"I believe our Lord will not give me any burden that I could not bear,” said the beautiful and brave Menchu delas Alas Concepcion during the eulogy she gave for her third child Patrick, who passed away on Nov. 6 this year.
Patrick, aside from working in the family corporation founded by his father, industrialist Raul T. “Ronnie” Concepcion, was also a passionate and dedicated marathon runner. In fact, he had his own blog, Running Shield, detailing his running experiences, which he continued even during the lockdown by running in parking lots and around the Concepcion office building, and even after he was diagnosed with cancer of the pancreas a year and a half ago.
His death, according to Menchu, confirmed what her own late mother used to say, “The most painful feeling a mother could have, is the loss of a child.”
Menchu was on a trip to San Francisco with her only daughter Rica and some grandchildren. Because her husband Ronnie has Alzheimer’s, trips like this without him were extremely rare.
“We had fun in San Francisco,” recalls Rica, who Menchu describes as her “best friend.”
“Shopping, laughing, eating, and fixing the apartment. I treasure all those moments because it’s hard for my mom to schedule her trips without my dad,” reminisces Rica.
When news came from Manila that Patrick was fighting for his life, they at first tried to keep it from Menchu. But it was Menchu’s mother’s instinct that made her feel “something was wrong,” according to Rica.
Menchu was able to whisper her last goodbyes to Patrick through a video call. Her other sons Robie, Jojo, and Ton were all with their brother in the intensive care unit.
“Patrick was my middle child. I would say he was a very lovable child, yet the most mischievous among the five siblings. I remember how many times I had to pingot (twist) his lips, not his ears, which I thought was more painful and would teach him a better lesson than spanking him on his very fat bottom,” Menchu said in her heartfelt eulogy during the funeral Mass for Patrick at the Santuario de San Antonio Church in Makati.
“After having two boys, I had hoped the third child would be a girl. As a baby, Patrick had black and wavy hair that I would very often comb and clip a ribbon. At times I would dress him with fancy colored shirts and I guess this stayed on with him in his later years, which explains his penchant for big colorful bags and neon-colored rubber shoes,” she shared her fond memories. In fact, Patrick’s daughters also shared that their dad was very fastidious about his hair—you could never touch a single strand of it.
The family had plans for the coming holidays. But our Lord had a different plan for the family.
“Patrick left behind a trail of happiness,” his older brother Jojo said in his eulogy. Jojo revealed that Patrick ran an average of eight kilometers a day, and in the 42 years before he passed on, had run over 127,000 kilometers total.
That is three times around the world, pointed out his younger brother Ton, who was inspired by Patrick to launch the Condura Skyway Marathon.
In an interview with Sports on Purpose in 2021, Patrick said he would run with a rosary in his pocket and would often pray while running.
“Running is a way of life, not a sport,” he said. “It keeps you grounded and stable.”
He revealed during the interview that when he started running in 1980 in Vancouver, where he was then studying, he was 225 pounds! After trying it out one day, he was hooked. It was love at first step.
Patrick said he didn’t run to lose weight, but losing weight became a welcome side effect of his passion for running, which he said “makes you understand yourself, know who you are.”
Running gave Patrick a natural high, so much so that he woke up every day with a purpose till, as Jojo described it, “his foot landed on the skyway to heaven.”
“The irony of it is, Patrick was cancer-free and did not die because of cancer but due to a blood clot that lodged in one of his major arteries,” Menchu said.
“The last one and a half years that Patrick lived, he lived life to the fullest. He spent time with his children here and abroad. He was in the United States to attend the wedding of his first daughter Patricia. He was there to attend the graduation of his second daughter Cesco.
“He spent some days last May with me in San Francisco. But he was happiest in our beach house in La Mer in Nasugbu."
“We bonded, we discovered things that made us both happy. He made me laugh. He showed me how much he loved and appreciated me. But most of all, I am thankful that he was able to bond with his dad, to feel the attachment, the connection, the relationship, the union between father and son, rather than the boss in the office,” added Menchu. During his interview with Sports on Purpose, Patrick said his dad is the first runner in the family, and would run regularly at the park in the village where they lived.
This Christmas season, supposed to be the happiest time of the year, how is Menchu going to cope with her loss?
“Through almost 70 years of my life, I had always considered myself as so very blessed. I had a loving and happy family and we enjoyed just spending time together. I had the most perfect life. But it was not meant to stay that way forever. My husband was diagnosed with early dementia that eventually led to Alzheimer’s disease. Then my eldest son Robie was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. That was 10 years ago. And now, about a year and a half ago, Patrick was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, exactly what Robie had."
“Through all these trials, I have learned many lessons, and the biggest and most important is acceptance. I believe our Lord will not give me any burden that I could not bear. It is a blessing that my husband has Alzheimer’s disease and can no longer feel and be aware of Patrick’s moving on. It is a blessing that Patrick had a beautiful death, surrounded by family and after receiving the last rites of the Catholic Church."
“The family had plans for the coming holidays. For the first time in many years, our family would be complete—Ronnie and me, our five children, three daughters-in-law, 17 grandchildren, three grandchildren-in-law, and three great-grandchildren. But our Lord had a different plan for the family. Patrick is no longer with us. I accept whatever plan our Lord has for the family. He has always blessed our family. He has always loved my family.”