I hate wakes. Well, I guess I’d be hard-pressed to find someone who actually likes going to one. Because of its nature, a wake is that one occasion that most everyone would avoid…except perhaps for two of my friends who were eerily cheerful about their parent’s death, something about the afterlife and being with the creator.
The average 3-5 days that wakes in the country typically take isn’t all that solemn and mournful though. In between are the endless stories told about the dead. And what Filipino gathering can do without the jokes and laughter? Even on one of the saddest occasions the Pinoy can eke out a giggle or two.
Of course, part of the kwentuhan (story-telling) is about the dead loved one’s last days on earth. Last night, it was about how the father had to be rushed four hours away to a decent hospital–in my hometown, as it turned out. It was about how my colleague regretted the huge fight she had had with him over his other wife and children. It was about how they made up: the father coming home from work and telling the daughter, ‘You’re here,’ and she asking him, ‘Have you eaten?’ And when he simply patted her on the shoulder when he had to leave to go back to the other family in the province. No words exchanged, just forgiveness (Our telenovela writers could learn a lot from this story).
In the hospital, he couldn’t be revived from multiple organ failure due to complications from diabetes. Miles away in Metro Manila, in the home of his legal family, a picture frame came crashing to the floor all by itself. No wind blew; everything was still. ‘It was him,’ my colleague said. I would have impersonated Gregory House’s voice and retorted, ‘It’s called gravity.’ But I opted to bite into the delicious Whatta Tops chocolate cupcake served at the wake.
The tales went on and on while I tried hard not to stare at the dead father’s face. I was sitting on the front bench, and the coffin was less than three feet away. It was the open type, with a globe of glass covering the body. I decided that I wouldn’t want the same thing for my own wake. I wasn’t even sure if there’d be a coffin since cremation has its own appeal. I wasn’t being morbid, just letting my mind wander.
Definitely, I wouldn’t want my own wake to be gloomy and somber. I’d want it to be noisy, maybe even have people singing videoke, if they could manage it. There should also be ice cream, and the flowers would be a riot of colors and maybe arranged in pots or vases and absolutely not in those dreadful scarecrow arrangements. Doubtless these ideas would offend religious sensibilities. But Tyrion Lannister is right: ‘Death is so boring.’ So I’d want mine spiced up a little beyond the usual tsismisan (gossiping).
Thankfully, my boss said we could go. I gave my condolences one last time and went back to the business of living.