August 18, 1992. Saturday. 12 noon. Matt was still in his office preparing papers for an upcoming conference. Despite the lunch hour, Matt was still hard at work… as always.
Ever since he moved out of his father’s house, Matt has always been preoccupied with business. He believed that in order to grow as a person, he had to learn to provide for himself. He needed to secure a high degree of respect and position in his chosen profession. And to earn such status, he had to work diligently all the time, every time.
This did not please his family. Matt’s family believed that relationships matter more than work. For how many years, this had been the major issue in their family. His father always warned him to change his perspective or it will affect him negatively in the future. Matt’s younger siblings also disapproved of his way of thinking. In the end, there was just too many arguments and misunderstandings, which finally culminated in Matt becoming estranged from his family.
By that time, he had secured a position at the Rivera Corporation: one of the biggest business conglomerates in the industry. From then on, Matt had no contact with his family whatsoever. 3 years have passed but this conflict was never resolved. This hardened Matt’s heart and fueled his drive to succeed more in his work. But still, there was that small part of him that said he needed to make things right with his family.
It was nearly 3 pm. Matt was still hard at work when he received the phone call. His father had been rushed to the hospital again. Matt knew that his father had been battling complicated health issues for the past few years, but this recent and successive bout of hospital trips made the situation dire. The last time his father was sick, the doctor’s prognosis was possible multiple organ failure which might eventually lead to decease.
Matt rushed to the hospital. In his haste, he left without asking leave from his supervisor. Guilt, bitterness, and the painful thought of losing his father plagued him as he rushed to his father’s side. He was also fearful of being robbed of that that chance to reconcile with his family, or with his father, at the very least.
When he finally arrived at the hospital, Matt’s family was already there. His mother was weeping, while his brother and sister held her.
Matt didn’t know what else to do. He walked up to them gingerly.
“You should not have come!” snapped his younger brother.
“Stop, Jimmy! That’s no way to treat your older brother.” said Matt’s mother. “We missed you so much, Matt. Where have you been all these time?”
“Working…” Matt mumbled.
“Still holding on to that stupid, insensitive perspective of yours? Look where it got you! Are you happy now? Are you?” Jimmy lashed out.
“Enough.” his sister intervened. “We’re in the hospital. Let’s not quarrel here… not in public. We don’t want to make a scene.”
The doctor called out to them. He informed them that his findings show that Matt’s father is indeed undergoing multiple organ failure, and that his health though stable, could get worse in the next few days. He informed them gently that this might be a good time to spend “quality time” with the patient.
Upon hearing this, Matt was visibly shaken. He tried to suppress his emotions. The rest of the family wept openly though.
When they finally entered the room where their father was staying in, everyone saw that their padre de pamilia was hooked up to a number of complicated machines. It was a heart-wrenching sight. And Matt could not help but shed silent tears. His father was conscious, but weak. Matt’s mother and his two siblings rushed forward to hug the man.
As Matt got nearer to him, he saw surprise register in his father’s face. “Matt…is that you?”
“Yes, Dad. I’m here.”
His father reached out to hold him, but Matt just stood there unable to think of what to do.
“Leave me with Matt.” his father gently said to his wife and two other children. When they left, the older man asked, “How are you, my son?”
“I… I’m doing great…” Matt stammered. Tears would not stop flowing down his cheeks. In the pit of his stomach, he felt like this was going to be his final talk with his father. “I came as soon as I heard what happened to you.”
“I never got the chance to say I’m sorry for all the hurt I cause you…” his father started.
“No, Dad. I’m the one who’s supposed to say that. I’ve been arrogant. I failed to learn what you have been trying to teach me all these years. Now I think I understand why relationships must be valued first. I am so sorry, Dad. Please forgive me. I know time lost between us cannot be recovered. I regret this with all my heart.”
The father wept once he heard these words. “You are right, my son. Time lost cannot be recovered, but can still use this time together.”
Matt hugged his father. Afterwards, his father called for his wife and Matt’s siblings. The young man asked for their forgiveness in turn.
A few hours passed in quiet conversation, the family now finally reconciled after 3 years. Then Matt’s father grew visibly weaker, as if the old man knew that his time was near.
“I love you so much, dad.” Matt cried, as he held his father once more. “Thank you for accepting me again.”
“I love you too, son. I love all of you.” he said, just before he closed his eyes. Soon after, Matt’s father had settled into eternal sleep.
Back at the office, Matt gathered his belongings and filed a letter requesting for a short leave of absence. When asked why, he simply replied, “I learned from my father that life should not revolve around work only. There are more important things in life. I think I have a lot of catching up to do.”
Christian Conrad is a student of Ateneo De Davao University. He is taking up BS Education.