I never knew much about my grandfather, only that he was a successful engineer, as successful as he was being a disciplinarian to his children. For instance, in the time where long hair-do's were in style, my father and my uncles were stuck to their half-inch crew cuts.

It was only after he died that I started hearing more about him. He was one of the engineers who manned a warship during World War II. When he was a child, my great-grandfather demanded him to be a valedictorian in high school so that he’d be allowed to study in UP.

It's ironic that I never heard these stories directly from him while he was still alive. To me, he seemed part of the household furniture; the bald, old man resting on the tumba-tumba, reading newspaper if not sleeping. If he wasn’t relaxing in his chair, he’d be in his office, working (though I never knew what exactly he was doing). He blended in the background, though I do not deny him as an authority figure – he rarely speaks, but his voice pulls you by the ear and makes you its bitch. Or something to that effect.

His death was slow and agonizing. I remember him, for the first time in so many years, asking the maids to cook him better food. We rarely saw him comment on the food, even complain, so when that time came, everybody listened. For a week, the food became more diverse – and I saw less of the eyeless fish heads bobbing in tasteless veggie soup.

At the end of week, however, he wasn’t capable of digesting solid foods. He had to be confined to salads, and a few days later, to shakes. I don’t know how long that lasted before even that was denied of him – but I do remember an ominous feeling when I saw him with a needle attached to his veins, linked to dextrose.

Barely a week after, when I saw his body after the morticians had done their final dressing-ups, I thought he breathed beneath the glass.

I’m still not sure as to what death is supposed to mean. I’ve been in more funerals than weddings, and for all I care death could be as simple and as meaningless as entropy. What I am sure of, however, is that it looms ahead of us, and that it is something we cannot prevent, as much as we try to delay it. Eventually, you and everyone you know would be six feet beneath the earth, already replaced by a newer generation, death-bound as we are.

But death as I see it has always been physical. Even now, more stories of my grandfather emerge. As in life, we still feel him shaping the contours of our future through our memories of him. Through his stories, and the values he had instilled in the people around him, he lives on, breathing under glass, under tons of earth. I’m sure you have heard this countless times before – or something like it – and for good reason: it bears repeating.

Death cannot dull the marvel of existence. And the methods of its longevity. I only wish I heard most of my grandfather’s stories directly from him. ▪