Code blue, code blue: all available doctors, please proceed to ICU Room No 5. The doctors and nurses were on their toes; the head nurse was comforting me.
And then a pin drop silence followed.
It was the most frightening silence I’ve ever heard in my 36 years. My heart was racing. It was beating way too fast. I was trying to catch my breath. I was feeling dizzy, lightheaded and the veins at my head were throbbing. I was beginning to see blinding lights. I knew then I was going to faint, but I had to be strong.
I collected myself. As usual, I’ve put on a brave act, but deep inside I was trembling with mixed emotions. There weren’t any visible tears, and yet my heart was drowning. I was lost in the pool of sadness, pain, grief and shock. I also wasn’t able to speak.
An Indian nurse approached and told me that the doctor was asking for the patient’s wife. I went to see her. She was standing in front of my husband’s room. She had a glum, hopeless look in her eyes.
Is he gone? I asked.
She slowly shook her head and said, we have tried our best to revive him but his heart has failed already. She mentioned that he died due to cardiogenic shock with multiple organ failure. Those were the effects of his underlying condition, which was the primary pulmonary hypertension.
Can I see him? I asked again.
Let the nurse clean him first, she replied.
The Filipino nurse had drawn back the curtain and nodded his head. I immediately got up from my seat and went inside the room.
I’m sorry, he whispered.
My husband, Ian O’Neil was covered with a white blanket. I rolled down the sheet. The continuous positive airway pressure (CPAP) mask and other tubes were removed from his body. His neck incision was stitched and cleaned. The nurse wrapped his head with a scarf which has an image of the Holy Face of Jesus.
I cupped his face with both of my hands and kissed his lips. I reached for his hand. I held it tightly. I put the sign of the cross to his forehead, lips and chest. I began to pray. I asked God to welcome my Papa Ian to heaven. I prayed that He’ll consider all his good deeds and to forgive his sins. And to send His Holy Angels to accompany him with his journey back home.
I was alone at the hospital. It was only ten o’clock in the morning and our Couples for Christ (CFC) Family were not yet around. I didn’t know who to call first, but I had to inform someone. My mind was blank. I reached out for my mobile phone and called the last number dialed. Our CFC unit leader answered my call.
The news spread like wild fire. My phone rang non- stop. I was confused. I wanted to shout. I wanted to curl myself into a ball and stay in one corner. I was thinking that this was just a nightmare and that I’ll wake up any time soon. But then again, I needed to control the situation. I had to control myself.
One by one, the members of our CFC Family and friends arrived immediately to the hospital.
People came. They offered support and condolences. Unfortunately I was not able to recognize most of them because I was already in a state of daze. Someone asked me if I already have reported this matter to my husband’s office.
I snapped out of it and called his office. I spoke with his manager.
After sometime, the same nurse told me that it was time to bring my husband to the mortuary.
Together with the CFC leaders: Tito Erik, Tito Dennis and Tita Cathy, we offered a prayer for the salvation of his spirit. As soon as we were done, the nurse put him inside the body bag.
The four of us were standing at the foot of the bed, planning for the next step to take when all of the sudden my phone rang. I was surprised to see Papa Ian’s name and picture appeared on the screen. He was calling my phone. I showed to them my phone. We all had goosebumps, because his mobile was also with me and it wasn’t dialing any number that moment. I was about to take the call when the ring abruptly ended. It was like he bid goodbye to me, to us.
We all went out of the ICU and waited at the hospital’s lobby. More and more people came. Friends, families, colleagues arrived. I felt their love and support. I was not alone.
Once Papa Ian was settled in the morgue, we all went to Tito Edan and Tita Cathy’s abode. We started the nine day- novena for the departed.
I reached home. It was the first of the many nights that I’d be alone. Our room was in a mess. I was dead tired but sleep was elusive. That time I met Tito Philip’s sister, Daisy* online. She has the capability to see spirits. We talked about her encounters with my husband and she relayed Papa Ian’s messages to me.
*RELATED STORY: The Smile in My Heart
I forced myself to sleep. I woke up in the middle of the night. It was so cold. I was shivering. It was like I was in north pole. I knew then that while I was sleeping on the bed, Papa Ian was holding me, hugging me.
The following day, I received a call from my husband’s company. They said that their PRO had started processing the papers for his repatriation. And they required me to go along with him. I asked for a favor from both Jinkee and Kuya Bong to accompany me.
The processing of papers was very tiring. We’ve gone from Philippine Consulate to different local government ministries. We’ve also booked two tickets for our flight back to Philippines.
After seven days, I was able to bring home my husband’s body. We flew back home on 12 March 2015. Once the plane landed, the representative of Arlington Funeral Service and my in- laws met me at the airport. I didn’t know that releasing his body was more tedious in the Philippines. We’ve gone from one office to another; from Pair Pagss to Terminal 3 to Terminal 1 and back to Pair Pagss.
After processing the documentations, the body was finally released. We went straight to Arlington Funeral Service in Laguna. My father-in-law went with me to check his body. We went down to the embalming section.
The embalmer opened the box and we saw that Papa Ian’s color did not change at all. His skin was still reddish. Honestly, I was thinking that he was only sleeping and that he’ll wake up soon. I was nursing the idea that God will wake him up. That he’ll wake up again. He did it with Lazarus, perhaps He could also do the same miracle with my husband.
The embalmer placed my late husband’s body on top of the table. The curtain covering the morgue was half drawn so I witnessed how careful he was with him. He first inserted several tubes to drain him of his blood. And then he cleaned him well.
I couldn’t believe that my loving Papa Ian who was once so brilliant was now lying lifeless on that cold table.
My husband’s wake lasted for five days and on 17 March 2015, he was finally laid down to rest.