My father, Catalino Tamayo Gavino, passed into the presence of the Lord last January 12, 2018.
Of the many photographs of him that I have kept, the one above perhaps conveys the man that he was.
It was most difficult for me to lead the funeral service. I held back my emotions as would any ordained minister when conducting a funeral. But this was my father, my grieving mother and sister present and seated within feet of where I stood inches away from the bier that bore my father’s pall-draped coffin. Only in the strength of God and in the conviction that I was honouring my father in this way was I able to lead.
I admire the strength of character of my mother and sister as they watched over Dad until the end. I thank my family and friends in Montreal who stood by me as I presided over the interment of his remains. I thank my wife for her unconditional support all throughout. I commend the George Funeral Home for their professionalism. I am grateful for the outpouring of support from my family’s friends at Lion’s Head and at the Golden Dawn Senior Citizen Home.
At the funeral service we read passages from Scripture that bear special meaning to my family and to my late father: Isaiah 43:1-3, Psalm 23, Revelation 21:1-5, and John 14:1-6.
I thought it most appropriate that in lieu of a funeral message, that I draw out the reflections of my dad’s two granddaughters: my eldest, Linda Stella, and my niece, Eloysa Sicam. I reproduce the text below.
We are loathed to admit it, but we are not really in complete control of our lives. We may plan for the future and enjoy doing so, but in truth, we live with uncertainty, constantly, not really knowing how life would unfold, one minute to the next.
The great unknown can strike fear in the hearts of the mortal. Jesus understood this well as he prepared his disciples for the traumatic events that were about to take place: the betrayal of one of their own; the arrest, trial and execution of the One they had followed and loved.
While separation always leaves an indelible mark in our lives; it is the remembrance of faithfulness that helps ease the pain.
My eldest daughter Linda wrote:
I will always remember summers at the condo in Toronto: Lolo always telling the cherry tomato story again and again; taking us shopping, giving me Ernest Hemingway to read when I was 8; trying to teach me how to play chess using that electronic chess board. It was absolutely wonderful that we got to introduce the 3 kids to Lola and Lolo last summer. Thank you for everything Lolo, and we’ll miss you very very much.
My niece Eloysa in the Philippines reflected on the life of my parents, drawing from family stories she heard told and retold. She wrote:
In Manila during the war, my grandmother was pregnant with her first child. When she was due to give birth, she and my grandfather walked from their house to get to the hospital, following the train tracks so they wouldn’t lose their way. As they were walking, a bomb fell on the ground beside them but didn’t explode. They kept going until they reached the hospital, where my grandmother eventually gave birth to my aunt – my mother’s oldest sister.
My grandfather liked ending that story by joking that if the bomb had gone off, then none of us would be here today. My grandmother, however, liked to continue the narrative by saying that when my aunt was born, the umbilical cord was wrapped around her neck and she wasn’t breathing, and that my grandfather was beside himself with worry until he finally heard the baby cry. (My aunt, who has a post-doctorate in chemistry, also has her own addendum: that she would have been smarter had she not been deprived of oxygen in those first few minutes.)
From that nucleus, my grandparents would build their own little family. Their family would grow to include four children, eight grandchildren, nine in-laws, and five great-grandchilden. Teaching by example, my grandparents passed on their values of integrity and excellence, of kindness and humility, of simplicity and honest labor, and above all – of love.
My cousins, siblings, and I each have our own stories of how deeply we feel our grandparents’ love. The stories are too many to mention. And right now, they are just too difficult to share. A few days ago, in Canada, my grandfather passed away. He was turning 97 next month. For us, his grandchildren who have known him all our lives, there is suddenly a hole in our hearts that cannot be filled.
Eloysa summed it up like this:
I cannot go through my memories now without feeling immense sadness at my grandfather’s passing. So instead I try to imagine my grandparents that day in Manila, during the war, as they made their way to the hospital. I can picture them holding each other’s hands – as I always saw them do in life – and giving each other the strength and courage to push on. Then I try to imagine my grandparents a few days ago in Canada, my grandfather on his bed and my grandmother lying beside him – inseparable to the end, after 74 years of marriage. He passed on gently, with her name on his lips and her hand clasping his.
And Eloysa’s concluding words:
Reflecting on these images now, I have nothing but gratitude towards the Lord. I thank God for the blessing that was my grandfather’s life – for the love that my grandfather gave so generously, and for the great love that was given him in return.
Thank you Linda, thank you Eloysa.
I was deeply comforted when upon the passing of my father I overheard my Mom mention that on the grave marker she and my Dad had had made years ago are engraved the words of John 14: “In my Father’s house are many mansions…” It is this promise of provision for quintessentially human needs, past, present and in the Christian faith to which our family holds, the promise of the future return of Christ that we obtain comfort beyond the veil of pain and sorrow. And in our own family unit, it is this remembrance of my hard-working father, beside him my mother, who in spite of extreme poverty brought on by the ravages of the Second World War, did all that was possible to provide for us their children. We grew up never knowing we were really poor. This remembrance to me is a fine reflection of God’s love for his very own people.
The lesson for us is this: our lives are in God’s hands. Therefore we live our lives confident of God’s presence, providence and care.