March 16, 2021 -- My day was just about done. It was around 9:30PM and an email to my thesis supervisor was my final task before I can try and get some sleep. In between space-outs, I’d been getting paperwork done and contacting people. Calling people and sending messages induces anxiety for me, but I was fine the whole time. Then moments after sending that email, my son, sitting right beside me by the computer, suddenly said in that innocent tone of his…
Lolo died. Lolo went to Heaven…
That’s when I finally cracked... the way thin glass does with a hammer in full swing.
Although Aidan had always shown a distinct connection with his grandfather, he probably didn’t fully understand what that really meant. But in its bluntness was a purity of message and spirit. None of the grown-ups articulated the matter that way to me. It was impossible to remain unmoved by that. I cried right at that moment. I cried every time I tried telling that story to family the following day. Even writing about it here and now after the fact remains difficult.
I had been wondering if there is anything left that I wanted to write about my father. I thought I had written just about everything I wanted last time, and I am extremely thankful that I had done so while he was still alive to read it himself. But after letting the grief out, that moment of mine with my dad’s grandson also flipped my writer switch on and the thoughts started flowing through.
My father, Felix ‘Lex’ Librero, passed away just before the dawn of March 16, 2021. The documents will relate that he succumbed to liver cirrhosis. But without getting into a lot of details, he had been battling quite a few different ailments these past years. There was actually a lot of optimism in the days before. Despite how things looked, he was actually showing signs of recovery. Unfortunately, things took a sudden and unexpected turn, leading to where we are now.
I was hopeful he would be around long enough to witness more family milestones -- finishing my doctorate or Aidan overcoming his speech deficiencies, for example. I had wanted to set up a solar power system big enough to run an air conditioning unit for my dining room this summer so he can comfortably spend more time here in his old house with his grandson -- a persistent issue worsened by the pandemic. I wanted him to keep playing a central role in the Librero family. That said, this kind of sentiment, of regret, is hardly unique to me. Just about anyone fairly close to him would say how he or she had plans to do this or that with him and just waiting for a good time to do so. Unfortunately, these difficult times ruined all that. To those who knew him, Lex's rather unexpected passing has left feelings sadness, frustration, and in a few cases, even anger.
On the other hand, I do have to put this in perspective. With the above being said, Lex had lived a full productive life. From a hard post-war childhood in one of the most remote parts of the country, to the gradual establishment of his place in the university, to happy times raising a family, to his first brush with death, to losing the love of his life as he reached the pinnacle of his career, and to finding love again late in life, in what is nearly a 78 year lifespan. Now don’t get me wrong, it’s impossible for me not to be impressed. But honestly, it’s also kind of annoying, whenever I think about it. It constantly feels like it's a standard that has been implicitly set for me and I don’t know if I can ever meet that.
I don’t think I bear this stigma alone, though. I am his only son. But he has also been a father or brother figure to so many people over the years. Some of you who are reading this now probably count yourselves as one. For whatever reasons, many of you, like me, actively and continually sought his respect and approval. This drive might not result to being a university chancellor, but it gives us the chance to achieve excellence in different shapes or forms. And it will always mean being better versions of ourselves. Family, friends, colleagues, mentees… we have all been made better with him being part of our lives. His legacy is not really represented by the achievements listed in a curriculum vitae that has more pages than my undergraduate thesis. It surely isn’t in the form of Pesos in his bank account. It lies in the quality of the lives he’s touched. And as much as part of me would like to be selfish and have it all to myself, the truth is I am proud to share his legacy with a lot of people… and if you’re reading up to this point, most likely, I share it with you. In a way, through him, we are brothers and sisters.
He made people around him better. There are not a lot of qualities a person can appreciate more in others. Those who regard my father as such will need some time to mourn. But at the end of the day, Lex is a man whose life is to be celebrated and warmly remembered and thanked for in the years to come.