What feels right for the heart

I have this strange thing with text messages. Sometimes I hate them, especially when they bear sad news, and other times I love them, obviously for lovely content and good news. Although I am not always very good at sending prompt replies I am in awe of how they sort of casually barge into any moment, interrupting thoughts, a life, an evening, bringing with them the power to either make you feel better, or worse, more hopeful, less brave, real, vulnerable, human. I don’t always like what text messages do to shake up my day but, well, they keep coming, bringing whatever they will. I can respect that.

But now, at this very minute I think I love — or maybe appreciate would be a better word — this little part of technology in its entirety. I am not exactly in a very happy space right now, the passing of someone so dear still so fresh a wound, but I am comforted a lot by the many text messages that have found their way to my inbox. I especially feel like such a special child of God when I’m all steeped in melancholy, no matter how gentle, and a really beautiful one comes in unexpectedly, spot on. At the very least they seem like pretty girls frolicking in a summer’s day, holding handmade presents made of flowers, sticks and stones behind smocked dresses with full skirts for me; but at best they feel very much like hugs from heaven, just hiding serenely behind words. They make me smile that inner smile that comes only when you think of someone nice, or something good.

It has been a very hectic, very sad week for us over here in our tight, little corner but life goes on. It must. It is as basic as that. So with all it takes, day by day and from moment to moment, we all are doing what we can to try and rise above this quiet, accepted woe, at the same time hanging on to every little thing that tenderly reminds us just how beautiful life still is, despite all. God, being so brilliant, sends lovely signs aplenty. How wonderful is that?

In the thick of things, one message from Kris simply said: “Lucy, I hon or your pain.” Thank you for that.
Those last three words soothe; especially when all of me wanted to run far, far away from the darkness of it all, when the basic instinct was to take me outside of myself so I can come back stronger and braver, there was this permission to just be, to sit with the pain and make friends with it. During those times, being present in the moment was as ho-hum as doing nothing much more than staring up at the ceiling, counting specks, sighing, missing, pretending it’s all been a bad dream. Maghinuktok, as we call it in Bisaya. There were moments when it meant closing the eyes again and going back to sleep when reality hit too hard, and getting up unapologetically only when there is nothing left to sleep off. It’s when you’re no longer tired but you still feel tired, and that sits just fine with you. It is very strange, this thing called grief.

True, what the wise always say: surrendering to the feeling more often than not always lends some comfort, no matter how fleeting. Maybe it is not exactly and entirely a renewal in itself but it is enough of a push to allow us to function normally, if not productively. It was a good thought to hold on to, when most everyone, for lack of something better to say, would go for the standard “Stop crying, it’s okay, he’s in a better place now” line. During the wake we would sometimes laugh about how incredible that sounded, and maybe we simply couldn’t understand God’s ways, so more than once we were tempted to retort, “How do you know? Have you been to that ‘better place’ and back?” But we all take what we are given, and when the thought soothes, it soothes, and if it doesn’t, well, then it doesn’t. There is no right or wrong, feelings cannot be questioned. And neither should well-meaning people be punished for their good intentions, no matter how misplaced their words.

I’m thinking now that maybe that is why children are such happy people. They unabashedly stay true to what they feel in the here and now, crying and wailing in front of strangers if they must, sulking in a corner, drawing images in the air when they are told to face a corner. And just as quickly when they have cried or sulked enough, they bolt out of their misery, raring to have a go at life again. They find it almost instantly, and just pick up where they left off.

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On that note, I am thankful now for work, and routines that sustain me. The others orphaned by Tito Dougs’ passing feel the same way, too. We go about keeping ourselves busy, finding some semblance of normalcy again in our own terms. This will pass. One day, we will be done with all the groping and all will just fall into place.

It was a beautiful sendoff we had for Tito Dougs, I must say, love-filled and befitting a good man like him. There are no more tears left to cry and there is nothing we cannot accept anymore. It is what it is. I remember seeing his cremated remains, very fine white powder the color of sand, stored in a clear plastic bag and tucked in a little wooden chest. He’s gone. He’s really gone. It is humbling and poignant. Really, it all comes down to this. Nothing reminds you more of how we must all really live a life of and with purpose.

A couple of nights back, Richard and I watched a movie at The Promenade in Greenhills. We wandered inside Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf afterwards — a small cup of Chai Latte for me, and hot chocolate for him, plus one giant cookie the size of a saucer to share. We sat by the cobbled steps right across, fronting the parking lot, in the quiet of the rainy night and with just a sprinkling of people spilling out of the theater, enjoying our hot drinks, the moment, each other. We talked about random things, remembered Tito Dougs, wondered about who could even remotely take his place as our manager/confidante/friend, and wishing we (all his talents) could just stay together. If only it were that simple. We talked about Richard’s baseball game, the dance number I still don’t feel like doing, the movie we watched. Earlier tonight, I got a text message from my Tita Inday about the article I did last Sunday on Tito Dougs. She said to do whatever feels right for the heart.

Sitting there quietly, just watching people go by, felt so right for the heart. We stayed there for almost an hour. It was nice. Writing about it now feels right for my heart. Remembering Tito Dougs still, in many different ways, sits well in the heart. Yesterday, I took out and rearranged all the fancy plates stored under the buffet table. It felt right. It must be grief working, another text message surmised, all this hustling and bustling around the house. I guess it is. But maybe it will eventually just fall off in soft pieces around us one day, all this longing and missing and musing, to be replaced by a beautiful chunk of something. I don’t know what but it will be beautiful, and I’d like to think it will be a chunk. Of something.

There is this yellow little girl, running around our house and room, bringing sunshine with her and looking very much like a marshmallow. Her name is Veronique, daughter of Tintin, Richard’s sister, and she is as cute as a button, especially when she talks and says “Opo.” I call her “Marshmallow”; she giggles gleefully, and responds to that name. We laugh a lot with her around. Laughter comes in spurts nowadays, but at least it is there.

What else feels right for the heart now? Just basically remembering, I guess. And finding comfort in beautiful text messages. With them and through them, the day can immediately be kinder. Thank you, dear friends, for lovely words arranged in thoughts that you send my way. I love reading and rereading them as I scroll through my inbox. At different moments and in varying degrees, they feel very much like somebody held an umbrella over my head just when raindrops were about to fall.

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