Epitaph

Have you ever thought of how you want to be remembered?

                   Of what to put on your tombstone when you die?

                                   On what others would read when they visit the grave site you’re buried in?

Families in the Philippines are not very keen to put epitaph on their relatives tombstone. You will always see passages from the bible, or the generic “you will always be remembered” and yet year after year you don’t see candles been lighted on the site or flowers on the day of the dead.

My family is different. There is always “funeral oration” or epitaph on my loved ones tombstone. It was a tradition started by my brother when our beloved grandfather passed away. The same brother that died tragically 4 years after and them mom.

“A life lived in generosity and kindness” — S.B

My grandfather has raised our family. He was not married, we are his only family. He migrated with my dad from the province to the city. He gave dad a job and approved of his marriage to my mom. He decided that my mom should stay home when the children started coming. He was the patriarch in the house, not my dad because his decisions were always final but he was always open to discussion and negotiation.

He was happy to have us around, the boys were his favorite companion on his trips and vacation. Us girls were given toll orders to behave ourselves — cannot ride horses, nor learn to ride bicycle, we are fetched from school everyday, no boyfriend and every summers are spent in the vacation house where he lived.

In return, we always get what we wanted. Whatever we want he was ready to give to us. Gramps was very kind, he was never angry, only when you hug the TV when it’s time for his show – which  my brother loves to do or when you go out and not told him. He always does roll call and when you’re not in bed when he calls your name better pad your behind or you’ll get whack, yes we were spanked when we were kids (don’t worry we turned out just fine).

The vacation house, the old house is open for everybody. He welcomes family coming from the province especially children going to school or finding work in the city. It was a fun house and we have a lot of happy summer memories in there. well actually in here,  my dad took over the property when Gramps passed away and my dad retired.

When he passed away we were all very sad — only good words pour out everyone’s mouth. Saying how generous he was, how kind and fair, how he would have been a good leader, how he was able to know when you need helping etc. All very kind, of course you will say it’s normal when someone died, but not with him, I saw it, lived it and experienced how he was a very loving, kind and generous grandfather.

“A faithful friend is a sturdy shelter and he who finds one finds a treasure” — A.B.

I talked about my brother Koko in here before, sharing his life and his music. He doesn’t need much introduction except that he was the one who convinced my mom and sister to put an epitaph on my grandfather’s tombstone because he said it was the best way to remember the dead — by a summary of who they were alive.

He was the most affected when my grandfather died, he was the favorite grandson — always put first in the pack so to speak. He looked up to him, like we all did and he thought he lost a best-friend when Gramps died.

When he died not long after Gramps, we were shocked but at the same time we were happy with the outpouring of good words from people we never met in our lives but knew him and loved him as a brother. There were a lot of good words to summed up who he was, he was a friend, a brother, teacher, rocker, climber, quiet guy, guy with few words, a lover. We have to capture all those and put it on his tombstone for those that will come and visit will know that he’s a very reliable person for others. He was to me until the end.

The most fitting was from the old testament of the bible – Sirach 6:14. It resonated all what we thought he was and what his friends confirmed he was when he was with them.

IMG_20141031_154011 (1)

That is mom’s epitaph. She’s very popular where we lived in the city and when she moved to the old house, when dad retired and all of us are out of the house. Mom was not used to being idle, she has to do something and most old women in the village, they gravitate to church work. It has been her life and she’s well remembered in that image. Her devotion to Mary led us to decide what to put on her tombstone.

Whoever pass by her grave will know she’s a Legionary of Mary, a devotee and a faithful servant. Her ministry was evangelizing the migrants. She makes her own rosary and gives it to the seafarers in the city, those waiting for their schedules, applying for a job or those just hanging out. She also visit the prison and gives out her rosary. So you see where we got our religiosity — from mom. She was a very proud mother when my sister became a nun, and many celebrated with her. She was very sad, and pained when my brother passed away, and many condoled with her. She was a happy soul and we attribute it to her being content of where she is, what she did and who she was. We were very proud of her.

WE recently celebrated the “day of the dead” and like the normal tradition, we invited families, planned the food for the picnic and hang out in the memorial like it’s a big fiesta on the designated day. It is the time to catch up with families that are busy with work, or living in another place. My dad is the new patriarch, the new Gramps fro the many grandchildren.

It’s time to remember the good old relatives buried in the ground and remember the good old times when they were alive.

While everybody was happily hanging around the park, fed and sun burnt, I went around to find out what others put on their relatives tombstone if they put any …

“The highest tribute to the dead is not grief but gratitude”

“We loved you in life, much more in death”

“You will remain in our hearts forever”

… and a lot of bible passages and much more “family remembrance”.

I can decide how I want to be remembered … but I think testaments of the living on how you lived your life should be what’s reflected on the stone that marks your birth and passing.

You decide how want to live your life and live it …. live to the fullest and meet people along the way and leave a mark in their lives that will help them remember you, in life and in death. 

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