Hasta la vista, mother

Late last month, my mother passed away. Despite her professional stature (she was a judge), there were no eulogies, no rituals, no ceremonies. That was how she wanted it. Her instructions, contained in a duly signed document, were clear and precise. Yesterday, we completed the last of those instructions. We headed out to sea and did as she wished. No tears, no wailing and, most especially, no strangers. Just family — mine, my brother’s and the family of our mother’s only sibling who passed away fifteen years ago.

All that might seem strange in a country where cultural traditions dictate extended wakes and grand funerals replete with passionate eulogies and full page announcements in the obituary section of major dailies. Some people actually enjoy going through the process of organizing a wake, choosing a coffin, arranging flowers, getting a caterer… Personally, I hate the whole social circus tradition.

I think it’s accurate to say that my brother and I were already prepared, emotionally and mentally, for the probable backlash we would get from relatives and friends who would have expected (as though it were a matter of right) a chance to personally say their final goodbyes. But it was my mother’s wishes that we had to respect, not theirs, and I personally don’t care if anyone feels slighted about not being told or about not being invited to be part of the process that my mother so carefully laid out in writing. I wish the same thing for myself and I have put down my wishes in writing too back in 2005. Unlike my mother who left her instructions in a sealed envelope that wasn’t opened until after she had died, mine was published as a newspaper column. My daughters won’t have to explain anything to anyone.

Speedy and Alex Veneracion

That’s my baby brother, Peter, on the right with his wife, Mary Ann, between us. The photos are from Mary Ann’s collection and from my cousin’s, Rinna.

My mother and I had very little in common, there were very few things that we agreed on and I’d be a hypocrite if I play the drama queen and claim that I am feeling so devastated right now that I am hardly functional. I loved her in my way but perhaps because I never looked to her as my source of strength and inspiration, there was no emotional dependency, so it is easier for me to accept, simply as a matter of fact, that she is gone forever. And I will not pretend, now that she is gone, that things between us were better than they really were. Perhaps, in the future, there will be a time when I will think of her and miss her, and actually feel grief-stricken that she will no longer be there. But, for now, it’s hasta la vista, mother. If there is an afterlife, well, maybe we’ll say hello again.

Last edited at 11.58 p.m.