I was an orphan in the Philippines and adopted by a wonderful military American family who loved me very much, but my grandfather was not happy. He didn’t agree with my parents adopting outside the United States. He believed there were too many American kids who deserved better and those kids should come first. However, when my parents brought me to visit him for the first time, he cried in happiness. He walked me around his old town and introduced me to everyone, saying I was his grand daughter and spoiling me for years. He never wanted me to struggle again in my life or feel lonely or afraid. When I had a hard time learning to tie my shoes, he went out and bought me Velcro shoes instead. He loved me endlessly.
When my grandfather was diagnosed with liver cancer, I was a mess, but my husband and I went to visit him at his home one day. He was not the man I saw before I got married and left home, he was a fragile man, skinny, and old. I never thought my grandfather could get old. I never saw him that way. I never wanted to. He came into the living room and my grandmother helped him into a chair. When he sat down he looked over at me. He stared at me for a minute and then asked, “Where’s your husband?” I pointed to my husband who sat next to me. “He’s right here pop.” I said. My husband smiled and waved. My grandfather nodded, then went to stare at the television. I stared at him and wanted to just curl up on his lap like I did when I was three. I wanted him to bounce me playfully again and take me to the racing tracks to see the horses. I was suppose to be his jockey. The small 4’10” girl who rode his favorite horse in the races. I wanted to tell him I loved him and that I would miss him so deeply, but I just watched him.
The last time I saw my grandfather, he was in a hospital bed, skin and bones, mumbling beyond words. He was dieing and I couldn’t help him. I reached out for his hand, skinny and lifeless, I kissed it and cried. I didn’t know how to say goodbye. I didn’t want to. All I could say was,
“I love you pop. I promise I will make you proud.”
I didn’t keep in touch with my family as much after my grandfather passed away. His funeral had many paying their respects, people far and wide came to say goodbye to this great man. I read a poem for him at his funeral, but I had no emotion to give while I read it. I just missed him. I just felt detached with so much pain. I didn’t think I would feel this way. Grandparents pass away and we don’t live forever, but it didn’t hurt any less knowing it were going to happen than if it were a sudden loss.
A year later I became pregnant with my first child. My husband and I were excited, but scared, as any normal parents would be. We didn’t know what to expect, we were young, just 19 and just starting out, but after a while it became more of an exciting moment. We decorated the baby’s room, stocked up on blankets, diapers, and formula, and even began collecting the ultrasound photographs. We were past the fear now and ready to accept her with open arms, but one late night in May and seven months into the pregnancy, our life would change. I awoke to a puddle of blood on my sheets and pain in my lower back. Fearfully I dialed my doctor’s emergency number and they told me to get to the hospital.
We entered the hospital and I was told I was going into early labor. Seven months was not enough time, so they tried to slow the labor. Hours into the labor they finally realized it was not going to work and they had to induce labor so I didn’t bleed to death. I was going to lose my child.
As I held my daughter in my arms, I studied her skinny body, her hair still layered with a light blanket of skin, and her nose tiny and just like my own. I held her lifeless body and just stared at her. I couldn’t cry. I was numb. I thought of my grandfather and how fragile he was in my hands as well. I didn’t know how to say goodbye again.
Time has healed me, but it never fully goes away. Over time I have learned that I have experienced many losses in my life. The loss of my biological parents, the loss of friends over the years, the loss of my grandfather, the loss of my daughter, and even the loss of my independence through scars of anxiety and depression. But life has a way of eliciting the truth out of ourselves and tapping into our souls to reveal that long-awaited epiphany. Dwelling on all that loss clouded my judgement and goals in life, like a weight on your shoulders you just can’t brush aside. I felt like a prisoner in my own mind until I let go of those losses. I closed the gap between what was and what is, then focused on what I have gained instead. I now have three beautiful teens and my husband and I love each other more after 24 years of life’s little messes. I know now that things happens for a reason. LIFE happens and I think I’ve done a pretty damn good job at it so far.
Yes, I think I kept that promise. I think Pop would be proud.
Have you experienced the loss of a loved one and how did you overcome it? Tell us something positive that you learned from pain.
You can read more of my life’s lessons in my book BEING AMERICAN