I was anxious about the long flight ahead of me. I got out of the car, took my luggage, and didn’t say much. I gave my mom a kiss goodbye, then my dad. I can see the sadness in their eyes—it was always that way whenever we’d part ways. But this time there was something different in my dad’s eyes. He looked at me and said, “I wonder when we’d see each other again?” I didn’t think much of it because my parents come to visit me and my kids every year. I told him to come visit in the summer. That was early December 2014.

Sadly, it was the last time I saw him because one month later, he passed away.

Exactly six years ago today, my dad left us to be in a better place. I was on a layover in Tokyo when he took his final breath. I was met by my cousins when I arrived in Manila, drove another 12 hours before we reached our final destination. The drive up north was mostly silent. None of them mentioned that my dad has already passed on. But the whispering among them and the peculiarity in their actions told me something was up. As soon as we arrived at my parent’s place, before I could even get out of the car, I saw my mom crying, running towards me, to let me know my dad had already died. I wasn’t surprised because somehow I already knew.

I didn’t have a chance to say my final goodbye. I often think about the last time I saw him: he wondered when we would see each other again. I have never heard him ask that question before because we always knew we’d see each other every year. But he asked as if he knew his time on earth will soon expire. As if he knew I will never be able to hug him and kiss him again. As if he knew when I said goodbye at the airport, it wasn’t see you later. It was a permanent goodbye….it was forever.

He may no longer be here, but he is often around. He visits me in my dreams more often than I can remember. I have had many vivid dreams about him but the most unforgettable dream I had was a couple of weeks after his death. I was laying in bed and must have dozed off because I was awoken by someone slowly opening the door. I tried to open my eyes but could only open half of it. I saw someone enter my room wearing a white T-shirt and blue jeans.

It was my dad.

He didn’t look like he was in his late 70’s but instead he looked much younger. He was thin and young (he seemed to be in his 30’s). I remember seeing a picture of him at that age. He stood there and tried to tell me something. “I forgot to tell you,” he said. I waited for him to continue but he became quiet. I wanted to ask him but I couldn’t move my mouth to talk. My body felt weak. He didn’t say anything. Instead he walked towards the bathroom and disappeared.

To this day, I still believe that our encounter was beyond the realm of dreams. His presence felt real and I know he was there that day standing in my room. I also know that when he’s not in my dreams, he shows up in many different forms. During my daily walks, whenever I think about him, a red cardinal appears. It’s his symbolical way of letting me know he is still here to watch over me and to take care of me. But I often wonder— what did he forget to tell me? Did he try to tell me that he will always be around? Did he want to say, I forgot to tell you….that I’ll always be here even when I’m gone. I forgot to tell you…that when you see a cardinal, that’s me letting you know I’m watching over you.

Losing someone you love is probably the hardest and most painful feeling. I cried for months after he left. I still cry when I think about him. I told someone today that I’ve moved on. That I’m no longer sad. I was lying. I will never be able to move on because my dad’s memory will forever be etched on my heart. The day I’ll stop missing him is the day when we see each other again.

Till next time, dad. I love you forever.