It was just past lunch when I arrived at the cemetery. The day was bright without a single cloud in the sky. I stalled a bit at the gates, reminiscing again as I always did how things came to end for the life I was visiting, then went in.
I walked through the graves and mausoleum, I see a few scarce visitors of the other deceased inhabitants. Going near my destination, I saw a person on the way tending to a headstone, Juan the grave keeper whom I was familiar with after a long time. I appreciated how he took care and maintained the cemetery even at his old age.
He saw me as he stretched from his work, I nodded towards him who got startled.
“Oh! It’s you. ‘Been a long time.” He smiled, face full of wrinkles.
“It has.” I smiled back.
“I haven’t seen you around lately, ‘thought you left.”
“No, somethings kept me occupied with my family so I couldn’t come back for a while like I used to.” I answered. “But everything is alright now, except my family decided it would be best to move for the better. So this is the last time I’ll be here before I move on along with them.”
“Oh really, well I guess it was way past due a long time ago, but you better tell your old man about it.” Juan said gently.
“He’s here right now?”
“Mmhmm, guess he probably heard about your family moving away. He was coming almost everyday for the past few weeks.” He sighed softly.
I left him after telling him goodbye and thanking him after everything he’d done, then continued onwards. A few minutes later I finally reached the mausoleum I wanted to visit. It was simple compared to the others neighboring it that had exquisite design, nothing grand or less, with white walls, a few windows with glass panes and a grill gate that was already open.
I stepped in through without wiping my shoes on the matt. Inside there was already a person sitting on the bench in front of the entrance with their back facing me, looking at the tomb inside, specifically a more recent one on the lower left. A bunch of flowers and few lit candles littered the in front, and even a plate of bread and pancit. Seeing the offerings, it made me feel a bit embarrassed for not being able to bring any myself.
He didn’t appear to hear me, I walked closer to the person, the man, my grandfather, he was mumbling. “Why did things just have to turn out that way, I, I, why just why..…”
“Grandpa.” I called out to him.
He didn’t respond and just kept mumbling. I sighed and walked right in front of him, putting myself between the tomb and him, then crouched slightly to his eye level. I waved my hand back and forth in front of his face, then a little later he raised his head.
His face showed me how sad and depressed he was, understandably. I stood aside so as to not block his view and looked at the same name written on the recent addition to the dead memorial.
“I’m sorry Tony.” He mumbled sadly. “I only wanted to celebrate your recovery, but I ended up turning it into a tragedy.”
“It was an accident, no one wanted that.” Tony shook his head. “I don’t blame you grandpa, it was hard, trying to accept everything that happened, even now, still I realize I shouldn’t keep feeling sorry for both of us.”
We were both silent, the light filtered from the early-afternoon sun felt out of place for the somber atmosphere. A few months ago the teen had died, but it still felt like it was yesterday he had still lived, only to die the next day from a car accident.
“Hey, I want you to know, I don’t blame you and my parents and older brother don’t either, but, everyone still needs to go on, we were supposed to leave to America for dad’s job anyways. Things just happened, stuff we didn’t want, but, what I’m saying is….”
I struggled to tell him. It felt easier before to get all the words out when I planned but I ended up jumbling it. I sighed in frustration.
“It’s not your fault, no one blames you. But they still have to leave, I’m sorry. I’m apologizing for them and myself for leaving you and grandma. I love you, so, please try to be happy again, like you used to.”
I didn’t cry, it was weird, feeling a weight lifted from my shoulders. I was a little sad yet relieved, I turned and walked out, giving one last glance at the lonesome figure of my grandfather, he’ll be fine, I thought, “Grandma will pick him up”.
A light warm breeze seemed to pass inside the mausoleum, I watched the candles flicker for a few moments, then stood up. I felt I wasn’t alone but I know it was just in my head. I took one last look at the name written, Tony Lopez. My grandson, Tony, or Ton-ton for his nickname.
I recalled how things were a few months ago, when no one could have thought it would happen, but that’s how accidents work. They just happen leaving the victim and anyone worried about them none the wiser. I was sad that my son’s family had to leave for abroad, I was happy he got promoted, but I had to understand. But a few weeks before they left Tony had broken his leg after getting hit by a car while biking.
I was genuinely worried for my grandson of course, yet at the same time happy since it stalled their plans it meant it would take longer for them to leave, although it was only my grandchildren and my daughter-in-law. My son left as scheduled after making sure Tony and Anton will be fine with their mother in our care.
It wasn’t the extension I had in my mind, at least it gave me more time to spend with them before they left. A few months of rehab and making things worthwhile passed by when Tony fully recovered at least enough for him to travel on plane. I wanted to celebrate so me, my wife, Tony, Anton and daughter-in-law went to eat out, only for tragedy to take away one of us.
Now even after the funeral, even when people told me it was not my fault, I couldn’t help but think that if I hadn’t kept wishing and being happy for the delay, things might not have turned this way. My wife will probably berate me for thinking like this again.
I shook my head and finally decided to leave, I’ll be there at the airport to see my son’s family off. It’s wasteful to miss it, I know I was not the only person still grieving. Strangely, I felt light when I stepped out.
I saw Juan, who seemed to be waving at someone, but there was no other people in the vicinity.
He noticed me staring. “Oh, are you are you leaving now.” He smiled softly.
I nodded, suddenly I felt I should ask him. “Who was it?”
“Hmm?” He looked confused, then understood. “Just another lost soul visiting, they finally moved on, I’ll never see them around here again.”
Not sure how to respond, I left afterwards, the late noon light casting a shadow on myself and the cemetery. As I left, I was starting to move on, I’ll visit again. Little by little, I will leave my grief.