A tribute to Ninong Richard, a real-life hero
This afternoon, I was stunned to receive news about the passing of our good friend, Richard Ng, the most civic-minded person we know.
Richard, co-owner of a paper products company, was a real-life hero who saved so many lives and helped so many families as a fire volunteer in Chinatown, Manila.
He also traveled to typhoon-ravaged Leyte in 2013 soon after Super Typhoon Yolanda struck the country and killed more than 6,300 people.
This year, when the COVID-19 pandemic hit the country, Richard actively helped others, giving out food and supplies to those in need.
Aside from these, Richard was also a wushu athlete who had been very supportive of his fellow athletes.
Richard was truly an amazing person and we were blessed to know him through his wife Pearlie, a barkada of my husband Riz Pulumbarit since their college days at De La Salle University Manila.
This afternoon, shortly before I learned of Richard's passing, I was thinking of him and Pearlie as I was cleaning the beautiful Royal Albert teacups that they gave us on our 25th wedding anniversary last year.
Riz and I had a renewal of wedding vows last year at the Santuario de San Antonio in Forbes Park, Makati.
Richard and Pearlie, who are close to our age, were among our principal sponsors.
Usually, people choose as principal sponsors those who are much older than them. However, when Riz and I got married in 1994 at the Archbishop's Palace in Mandaluyong, the church encouraged us to include peers and close friends among our Ninongs and Ninangs.
The church explained that these friends are the ones who will truly support and cheer us on through the tough and challenging times of our married life.
This is why Richard and Pearlie were among the principal sponsors we selected for our silver wedding anniversary.
They have shown us only kindness throughout all the time that we have known them. They are a humble and amazing couple blessed with two wonderful children.
Their children are the reason why I cried this afternoon when I learned of Richard's death. I sat for some time, just praying and crying as I was thinking of Pearlie and their children.
I cannot imagine the pain that Pearlie is going through and how I wish I could hug her tightly and reassure her that everything will turn out all right, she just has to stay strong and hold on to God.
Richard loved his family deeply and would surely wish to see them doing well despite his absence.
Coping with grief
Richard's death reminded me of our own father's death. Dad died 13 years ago but his death still haunts and pains me.
Losing our Dad was one of the most painful things I have gone through. Everyday for over a year, I woke up at exactly 2:30 a.m., the exact time that our Dad died on August 17, 2007, a day before his 65th birthday.
By reading books on coping with grief, I learned that the phenomenon of waking up consistently at a strange hour sometimes happens after a traumatic experience.
Aside from the Bible and prayer books, the one that has helped me cope with our Dad's death was a book for young children: "What on Earth Do You Do When Someone Dies?" by Trevor Romain.
Some of the most helpful parts of the book were:
(1) WHY DO PEOPLE HAVE TO DIE? "When we're born, we experience life. When our life ends, we experience death. Death happens to all living things on earth." (Page 8)
(2) AM I GOING TO DIE TOO? "If someone close to you has died, you may be afraid that you're going to die. It may help to know that most people live for a long, long time and you probably will too. You may also wonder if other people you love or care about are going to die. It's natural to worry like this. In fact, these kinds of fears can keep you awake all night." (Page 10)
(3) WHY AM I HURTING SO MUCH? "When someone you love dies, your feelings get all stirred up. You may be full of tears, anger, worry and hurt. You might feel so sad and upset that you want to curl up in a ball and hide. This is because you're experiencing grief. Grief is the deepest sadness a person can feel." (Page 16)
(4) WHAT CAN I DO IF I'M ANGRY? "Some kids feel angry after the death of a loved one. They say, 'This is so unfair!' Or 'Why did this happen to me?!' They're mad about what they've lost and missing the person makes them even madder. If you feel this way, you might yell at people you love or say things to hurt them. You might take things out on your friends or your pet even if you don't mean to." (Page 30)
(5) WILL I EVER FEEL BETTER? "Feelings like sadness, anger, and worry will probably hit you in waves. One moment, you'll feel better. And the next, you'll feel worse than ever. You may go up and down like a roller coaster. Maybe you're wishing for a magic formula to take away the pain you're feeling. Unfortunately, there isn't one..." (Page 32)
(6) HOW CAN I SAY GOODBYE? "There are many ways to say goodbye to someone who dies. You can visit the grave and say goodbye out loud. Or you can just say it softly to yourself. You can write a goodbye letter or draw a goodbye picture. Do whatever helps you to feel better and more peaceful inside." (Page 58)
In my case, what I found most helpful was praying for Dad whenever I thought of him.
Prayer is the only thing that bridges people on earth to those who have gone ahead.
God is loving and merciful. I believe that Dad and Richard are under God's loving care and embrace.
We miss you but we surrender to God's will. God has called you home ahead of us but we hope to see you again in Heaven someday. We love you.
"Fortunate are those who mourn, they shall be comforted." -- Matthew 5:4