This was when Lola was younger and stronger. During my elementary days, when Lola was even younger than in the above picture, she would carry me piggy-back upstairs in the Meciano house every night before we went to bed as I could not sleep if she was not with me. When I was two years old I was "adopted" by my aunties, Tita Mary and Tita Paro who were then single and living with Lolo and Lola. It was that way because my mother who was assigned as a teacher in a barrio (with a name that begged for poetry, Caranoche!) was sick and couldn't take care of little me and my older brother, Carlito, all at the same time. When my mother got well, my aunties and grandparents wouldn't return me to the barrio life so I grew up in Dumaguete. When my aunties got married, Lola Agre became my surrogate mother until I went to college in Manila. So all in all, I had four mothers when I was growing up: Tita Mary, Tita Paro, Lola Agre and Mommy Consing.
A year before she passed away at 94 years of age.
Her last days
It was at the end of October 2001 when Lola was diagnosed to have aplastic anemia. Her bone marrow just plain gave up, stopped working, retired. No new blood cells were forthcoming so every week or so she would be admitted for blood and/or platelet transfusions.
With a very low platelet count she would bleed and have hematomas all over her body. One time her entire left arm was black and blue for a week after a blood extraction. With no more white blood cells being formed, she was unable to fight off infection and her body was racked with fungal sores on her mouth the size of ten centavo coins. She could not eat because of the pain. She was too weak to swallow even the teaspoonfuls of milk or soup we would feed her. A nasogastric tube was suggested but I said no, no more please.
And so on that morning of January 3, 2002, Lola Agre's children and I huddled at the foot of her hospital bed and decided that we would not have anymore medical intervention for Lola aside from a dextrose bottle and an oxygen cannula. At three that afternoon she breathed her last. Thankfully, perhaps, I was at the other hospital giving anesthesia when the moment came. Hours later when I arrived at her room, it was strange and not strange to see her still body not rasping in ragged breath anymore.
We had a long wake for Lola, waiting for relatives to arrive. I remember my cousin, Albert, who like me grew up in Lola's house. Already a grown man in 2002, he was bawling like a baby when he arrived from Texas. "Wala na si Lola, 'Day. Wala na si Lola, 'Day." He kept repeating and repeating to me (Inday). Of course, we knew that. But we needed to say it, to hear it, so we could believe it.