AS I STARED at the white casket serenely adorned with white orchids, I saw my dead grandmother.

Still, things did not sink in even as I sat at the back row, staring at the people present in the wake. My aunt was crying beyond consolation, and so are my cousins. I looked away and sighed. I just didn’t understand. Why are they crying? And why don’t I feel anything?

The day of the burial came. We walked under the scorching heat of the sun, in the dusty road leading to the cemetery. It was a slow, agonizing walk and everyone around me was crying.

Rhey slowly declined the casket for a final blessing. After a few words, the priest opened the casket for us to say goodbye. I stared as my cousins slowly kissed the hand of my dead grandmother. I shuddered. I was not sure I wanted to touch her, to say the least. I hesitated for a brief moment, and it was enough to tic my aunt off.

“What has my mom done to you that you hate her so much to not even show a little sadness for her death?” she said, not hiding the disgust in her tone. Some people stared and began to whisper. Dutifully, I immediately kissed my grandmother’s hand, but tears were already forming at the back of my eyes.

I was angry. Do I really have to look sad to show my love for her? Is it necessary to cry hysterically until my eyes are reduced to red puffs? It was an internal struggle to keep calm while thinking of running away, as far as possible, from here. It was unfair for my aunt to say those words. It was like she summarized all my life debt to them, making me feel ungrateful for my very existence.

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I took a deep breath and thought for a moment. I should understand her. She just lost her mother, who is the very same person who took me, cared for me, and loved me just as a mother should. Looking from that perspective, I realized that it did look like grandma meant nothing to me.

But it was exactly the opposite. I wanted to tell my aunt that I loved grandma so much that I couldn’t bear to see her like that. The real reason for my apathy is because I was struggling between being sad and happy at the same time. Sad because I couldn’t accept the fact that I will no longer see her pale, wrinkled face scolding me for another little mishap I did; that I will never be able to hold her hand to support her while we walk in the mall; and that I will never hear her voice when she sings in church during Sundays.

But the sadness was incomparable to my happiness. I was very happy she died, because she had struggled with cancer for so long. She had been very strong but I could tell that it has been too difficult for her. I was very happy she died at her sleep, peacefully. Most importantly, I was very happy she died because I know she would be in paradise.

Then I realized that my aunt looked at death quite differently from my point of view. She looked at it like a thief who stole something very valuable to her, whereas I viewed it as something everyone should look forward to. Death is a concept that was never completely defined. We know nothing about it. One thing is for sure, everyone is bound to die someday. But if people live in fear of death, then life would cease to exist.

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PRAYER: Dear God, You breathed life into us, the men and women You created in Your image. Thank You for this precious blessing which gave life to us and to our loved ones. Lord, with this gift of life, may you help us understand and accept that life is a precious but limited gift which You have bestowed upon us. Help us make the most out of our lives, and at the end of our being and existence, teach us to accept death without fearing it, for it is our way of being one with You in heaven. Amen. Yve Camae V. Espeña

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