Saturday, June 14, 2008

Raphe, Renz and LT Remember Rudy, the morning after

Published in my Roots&Wings column on June 15, 2008 in the PHILIPPINE DAILY INQUIRER My heart broke when I saw photos of Raphe and Renz Fernandez as they spoke at their father’s necrological service. In the same breath, I was in awe of his widow, Lorna as she sat listening to her husband’s speak of their fond memories of him – clearly a picture of beautiful grace and faith under pressure. To grieve in itself is a difficult process to go through. So much more when you have to do it under the public eye. The Fernandez family is blessed in the sense that Rudy was able to prepare them and prepare himself to meet his Maker. Rudy had been quoted as saying that he was often in deep conversation with the Lord because he wanted to get to know him better. “After all, I will be meeting him soon,” he quipped. Speaking to Raphe, Renz and Lorna the day after Rudy’s burial, my heart was warmed by the genuine closeness this family possessed. Raphe’s professor and thesis mentor at the Ateneo, Dr. Rofel Brion, had introduced me to him a few years back when he was working on a paper about his grandfather, the late great movie director Gregorio Fernandez. He had always struck me as a bright, young and sensitive young man. The morning we spoke, he seemed fully in control as kuya and now the man of the family. The Fernandez’s had decided to sleep in the same room after Rudy’s wake. Choosing to cocoon and stay together, finding solace in one another. The boys were still both groggy when I talked to them, still reeling and tired from the week’s past events. Lorna says that Rudy had indeed prepared them well and for that she was very grateful. She paused when I reminded her that Sunday was Father’s day and I could hear a slight sigh from the other end of the phone. “It’s his 9th day….” She said. It was comforting for her to know that all these “coincidences” seemed to be orchestrated from above. She said that she was very proud of her boys and the way by which they were handling their loss. “We really did not have that much time to talk to one another while we were at Heritage until one night when Raphe approached me with a problem and so finally we had to sit down as one family. I was tired and a bit upset and I was thinking to myself quietly, diba dapat ako naman ang alagaan nyo muna… until Renz said something that made me stop – sabi niya, “Mama, mag-alagaan na lang tayo.” Lorna said. I smiled when I heard that, and thought to myself, yes, Rudy had prepared his boys very well. I asked Raphe why he opted to do an extemporaneous eulogy and he said simply that it was because he wanted it to just flow. And flow it did. As well as the tears of the thousands who had come to mourn their very public loss as they listened to him talk. When I asked him what he would remember the most about his father, he said that there wasn’t a single lesson he could his place his finger on because there were just too many. “To place a number on it would diminish the importance of the others. It was really in the way he lived, the way he loved us and showed us that he cared. It wasn’t really through words, but more through actions. Whatever legacy he has left us, nasa dugo na namin. These lessons will be easily remembered and called upon when the times become tough.” For now, Lorna says, they just want to rest and be by themselves. Travel maybe to some quiet place where they can be refreshed. Sleep still does not come easy to her or the boys and every nook and cranny of their home carries with them some portion of Rudy. The emotions, she shares are so intense, some moments she cries out for him, on others she is as still as she normally is. “It’s really more the loss of the person himself that drives you to sadness,” she says. As in any other loss of a loved one, it is the longing for the one who is gone that is the most painful. Coming home after the funeral, upon entering the den, Lorna says, it finally hit her that her Rudy was truly gone. For now it is just her and the boys who fill her world. It is a long process yet, she knows, and this brave family’s grief work has just begun. The manner by which Rudy prepared his family for his loss is a poignant example on dying well, one, that many of us can learn from. And his widow and sons openness and care for each other under the most stressful of times, is a gift and a beautiful lesson to us all on how to grieve well. Rudy, would certainly be proud