It is customary in the Philippines to mark the first death anniversary as the end of mourning or “babang luksa” as the Tagalogs call it. The word “baba” means to lower, referring to a veil customarily worn to mourn the passing of a loved one.
As prescribed by tradition, my sisters and I offer prayers for my mom and celebrate with a meal, signaling that the period of bereavement has ended. It hasn’t and I doubt if it will anytime soon.
But we are dutiful daughters. My sisters in Cebu go to Mass, visit Mommy’s grave then have breakfast together. The rest of us attend Mass where we are located. As usual, I go on overdrive. I have the 7 a.m. mass said for my mother at the nearby chapel of a Formation Center, then again at 6:30 p.m. at the Parish Church and one at the Minor Basilica of Our Lady of the Most Holy Rosary of Manaoag in Pangasinan. Except for the last which is celebrated some 200 kilometers away from where I live, I attend both masses.
I am not the only one. My youngest sister also has two masses offered for Mommy on her death anniversary. Everyone, including those in the US, have flowers bought for her grave. One of them puts out an ad in the local paper to honor her memory. What harm can it do? My sisters and I laugh about it over the phone, in between bouts of crying. No, this mourning period is not likely to end anytime soon.
I think these traditions for the dead are more about enabling the living to cope with their loss and to feel that they have dutifully mourned the passing of their love ones.
I believe in praying for the repose of our loved ones’ souls and/or offering the Holy Mass for them. God is with us, whether it is in this life or the afterlife and He has dominion over all. We have nothing to lose and everything to gain.
But I do know that we, myself included, overdo things because we feel that somehow, we need to do something more for our loved ones who have passed away.
I believe that Mommy is with God in heaven yet I feel the need to fly to Cebu to visit her grave, buy flowers that easily wilt under the heat of the sun and light candles that are quickly extinguished by the wind or worse, disappear once our backs are turned. Because I MUST do something on her death anniversary. Mommy would scoff at me, but she would still be touched and if just for that, I do it anyway. Because it makes me feel better.
So we go to the noonday mass Mommy liked attending at a certain chapel then proceed to a restaurant where I ache remembering the countless times she treated all of us to a meal there because the younger ones cannot have enough of the chicken skin.
Then I fly back home still aching but feeling better that those of us who could, gather in prayer for Mommy on her first death anniversary. I am glad we all made the effort even if honoring the babang luksa does not end our grief over losing Mommy. In my heart, I know Mommy is glad for any reason for her children to come together, even if it is her demise.