A trip to the cemetery
After my father’s death and interment in 2010, I hadn’t visited his tomb. Not even once. I have continuously resisted every invitation/ coercion of my mother and relatives by saying that visiting the grave of my father (and other relatives) are ultimately useless because of the simple fact that whoever owned that grave is no longer there. That the rotting body is just a shell. Our customs and traditions, of course, taught us otherwise but I persisted.
Looking back, I’m not sure why I refused to go to the cemetery. My depression extinguished all my desire for interaction and made me fear going out for any reason. My refusal to see my father’s grave might also have been connected to my refusal to accept his death; that for as long I didn’t see his grave, I could pretend he was just away in the province, convalescing. Or it could have been just plain laziness; up to now I am still bothered by the fact that traveling around Manila takes so much effort–the inconvenience of heavy traffic and the certainty of flooding at a hint of rain.
It could be one of the things I mentioned. Or it could be all of them too.
Last night however, as I was lighting candles on our doorway (our All Souls’ Day tradition) I suddenly thought of going to the cemetery tomorrow. The thought came suddenly and stayed with me. My mother was surprised when I told her. I could also sense that she was also preparing for the event when I will say I changed my mind and stay at home instead. I thought I would change my mind too. But this morning my decision remained.
So off to the cemetery I went. La Loma Catholic Cemetery was relatively quiet after the hectic days of October 31 to November 2. I still saw a sprinkling of families who wanted to avoid the crowds. I lit a couple of candles and uttered prayers for my father, maternal grandmother, 2 uncles, and 3 other relatives on my mother’s side of the family. I stayed for about forty minutes, waiting for the candles to melt, taking pictures on the sly.
As I was contemplating the melting candles, I noticed a white butterfly flitting around me. I thought the scent of the wilting flowers drew it so I was a bit surprised when it settled on my left hand instead of on any of the flowers. I stared at it for a few seconds before deciding to take its photo. However, before I had the chance to do so, it took off again, circling me about three times before heading to the top of the small frangipani tree beside the grave.
I didn’t ascribe any meaning to this, but when I shared the story to my mother she immediately concluded that it was my father thanking me for my first visit ever. I smiled and didn’t say anything. I’d agree that it was such a beautiful thought but is it true? I have no way of ascertaining its truth, so I will keep silent about it. I still believe that except for their physical remains, nothing of my departed loved ones are in the cemetery.
They are in my memories, which I think is a better place than any cemetery.