Sunday, October 01, 2017

Grieving takes time

By Karen Galarpe

Today, we went to the wake for the mother of a college friend, and I was struck by what my friend said. "Nu'ng nagpo-post ka tungkol sa Mommy mo, naisip ko nu'n, 'Kaya ko kaya pag dumating na sa point na 'yon?' Tapos ngayon, eto na."

It's been two and a half years since my mom passed away. Still, I think of her every day. I remember her when I see the flowers in the garden, and the near empty ref (my mom always shopped at the supermarket so our ref was always full). I think of her when I put night cream on my face -- her brand was more expensive -- and when I see her black and white photo in my dad's room. In that photo, she was smiling so warmly looking down at someone -- who turned out to be me as a baby.

In short, I still think of her, and I don't want to stop thinking about her.

The thought came to mind that God chose our mothers well. He picked the best mothers  for everyone. And I thank God for choosing my mom for me.

Six months after my mom passed away, I wrote the following on my Facebook wall. I read it again today and thought it may be somehow helpful to my college friend and all those who are grieving.

Here goes...

Last night, I had a dream wherein I hugged my mom. I can't remember now the context of that dream but I do remember the hug. :) And that's enough to put a smile on my face, and soothe my grieving heart.

It's been six months since my mom passed away, and someone just asked me last week, how are you coping with your grief?

Here's how:

1. I allow myself to grieve. Let go. There were -- and will be -- moments when I suddenly get reminded of my mom by the simplest of things: an empty Olay bottle, a J. Co donut, the Recipes restaurant sign, a pretty shawl. So I allow myself time to remember her and cry when I need to cry.

2. Daily, I ask God to tell my mom I love her, to hold her hand, and hug her for me.

3. I put a stop to the "If onlys." "If only I spent more time with her," "if only I made it to the hospital in time," "if only I took a leave from work." I can't bring back time so it's useless to dwell on the "if onlys."

4. I think about the times we've shared to replace the "If onlys." Times we went to the salon together, the times she would carry my son when he was still a baby, the times we would ride the Love Bus going to Cubao to shop for clothes when I was small, etc. And be thankful for those times.

5. Most importantly, I rely on God to see me through. The first two months were hard, and especially the first two weeks, but when you just ask God to sustain you each day, He does so. There were days when the most I could utter in prayer were: "Help me. Heal me. Comfort me." And He does. "The LORD is close to the brokenhearted, and he saves those whose spirits have been crushed." (Psalm 34:18)

When my mom died, someone told me to be strong. I didn't want to be strong. And I don't have the capacity to be strong. Nakakapagod yon. But I've found that He gives enough strength to see me through each day.

6. I remind myself to allow time for healing. It was only two months after my mom died when I realized I stopped writing for six months. That was when my mom's health became more fragile and she started talking about dying.

Now for a writer, six months of no writing is like six months of not existing. Two months after my mom died, I started writing again, and once again experienced the exhilarating joy of finishing a personal essay or a feature story. My life coach asked me, "So what does that mean?" I replied, "I've started to heal."

A few months ago too, when I was contemplating on my career's future, my boss told me to my face, "You're grieving!" It was a sharp reminder to hold off making major decisions while my grief was still raw and fresh.

7. I stepped out only when I felt ready. I didn't want to go out much after my mom died. I had no energy after work, and just wanted peace and quiet. And so I was honest enough to tell friends who have been inviting me to events and parties and reunions that I just needed space. And I'm grateful they understood.

8. I remember that I don't have to grieve like others do. A few months ago, someone asked me at what stage of grieving I was in already -- denial, anger, acceptance? I said I'm not conscious of the process; I just allow myself to be.

9. I express myself. And this is why I post status messages like this. :) Or why I post photos of things that remind me of my mom. Or why I document our Sunday bonding moments at the cemetery. A friend told me months ago, "I see that you're still grieving based on your FB posts." Yes, I am, and this is me. I can't hurry up my grieving or pretend it's not there. You can always hide me from your wall if you'd rather not see what I post. :)

10. I share and reach out to someone. Only this year have I learned that there are people around me who have been carrying their grief or have not allowed themselves time to grieve for years. YEARS! Madugo yan. And so I take the time to listen, hold their hand, share what I've learned.

Grieve if you must grieve. It's the first step to healing.

(September 13, 2015 Facebook post)

BOOK OF THE WEEK: I'm in the last chapter already of "Work Worth Doing Well" by Dr. Grace Koo (published by Church Strengthening Ministry, 2017). It's a good read and helps one take a look at his/her work -- does it make sense? Are you bored? Stressed? Are you happy? Healthy? Is it honest work? Dr Koo, with her educational psychology background, delves into the issue of work and gives expert tips to help one find meaning in one's work. It's worth reading!

VERSE OF THE WEEK: "May the favor of the Lord our God rest on us; establish the work of our hands for us." Psalm 90:17

Friday, September 08, 2017

Sunday afternoon with Juan Luna and other artists

Inspired by my friend's recent road trips, I had this urge to go and see some art last Sunday. As in, right that day itself, whether or not someone could go with me.

