While people in the States celebrate Halloween with carved pumpkins, costumes and props, most people in the Philippines do so by remembering the saints and the loved ones they have lost. November 1st and 2nd would be spent going to the cemetery visiting graves, embellishing them with flowers, lighting candles, sharing a meal or two with family. Some people would stay overnight, play board games, play the guitar and sing to their heart’s content. I will be honest and say that this holiday was merely a tradition for me until I lost my Dad two years ago. I don’t get to visit his grave as often as I want to but at this point, I don’t think I need something tangible for my memories of him to be this alive. That bruise in my heart associated with his death is still pink raw and burns every time I dream of him – twice or three times each week.
This Halloween, I am not celebrating with a Piglet costume or a Tauriel. I am spending it remembering my Dad and honoring his memory – even if it means allowing myself to grieve again. I wish our last few days had been more ceremonial – me and him at the beach saying our last goodbyes; me thanking him for that special walk we had one day when I was in 5th grade; him pinching my finger one more time; or the whole family having karaoke night or dancing by the beach on New Year’s Eve one last time. However, some things are meant to happen only in the movies and somehow, life is just blunt, even if it’s about something as serious as losing your dad. My brother who is also a seafarer like my dad was, recently shared that one of his co-workers happened to have worked with him before. They spent time talking about him as a co-worker and as a dad and ended the conversation with tears in their eyes.
My consolation besides the idea of heaven is the thought that if my father were still alive, he would be proud of the life skills I have recently developed. It would surely warm his heart to know I could cook now, that I could build a fire and keep it going for hours, that I could singlehandedly build a pig pen gate using power tools and that my son turned out fine even though I spent most of my pregnancy crying because my father was dying. A friend once told me that sometimes it is not the quantity of time that you spend with someone that matters, but the quality. And that’s how it was with him. He was away 80 % of the time because of work but we made good and rich memories that are worth remembering and celebrating not only every All Souls Day, but every single day. So today, I will remember. I will sing our favorite songs and I will smile and cry at the same time.