Forty-plus Days

In the Catholic-Filipino tradition, a 9-day novena is held immediately after the death of a loved one. On the 40th day, a mass is held in commemoration of this loved one as it is believed that this is the day they’ve ascended into the heavens. It’s also the day where the act of “mourning” (wearing black, for example) officially concludes. It’s supposed to be the time where a person is supposed to outwardly “show” that they’ve began to “move on” with everyday life.

Yet another "borrowed" picture from another cousin

Except … anyone that has ever mourned the loss a love one (or heck, even the loss of anything in life — like the ability to have children, for instance) knows that grief doesn’t last for a set moment in time. Life doesn’t just miraculously get better after 40 days, several months or even years. If anything, grief is a process that must be worked through completely before a person can successfully move on.

Sometime last week was the 40th day anniversary of my Grandma Rose‘s passing. In all honestly, the date escaped me. It wasn’t until I saw pictures of a celebration at my Uncle’s house on my cousin‘s Facebook page that I remembered. And if the rest of my Mom’s family in the U.S. didn’t live on the East Coast, I might have been there celebrating with them. Instead, I celebrated with them in spirit; once again reflecting back on the incredible life my 99-year old Grandmother.

This past Monday, on Memorial Day of all days, I happened to get the first part of an incredible gift in my email inbox. This same cousin, who posted pictures of the 40th day celebration, sent me … along with the rest of my cousins and Aunts/Uncles in her email address book … a scanned copy of a notebook written by Grandma Rose.

290About 32 pages in length and written about twenty years ago, this handwritten notebook told the most basic lifestory of my grandmother in her own words. She had left it to my cousin, who took it upon herself to scan in each page and send it to all of us.

It was absolutely wonderful to read these pages and physically see it my Grandma’s own handwriting. Many of the accounts she documented were stories that I can remember her telling me. Other stories were ones that were passed down to me from my own Mom. But reading them now … well, they brought back such warm memories of listening to my Grandma Rose tell these stories and being fascinated on how life in the Philippines was so different than my own.

For years, we had told Grandma that she should write all these stories down … that she had lived such an interesting life. While many of these stories never made it into writing, I still feel incredibly blessed that Grandma left her own legacy behind and in her own words.


Last night, after I finished reading these pages I, once again, felt this incredible closeness with my Grandma Rose. It felt as if she was right there next to me, telling me these stories like she did when I was little. It felt as if I could put my arms around her and hug her, while she read aloud to me what she wrote.

And just like that, the tears sprung up again. Because then I realized how much I missed her and still miss her. Even after these 40-plus days.


And because the number 40 always reminds me of this song … I have to pay homage to one of my favorite bands of all time. I have this vivid memory of being home sick one day in high school and watching “Live at Red Rocks: Under a Blood Red Sky” … so it’s this clip I had to post.

For those that don’t know, this song is based on the Bible’s Psalm 40. Which … given how spiritual my Grandma Rose was … is incredibly appropriate. Enjoy.

6 Replies to “Forty-plus Days”

  1. I’m sorry. I’m glad that there is ritual to get you past this, but it does seem nonsensical that you would be all better in 40 days.

  2. Em – What a gift to have those writings. I bet you could make an awesome book of your grandma’s writings and pictures of her!

  3. What a gift indeed! I gave both my grandparents those “fill in the blanks” books once… my grandmother never wrote a thing in hers but my grandfather actually started writing in his. He only completed about three pages but they’re precious paegs nevertheless. One of the questions was “Where were you when I was born?” and he wrote, “Close by.” lol

  4. That’s wonderful, to have such amazing words (from the text I could read in your photos) in her beautiful hand…

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