John 14:1-4 “Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also. And you know the way to where I am going.”
He would call me “Trexie” and would ask for favors involving the computer: making programmes and certificates, fixing viruses, transferring documents to presentations, downloading pictures, attaching documents in emails. He would gently admonish me – like a father should – whenever I wore inappropriate clothing. He would drive us to the city proper after office hours. He would ask me why I wasn’t in the Cathedral sometimes. (He always attended the 6:45 a.m. Mass on Sundays. As a member of the Ministry of Lectors and Commentators, we have a rotating schedule so we don’t have the same time slot every time.) As a Catholic, he was one of the few people at the office who supported my discernment for becoming a nun. He would give me chocolates and tell me stories of his youngest daughter who works with my older sister in a hospital in Jeddah. And whenever I get reprimanded for things in and out of my control, he would always have something to say to make it better. Once he said: “We’re not children anymore. We know our job. [People] should stop treating us like children.”
This is how I will always remember Sir Danny – one of the kindest people I have ever known.
I first met Sir Danny when I was still working in a public school. He was a MAPEH (Music, Arts, PhysEd and Health) teacher back then. He was also the interim division sports coordinator, so he often held meetings at [my] library. We weren’t really friends then. We just happened to be in the same place at the same time.
Later on, he would become a division supervisor and I the division librarian. Since then, I have come to know him as a father-figure. And although we have been together in the same office for just over a year, I had learned to love him, much like my own father, because they share many attributes in common. He is a soft-spoken, level-headed man. And he has this contagious passion for sports. And he inspired and surprised us a lot when, during our department’s year-end reporting of accomplishments, Sir Danny turned out to have made so much. He has never bragged of his accomplishments so we never knew. For me, he is the epitome of the cliche, “Silent waters run deep.”
After 41 years in the Department of Education, Sir Danny retired on June 30, 2016. But this wasn’t without much sadness. He had spent two thirds of his life in this institution that, he said, he didn’t know what to do once he retired. He was 63 but I know if not for health reasons (he slipped in the bathroom a few days before, he said, causing bruises on his arms and knees), he would work until he was forced to retire by government policies. I was personally affected. He joked that his wife was excited for him to retire so he could help around the house. And after our small celebration for his last day in service, I saw him wiping tears with his arms as he walked back to his car. That image will be etched in my mind forever.
Then, yesterday, a little more than a month since he retired, I read on a teacher’s Facebook timeline that Sir Danny was in the hospital. My heart broke. Then, his fellow supervisor sent me a message saying he was brain dead and the family was just waiting for his youngest daughter to come home. My heart shattered.
As I began the original version of this piece three hours ago, I had the feeling I should be at the hospital, not just for a corporal work of mercy, but for my love for Sir Danny. Please, Lord, I prayed, give me courage. I haven’t seen his family before, so please give me the courage to be there. And please take care of Sir Danny, Your son. Now his life is in Your hands. When I left the office, three of the supervisors just arrived from Baguio City and were on the way to visit Sir Danny. My prayer was answered at once: I had the courage to be there. And so I went with them. Ma’am Sierma – the Math supervisor – reminded me not to cry and to be strong “para sa Tatay mo.” I had to turn my head away lest they see the tears brimming in my eyes.
We arrived at the hospital at around 11:26, headed straight to Room 211. The nurse stopped us on the way. Sir Danny had died at around 11:08.
Just around the time I posted the original version of this piece.
As I was writing the earlier version, I was refusing to refer to him in past tense. I was refusing to even think this would happen. I was hoping for a fairy tale ending: that he would wake up, followed by a happily ever after. But this isn’t a fairy tale.
On the day I learned of Sir Danny’s retirement, I cried because of how lonely it would feel not to have my father-figure around anymore. But I was happy for him, too. Like many other teachers who had dedicated their life to the profession, Sir Danny had a lot of catching up to do with his family. He had spent four decades of his life taking care of other people’s children, taking away the time he could have spent with his own. He himself said, finally, he can take care of his wife now, take her to vacation, be with her. Finally, it’s time for his family.
On his retirement day, I cried because I will miss him terribly. But I knew I would be seeing him around anyway. He will be in the Cathedral every Sunday at 6:45 in the morning. He will drop by the office once in a while. Or I’ll see him in the market after Mass, just as Sir Allan would say.
Now, not anymore.
Now, I grieve. I grieve because I was a few minutes late. I grieve because I had felt I should be in the hospital earlier but I was scared to go alone. I grieve for him not being able to take his wife to Pagudpud. Most of all, I grieve for his youngest daughter, his baby.
He had become my father in spirit, after all. I haven’t thought that just by his being there, just by his showing bits and pieces of kindness, a person can touch a life. I know that the sadness I feel right now pales in comparison to how his real children, his grandchildren and his wife feel. But I am with them.
But at this moment, I choose to remember the beauty of the one year I’d known him. I choose to remember his kindness. I choose to remember how much of a grace he was… he is to people whose lives he touched.
Thank you, Sir Danny. I know you’re sitting there in heaven, in your infamous Figure Four Leg Clamp.
I know you know: we love you.
Revelation 21:4 He will wipe away every tear from their eyes, and death shall be no more, neither shall there be mourning, nor crying, nor pain anymore, for the former things have passed away.”