Celebrating in Grief

MaryRose Cobarde Candare
ILLUMINATION’S MIRROR
3 min readJan 3, 2024

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On the last day of 2023, a very dear, lifetime friend of our family (who was more than family to me in many ways) took his last breath.

Photo by author

Up until then, I never thought it was possible to genuinely celebrate anything while grieving over a big loss. Yet there I was, wallowing in one moment and welcoming the new year the next. Surprisingly, one did not take away from the other. Each moment authentically real.

I don’t know how I pulled it off except perhaps that Terry’s death (for him) took a long time coming, and his suffering had all but made anyone who cared for him wish that his agony be prolonged. Surviving had meant constant suffering for him. But I know that deep down, what he really wanted to end was that seemingly endless pain — that excruciating and exhausting fight for a small share of air. In the depths of his heart (and in ours), he wanted to keep living. That’s how much he loved living his very simple, humble life. It was such a jolting lesson for me because I, for one, thought he had many reasons to complain, to despair. Born of an impoverished background, living alone and plagued by lung problems throughout most of his life, I thought there was plenty to gripe about. But he would have none of it. What he never ran out of was joy, even if, towards the end, it was just in his mind as his body became too ravaged to smile or laugh.

He never stopped saying thanks for all the help we lent him and the care we showed him through the years. But the truth is, I had so much more to be thankful to him for. He was a living reminder to be grateful and joyful, no matter what. Although I did not outrightly thank him for this, I did not waste an opportunity to marvel about it either. I told him how wonderful it was that he had such a heart and that I wished I was more like him.

Now I count it as heaven’s grace how I was able to be there for him until the end, to the extent I could. I am thankful for the chats I could revisit, the pictures, and voice messages exchanged between us. I am glad I was able to tell him last Father’s Day that he was like a second father to me and how I treasured him for that. I am consoled having sent him voice messages that spoke of love that will never fade even as his life was fading.

These days, I wake up with both joy and grief. But joy usually wins. I only need to revisit one of his last messages. “Be happy always.” And so, I try. I celebrated the new year with all the joy he would have mustered.

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MaryRose Cobarde Candare
ILLUMINATION’S MIRROR

wonderer, author, content creator, editor, teacher and lifelong learner