A year ago today December 11th, my Nanay passed away. This honestly has to be one of the hardest things to write about but I must share my Nanay's legacy with you.
Nanay was sassy, she always spoke her mind, she was always cooking or cleaning, in her day she enjoyed a beer or wine. She always complained it was cold, even in the summer. To some of us, she was like a second mother. Most of all, she never stopped worrying about her family.
Around Thanksgiving last year, Nanay suffered a stroke and was admitted into my Aunt's work, a nursing home under her care. Seeing her recover so quickly we thought she would be home in no time, being the strong woman she was. A few days later, she suffered from another stroke, a little more severe that she was admitted at Lutheran General Hospital. This time it was really starting to worry us. She still had some droopiness on half of her face and not as much movement on half of her body. A few days later, she began to show a little more improvement, she was somewhat talking, mumbling really, always hungry, cranky but less droopiness. She wasn't able to eat anything until she passed the speech test which she did not.
With that, the doctor had to sit down with us and talk about her options as far as surgery or a feeding tube through her stomach. All possible options but all high risk due to her age, possibly worsening her condition. The hardest question was, would it be worth it or was it just too much for Nanay and it was just her time?
We decided it would be too much to put Nanay through anymore pain. And we accepted that these would be the final days we would have with her. Throughout my life as a photographer, it was always important for me to document everything, to preserve memories. My way of coping with Nanay's finals days was documenting, to share with our kids, family, friends the story of how strong she was until the end. To relate to anyone who's ever lost a loved one. And to share that she continues to live through us.
It was so so hard going through these images, a lot that I haven't looked at since I took them last year. I would constantly be in break down mode but in the end, found the strength in Nanay's strong eyes to continue this project.
December 1st, 2017
Nanay was admitted at Lutheran General Hospital. She fails the speech test and we make the hardest decision. It doesn't seem real, it's hard to accept.
My niece Natalie was strangely looking around her at something that we couldn't figure out. That's when I began to feel spirits present, possibly Nanay's children that have past away throughout the years (my aunt and uncles), visiting her, visiting us.
We haven't heard from Nanay all day and she hasn't opened her eyes not once all day. It's the evening and her eyes are open. We all gather around her with joy, each of us trying to communicate and talk to her as much as we can to tell her how much we love her.
It was a good feeling to see a little twinkle in her eye and hear her trying to speak.
December 2nd, 2017
Some of us were exhausted, sleeping at the hospital with Nanay, early and late night visits.
My silly cousin brings us gifts from his previous trip from the P.I. He offers Nanay his wallet since she likes money, mostly to send to P.I to take care of her family. You can see there's a little excitement in her face. It was good to feel her humor, even for just a little bit.
December 3rd, 2017
We had a little early birthday dinner gathering/belated birthday for my cousin and my husband at the hospital with Nanay. She would have enjoyed all the food we were eating that night. Her condition was still the same, this time she was sleeping more and more. Everyday, we would hope and pray she would just wake up and just start talking, anything, a miracle.
December 4th, 2017
It was my cousin Kuya Alan's birthday. We spent it with Nanay.
December 5th, 2017
They took Nanay off treatments from Lutheran General Hospital and she was transported back to my Aunts work at the nursing home with only an oxygen machine to help her breath and morphine for the pain.
All we can do was make her feel as comfortable as possible and loved as much as possible.
I bought her a black head wrap.
December 6th, 2017
Nanay's condition was getting worse. Her breathing was getting more faint. We were beginning to receive late night calls from my Aunt and mom thinking "it was time". Of course, we would be there right away. After a few hours, Nanay was still with us, false alarm. We now knew that it could be anytime now. This was really happening. I was already mentally and emotionally trying to prepare myself and knew I had to be strong for myself and everyone.
December 7th, 2017
It had been a few days since I was back at work. It was a Thursday morning and I wanted to stop by to visit Nanay first. It was cold that day but the sun was shining. I sat next to Nanay and began talking to her. Since she's been asleep the past few days, I didn't expect much, until she opened her eyes. Staring straight back at me, I couldn't believe it. She couldn't speak but I can hear her speak through her eyes as if she was saying her goodbyes to me personally. I smiled for her and continued to stay strong. I didn't want her to feel worry or sadness, I wanted her to know that we were all here for her, to not feel afraid and that I loved her so so much. She went back to sleep and that was the last time she opened her eyes for me.
That evening we sang silent night for her.
December 8th, 2017
It was after midnight and we received another call. Though it ended up being a false alarm again, we headed straight to the nursing home and said our goodbye's once again. We were all at an emotional high and our stress levels were starting to get the best of us.
December 9th, 2017
Everyone is exhausted from the past 2 weeks.
We have a special guest play Christmas songs for Nanay on his accordion.
We continue to be around Nanay as much as possible.
They know the time is coming, they prepare and buy undergarments and clothes for her wake.
Nanay continues to receive morphine for the pain.
Not pictured: December 11th, 2017
We receive another late night call, we're hoping it's another false alarm but we feel this might be it. Her breathing is faint, she seems to be gasping her last breaths. Everyone is gathered around Nanay, saying their goodbyes, hugging, holding her and one another. Some of us just sitting and waiting in the room and outside. I wait outside.
I hear my Aunt crying hysterically along with other family members to follow. I close my eyes with my head down and feel empty. I walk into the room to comfort my family. I approach Nanay with a strong smile, kiss her on the head and tell her I love her. I know she's in a good place, resting, in no more pain.
It's not good bye, it's see you later.
She was 93 years old.
December 13th, 2017 The Wake
It's Nanay's wake. We are strong as a family. We say our goodbyes with friends and family.
We remember her through the stories we tell, photos and video footage.
December 14th, 2017