Excerpt from his obituary:
Melchor passed away in the comfort of his home of 32 years after a five year battle with a mitochondrial disease. He is survived by his wife, children, grandchildren, relatives, and barkada.
Melchor was a problem-solver who often took on a multitude of home renovation projects and enjoyed maintaining the family vehicles.
Over the years when the kids were still growing up, they went on several family trips all over the United States. Melchor always had either a camcorder or camera in hand to capture all their family adventures. He enjoyed taking his daughters roller coasters even if it meant standing in line for hours. He was also a world traveler with his wife, Mildred, together they traveled to 24 countries and visited six out of the seven Wonders of the World. As an avid outdoorsman, he enjoyed fishing, camping, boating, growing orchids, gardening, road trips and time at the gun range.
Melchor will be greatly missed by all who knew him.
My dad was the typical Ilocano dad. As the father of three girls, he was strict, absolute in his ways, and spoke with a deep loud voice. Growing up we butted heads often. We fought about most things like the time I should be home – curfew was 8pm even if my friends just go to “the spot” at 7:30pm. I had to be home. He also timed how long it took for me to walk home and if I was a minute late, I would get in major trouble. The more he set rules, the more I pushed back.
As the oldest daughter, there were many times when I was given far more domestic responsibilities than my younger sisters. I was expected to ensure the house was clean at all times, do everyone’s laundry, make rice for dinner (make sure not to mess it up!), and sometimes even make dinner for the family. There was never a discussion on distribution of chores, I had to do what I was told or I would get an earful.
He also didn’t show any outward affection verbally or physically. The best you would get would be an approving grunt or a tap on your back. He did however show his love and care for us by fixing things around the house, driving us on road trips, and ensuring all of the family cars were in tip top shape.
The most cherish memories I have were the time my dad showed me extreme grace. When I ran away from home, he welcomed me home. When I got pregnant, he said that I could live at home. When I gave birth at the age of 22, he would come home after work and take her from me so I could sleep. My Dad was the only person who could soothe my daughter as a baby.
He was a funner grandpa “Papa” than a dad. He was significantly more lenient on my kids. He allowed them to play ball in the house; brought them to eat McDonalds at any chance he could; he let them eat chocolate for breakfast; and devour all the pan de sal with butter they wanted. He would watch my kids during in the summers so I could work and made dinner for me to take home so I didn’t have to cook. As a grandpa, he smiled more and seemed more relaxed. It was a nice to see this side of him.
The long goodbye
When loved one who’s been diagnosed with a terminal illness or disease, it is considered the long goodbye or the slow funeral.
When my dad was diagnosed with mitochondrial disease five years ago, as a family, we were devastated. We had never heard of this rare genetic disorder so we had to dive deep into understanding the disease. My mom retired early to be his full time caregiver. When he would refuse physical or occupational therapy, she would create exercises for him to relearn everyday tasks. My mom never made him feel like a burden. She always treated my dad with the upmost respect.
Due to her work as a Clinical Lab Scientist, she understood the importance of learning his new baseline and what she needed to do to manage his disease. In fact, she often challenged hospital discharges, prescribed medications, and even the meals he provided him during his admissions. She fought hard for him.
The complexity of grieving
As a family we decided to move my dad to hospice home care at the beginning of 2021. My sisters and I’s families traveled back to our childhood home to celebrate Christmas, New Years, and his birthday as a family unit. It was the most bittersweet month of our lives. We laughed, cried, and took tons of pictures. In mid-March, he passed in the home he purchased with my mom 32 years ago.
I knew grieving my dad’s death would be complicated for me. Throughout the last five years, I had many “I wish I had more time to fix our relationship” moments. A few years in, I had to radically accept that we wouldn’t “fix” our relationship. It would have to be what it was and that was hard for me to grieve.
Now mourning his death is surreal. I knew he would leave this earth but living through it in real time is a hard concept to wrap my head around. During the last month, there were often times I would forget he died and beat myself up about forgetting. Last week, we said our final goodbyes during my dad’s funeral mass. We read our eulogies and saw my dad’s body for the last time. It was one of the hardest days of my life. I’m still processing those final moments today.
I am thankful for my work as a mindset coach because I understand what experiencing is normal. As I’ve shared in my community workshops about emotional intelligence, we go through stages of emotions when faced with change such as death. According to Harvard Health, the spectrum of grieving can fluctuate for months. “While significant losses are never forgotten, the feelings of grief become less intense and more manageable.” Understanding these facts helps me create space for myself to honor my feelings and learn what I need to manage my grief in a healthy way.
I’ve learned a few hard life lessons during this time of grieving.
- Learn loved ones’s love language.
- It will help you understand each other better. My dad’s love language was acts of service. My love language is words of affirmation. One of the reasons I never “felt” loved by him is because we miscommunicated through our love for each other.
- Ask questions about your parent’s upbringing.
- This will give you an understanding of why they operate in the way they do. My paternal grandfather was in the military which explains my dad’s militant parenting style.
- Look for the good memories.
- While I didn’t have the best relationship with my dad, I do have some fond memories with him riding rollercoasters at Great America and camping during the summers with my cousins.
- Life is fragile.
- Call that loved one and tell them you love them. Tomorrow isn’t promised.
My dad’s passing will be a difficult chapter of my life. Its something I’ve dreaded since I was a young girl. I also know his legacy will live on through all he taught me.
I’ll share those life lessons another time.
If you would like to honor the life of my dad, I’d love for you to donate to United Mitochondrial Disease Foundation. They support families similar to ours learn more about rare genetic diseases.
It’s ok to not be ok.