those very peaceful whereabouts. I close my eyes and feel the gentle breeze on my face as if to receive Mariel’s own gentle kisses. I also make sure that her special place is kept “squeaky clean” and has her favorite fresh flowers as much as possible.. Those who knew Mariel can attest to how well she kept a clean home and work environment for us. She had provided the order for us to thrive and blossom.

While there, I just basically tell her what’s on my mind. Mostly about caring for Sam. I must admit that I’m still overwhelmed by the task ahead of now having to raise our nine- year old daughter single-handedly. I have always been poor at understanding women. How much more now that I have to deal with a highly- intelligent daughter who is also slowly starting to find her own place in the world. Daughters don’t come with a “user’s manual. So I just try my best to assure her that I will always be there for her, no matter what. And that I will be there to “listen” to anything she may want to share with me 24/7. I know she misses her Mommy much, but has just been a little better than me at “hiding’ it. After all she “is” her mommy’s daughter. Mariel was never a “cry-baby”.

Therefore, I try to put Sam to bed each night and sing her lullabies as her mom used to do. Overall, I just attempt to “wing it” at taking Mariel’s place. She was so good at it and had put up such high standards that I can now only clumsily carry on. I don’t do it reluctantly however. Because it’s my way of showing Mariel how much I truly loved her. I love Sam as much too. But here’s another chance to serve her memory. Which is to give all my love to the person Mariel loved so very much. Our Samantha.

Mommy, please help me bring up our daughter to be like the fine lady that you were. Because only then can I be completely happy and be able to say that I have done my work well at honoring my one true love. My Mariel.

“Life After Birth” by Dr. Wayne W. Dyer

Mariel’s passing had made me think more and more about life, and life-after- life. While I believe that Mariel is now in a really special place with the Lord, in moments of weakness, the fragile human part of me still craves for some certainty. Certainty that Mariel is now free from any more fear, any more pain ( as I’ll do anything to “protect” her). That she is finally getting her “reward”, for having given so much of herself to others, especially to me and our daughter, Sam. That one day I will see her again, to embrace and to hold, and share her love through eternity.

I came across this short video piece from Dr. Wayne Dyer which talks about “Life after Birth” or the triumph of spirit over life. I hope it speaks to you too like it did to me, that life-after-life indeed is just a transition to something so wonderful and great. And so beyond any kind of happiness we can ever possibly imagine because of our “limited” point of view.

Useful Tips from Mariel

Mariel and BongThis post was originally called “Useful Tips from Mariel on what to do when your Life’s a Mess”. But my daughter Sam asked me to edit it as it was boringly long. Also she said it might be better to be “cryptic” as more people will be drawn to it out of curiousity. She’s 9 years old and I’m taking advice from her. Such is my life now.

It’s been some days since my last blog. Partly because I lost my internet connection (which is obviously back now). Also, I guess the more “mundane” stuff of life have caught up with me too (read bills, bills and more bills). Mariel had always “protected” me from these as I’ve always thought bills were junk mail meant to be dispensed with. The fog of bereavement too has lifted as most people have stopped speaking to me in hushed tones or acting deferentially. As they like to say “Life must move on”. But moving on is easier said than done when you have to care for a nine- year old daughter and deal with your clients’ egos at work at the same time . Well I guess I may have to take some tips from Mariel because “that” is what she did everyday of our married life. So I tried my best to “predict” what Mariel would have done if she were in my shoes and life’s a mess, as it is now for me. Here goes:

1) Let Go, Let God

Mariel never failed to seek God’s guidance and protection above all. In our most desperate of moments, when she was already so gravely ill at the UST Hospital, she steadfastly kept faith and faced her sickness with both courage and grace. She never once wavered as she knew that the Lord always kept her best interest at heart.

In our years together, she also never failed to remind me to be thankful for whatever little blessings came our way, even if it meant literally dragging me to Church every Sunday. She went on novenas when Sam got sick. Never one to “broadcast” her piety, Mariel always kept her prayerful life away from public view. She is still my angel today keeping me on God’s path.

2) First Things First

Mariel always knew her priorities. She always decided to do the most critically important things first above the seemingly urgent. (Stephen Covey wrote about it, but Mariel really practiced it) She also was never swayed by the socially expedient over doing the right thing, most specially if it concerned our daughter Sam. I shall always try to be guided by her example and keep myself from being distracted by the “non-essentials”.

3) Know Thyself

Mariel often advised me to accept my limitations. She was my greatest cheerleader but she’d be first to tell me to “cut my losses” when prudence dictated it. She tried to keep me from squandering precious time on quixotic pursuits and made me confront squarely my “realities”. She did this unpleasant task though with such gentleness that I had never felt oppressed. She did it too because she loved me so much and did not want to see me “get hurt” in the end. And, of course, she was always right.

4) Just Do It, Period.

Mariel never hesitated to do anything important even if it meant some personal sacrifice or discomfort. She would often bring home some work from the office and soldiered on till about 3 in the morning simply because they needed to get done. She never complained, blamed anyone or whined. She just did what she believed was necessary. I wished I had her great sense of duty and utter lack of “theatrics”.

5) Get A Massage

While Mariel believed in getting things done, she was not above relaxing or getting a good leg and foot massage. She often wanted a few minutes of massage (courtesy of yours truly) before going to bed, “to rest and live to fight another day”. She knew the value of a well-deserved pause before going back to the trenches. Don’t worry Mariel, I will be back to giving you your well-earned massages when we next meet. I love you Mommy.

“Happy Birthday Daddy”

Mommy and Me

Mariel would have kissed me as I woke up today and said “Happy Birthday Daddy”. Of course she would have already wrapped a “surprise” gift, usually a nice shirt (as she knew I have poor taste in clothes) and would have also written me some heart- warming notes like “as an additional gift, I promise not to be ‘sungit’ for one week.” Mariel had the better sense of humor. She used to make me laugh. Now I can only cry at best. And I had a pretty good cry before finally getting out of bed this morning. For I missed her so badly.

By the way, she talked to my mom a few months ago about giving me something “special” this year, this being my 50th. I would have wanted to tell her however that just being with her was more than enough to make my birthdays special and memorable. Her being with me today like going window-shopping at ShangriLa mall would have been already a treat. We usually went there on Sundays to hear Mass and eat lunch. Then. its off to my sister’s place in Lexington Garden Village where we would have a small “party”. Parties simply meant having “merienda” with family and friends, while Sam got to play with the other kids. This year, its something similar except that Mariel’s no longer there to make it “fun”. Feelings of joy these days it seems, come far between moments of longing and emptiness.

The only thing that brought some joy today was reading again Mariel’s birthday card to me of a few years back, which said (I know see wouldn’t mind) — “I celebrate today, the day you came into the world, for if you hadn’t I’m sure I never would have known the kind of happiness you brought into my life. I love you, Happy Birthday”.

I love you very much too, Mommy. Take care and good night.