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By Reginald Ting

Sara’s Uncle Lando had a  massive  heart attack and was confined  in the ICU of a well-known hospital in Makati. The doctors didn’t give her  Uncle lando much time  to live.   He had sleep into a coma and they fear that he would  not wake up anymore.

Uncle Lando’s relatives decided to take turns watching over him, in the  even he did wake up. Being a night owl,  Sara volunteered  to take the graveyard shift (  from 12 midnights to 5 a.m.).  One night (early morning actually)) Sara  came home from the hospital.

As was  her habit, she took a quick shower  before turning in.  But as she stepped out of the  shower  and toweled  herself dry. She smelled the aroma of sampaguitas. Not just a whif but a fragrance, like  the bathroom was filled with the scent of  flowers. The aroma  lingered  for  a minute or two before disappearing.

Tired, Sara shrugged it off as  her imagination.  Just as she was  about to sleep though, her phone rang. Who could  be calling at this hour? She thought. But deep down  she knew that there was only one reason for anyone to call her  She picked up the phone. “Sara uncle Lando has passed away,” said her cousin.”Thank you,” was all Sara could say,  as she numbly put the phone back into its  cradle.

Instead  of the deep sadness she expected to feel,  she felt peace, as if her uncle  had said goodbye to her before he moved on. Later in the afternoon, Uncle Lando’s relatives gathered at the funeral parlor  while waiting for his body to be embalmed.

They were all quiet and sedate, each one   silently reminiscing the happy times with the jolly Uncle Lando.  Aunt Vera (who  isn’t  really a relative but close friend of the family) arrived  and gave her condolences to Uncle Lando’s wife and children.

She sat down  and waited with the family.  “I was having lunch with some friends when the peculiar thing happened,”aunt Vera said. “Just as we were finishing our meal,   we all smelled sampaguita and calachuchi.  It smelled like we were in  a funeral home.  It wasn’t just me who smelled it, my  guests and household help smelled it to.”

“That was Lando  probably bidding you goodbye. You know  how much he loved  to tease you,” Said  Uncle Lando’s  sister.”It probably was.  But the funny time was, I only found  out about his passing   when you call me this afternoon,” said aunt Vera. True  enough,  the family had only  informed close friends and relatives  about Uncle Lando’s passing. The obituary would  only come out the next day.

A little while later,  a middle-aged man walked into the funeral parlor.  By this  time. Uncle’s Lando’s body was laid  out peacefully in his coffin. “Um, I’m looking for  Mr. Lando Reyes?” said the man.  “Yes, I’m his widow. May I help you?”” YOu see, ma’am, I have his car outside.

He told me this morning to  deliver  it  here when I was finished  repairing it,” said the man.  He looked confused as it dawned  on him  that the owner of the car was lying in  a casket.  Everybody looked at each other. “Please, tell us about it,” said Sara.

The man identified himself as  Mang Erning. He’s the mechanic uncle Lando went to for all his car  repairs. “Early this morning, Mr. Reyes  came  into the shop. We  even talked  and joked a bit,  you know how he is. I mean, was. He asked  about his car and I told him that it would be finished within the day.  He said to bring it to this funeraria when I was done.

“I didn’t question him about his choice of location. Maybe he was visiting  someone here.  I thought at the time.  What I  didn’t expect was that he’d be  the one lying here!”

What time did you say he visited you?” asked Sara. ” About  8:30 this morning,” said  Mang Erning.  “He died at 5 in the morning,” said  Uncle’s Lando widow.

And it  doesn’t end there.  Mrs Reyes  ( Uncle Lando’s widow) had ordered  a couple of maidenhair ferns  from her florist, Mang Dan, to add  to the decor at the wake. They had agreed that Mang Dan would deliver it to the Reyes residence and that the family would take care of bringing the ferns to the funeral parlor.

Mang Dan’s farm was in Cavite, and he made  a special trip that day to get the  plants to Mrs. Reyes. He had delivered several orders before to the Reyes residence and  knew how to get there. But that night,  he got lost. For some reason he kept turning into the wrong  street.

When he finally got to the Reyes house, it was near midnight. He just dropped  off the plants  with the household staff and told them  that  he’d  return a few days later   to collect on the payment. A few days later, he got lost again going back to the Reyes house.

He had  talked to Mrs Reyes earlier, and they had agreed that she was leaving a check with the  maid,  so that Mang Dan can come and collect it at anytime. When he finally got there and got the payment, he suddenly smelled an almost overpowering sampaguita fragrance. He quickly got into  his pickup and drove off.

Later,  when he related this story to Mrs. Reyes, she said to him.
“That was probably my husband, most likely asking you why you were late.  You know him, he was  always prompt and  expected everyone to be the same.”

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