I am that type of person who enjoys going to museums rather than shopping malls, to my late mother's frustration. "Ayoko sa museum!" she said when we were in LA many years ago and were thinking of where to go. Whereas we could drop her off at the mall in the morning and pick her up at the end of the day, I was the person who would gladly spend a day at the museum while travel buddies snap up good buys at shopping areas.

So after attending the second worship service at church last Sunday, I drove all the way to the National Museum of the Philippines on P. Burgos Street near the Manila City Hall. Never mind if I just had an hour to spare to go around before I had to do the groceries. I just had to go, no matter what.

Sundays, I found out, is the best time to go to the National Museum since there is hardly any traffic, save for a slowdown near the Quiapo Church area.

Entrance to the museum is now free. Visitors have to register first and sign the logbook, then deposit their belongings (save for wallet and cellphone) at the security desk.

That Sunday, there were quite a number of people visiting, mostly families or couples on dates. I was one of the few who went solo. Well, this was me-time and I was looking forward to it.

With just a little over an hour to spare, I focused on my favorite old paintings at the National Museum of Fine Arts at the old Legislative Building. 

Entering the museum, the first huge painting I saw was the Spoliarium by Juan Luna. I have seen this before a number of times but it still left me in awe. Such mastery and skill. There was beauty in the pain depicted. I could spend an hour just looking at it. 

Opposite it was Felix Resurreccion Hidalgo's The Assassination of Governor Bustamante, another huge oil painting done in the 1800s.

In the same hall was Guillermo Tolentino's sculpture Diwata, so perfect in its beauty.

In another hall, I found more of Juan Luna's iconic paintings, to my delight.

A post shared by Karen Galarpe (@kgalarpe) on

Juan Luna and Felix Resurreccion Hidalgo were buddies, and the museum had a large reproduction made of National Hero Jose Rizal's sketch of them.

At a room dedicated to Jose Rizal, I found this small terra-cotta sculpture our national hero did back in 1893.

A copy of the book The Imitation of Christ by Thomas a Kempis given by Rizal to his wife Josephine Bracken was also on exhibit, together with the dedication.

In the hallway, I found this gem of a sculpture by Isabelo Tampinco.

There were many other paintings that struck a chord in me, such as those depicting the Battle of Manila, and the artworks of Fernando Amorsolo. There's indeed so much talent, so much beauty, in the Philippines.

Go spend a day (or an hour) at the museum. It's a great way to feed your heart and soul.

BOOK OF THE WEEK: Someone gave me the book Agueda: A Ballad of Stone and Wind by Anna Maria "Bambi" Harper sometime ago but I only got to read it this year. Harper's writing is exquisite as she takes us to the world of an orphan who came of age during the transition from the Spanish colonial times to the American occupation. The book gives readers an idea of how women were regarded back then, and what life was like for both the upper class and the poor when the country had yet to experience real independence.

VERSE OF THE WEEK: Be still and know that I am God. Psalm 46:10

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Hey, I'm back!

Yup, I am reviving this blog because it's there and it's free and I have all these thoughts to share. 😊

This year I became a golden girl, and got reminded via a blood test that I am not getting younger. Those fatty foods (daily silog meals, for instance) I've eaten through the years drove up my bad cholesterol count to an unhealthy number.

And so, I resolved mid-year to take care of myself more: Eat better, sleep better, exercise better, rest better so as to be a better steward of this body.

That meant:
1. Changing my usual breakfast of silog meals to healthier options -- a protein shake, yogurt with granola, oatmeal, fruits, or a sandwich using whole wheat bread.
2. Giving up coffee. I used to take 1-3 cups of coffee a day. Coffee doesn't drive up bad cholesterol but it does make the body acidic.
3. Eating more veggies and fruits. Surprise -- I can have just a salad for a meal and still feel full.
4. Giving up sugary drinks. Bye bye soda and iced tea!
5. Choosing brown rice over white rice, and just half a cup please.
6. Snacking on healthier stuff like yoghurt, trail mix, wheat crackers, fruits (I love nilagang saba), fruit shake, nuts.
7. Sleeping earlier or trying to have at least 7 hours of sleep.
8. Checking my calendar to make sure there's ample rest time. It's not good to have a crowded schedule.
9. Aiming for at least 30 minutes of exercise daily.
10. Drinking more water.

These are simple things I've done since May. I also went on the 28-day kit of the Yoli Better Body System where I followed a meal plan and took alkaline supplements and other healthy stuff. Results: 7.5 pounds off, cholesterol level now normal, and two inches off my waistline.

It's doable! Get on the road to health, friends!

BOOK OF THE WEEK: I'm reading "How To Lead and Still Have a Life" by H. Dale Burke. Are you in a leadership position and feeling tired or burned out or overwhelmed? The author gives practical tips to help leaders in any situation (at work, ministry, etc.) such as making sure there's time for the 4 R's in one's schedule -- Rest time, Results time, Response time, Refocus time. Burke also reminds readers to guard one's heart -- what's in it? One's convictions stabilize the leader, strengthen character, and provide moral guidance, said the author. I've had this book for years but reading it at this time in my life opened my eyes to new truths. It's published abroad by Harvest House Publishers in 2004 and locally by OMF Literature Inc. in 2009. Great book for leaders!

VERSE OF THE WEEK: Watch over your heart with all diligence, for from it flow the springs of life. -- Proverbs 4:23