It’s been more than a month but no day goes by that I haven’t thought of you. To venture a hyperbole, every second of my life is filled with memories of you. Dine sa Australia, all corners seem to have something that would remind me of you, from the rainbow that briefly showed up as we were approaching the Perth airport to the galah that perched in the middle of the clothesline when Mama and I got to the house. Most of them are generic and would have been noticed only in passing had you been physically present here but we had to stretch our imagination and take them as signs that you are here even if we can’t see you.
Naalala ko nung maliit ka pa. I taught you to read Tagalog, Si Jack at ang Baging. You learned in less than an hour. I took you with me to my college dorm and you acted all dalaga at 10 years old. You bravely stayed alone in the room while I attended my classes. The reward was a trip to the mall and some toys after my classes, sometimes, in spite of my classes.
During your last days, your happiness had always been the kids in your life, especially our pamangkins in Australia.
Grey is now a teenager. I remember how teary-eyed you were when he first wore a school uniform, and then, when he was named Dux of his graduating class in December 2016. Akalain ga namin na 6 months later ay kukuhanin ka na sa amin. You would have made his 13th birthday party even more bongga, and you would have called me out on my lack of gift-wrapping skills.
Mika is laying a guilt trip on me for not planning to be here on her first double-digit birthday in September. Andito yung piñata na pinaghirapan mo for her 9th birthday last year. You would have been proud of how well she’s handling herself with the contraption on her leg.
I remember how you would post Gilden anecdotes on Facebook. Sadly, one such anecdote involved what the priest said about you during the funeral mass. We were outside the church and Gilden said, “You know why I didn’t cry? Because I didn’t understand what he (the priest) was saying.” Tagalog kase. Natawa kami kahit naiiyak.
Your 35th and last birthday in February should have been special, but we all thought na mas mabuting maghintay until you were completely cured before maghanda for your 35th and Mama’s 70th. Alam mo yung law of attraction? Bullshit. We were all looking forward to the day you got back on your feet. Because the biopsy results came out negative for cancer, we were certain you’d get cured. We just didn’t know when. It never happened, hindi ka gumaling. Alam mo kung ano pa ang bullshit? Yung pagnonovena, bullshit din yan. I don’t care kung sinong magalit sa akin. Hindi ko yan ginawa sa bar exam, pero gustong gusto kong maging totoo para sa iyo. Wala ding nangyari. Maybe I should have left the prayers in the hands of those who have more faith. Baka mas effective. Baka nakasama pa ako sa iyo. Sabi siguro ng Diyos, Ah ito, magaling laang pag may kailangan.
He could have sent us to more competent practitioners, for example. Instead, we went back and forth among licensed individuals who were as clueless as we were, who uttered the bleak prognosis when it was too late to save you. Putangina.
But perhaps I’m really angry with myself for not having had the foresight to seek a different medical opinion. That was a consensus during your wake. People were trying to be comforting but it was inevitable that they would fail. Wala ka na sa amin and there were no words that could have made it OK. Their disbelief over what happened to you fueled the embers of guilt, until by the time you were laid to rest, I just wanted everyone, including my family, to shut up.
Earlier, I saw the reminders you put in your phone (the birthday present that you weren’t able to fully enjoy) about recharging your mobile number. Walang nakapagsabi sa akin na yung maliliit na mga bagay gaya nito will remind me of how alive you once were and how you expected to still be here on that date. Nag time travel ang isip ko. Could I have done something differently in the past to change how it turned out for you? Maybe not have gone on a holiday in March or not have planned to permanently relocate while you were still undergoing treatment? I had plans for myself and I might have been insensitive to your plight. Kung na explain ko lang sana ng mas maganda sa iyo, baka hindi ka sumuko kaagad at magkakasama pa tayo ngayon. Still, some people believe na time mo na talaga, perhaps in an effort to make us feel better. With due respect to them, I will continue to feel responsible for the rest of my life because I’m your ate and I failed to protect you, ineng.
The only consolation we all hang on to now is that you’re no longer in pain. I hope na alam mo how much we love and miss you. Every day will be a struggle and every happy moment will make us all wish we were sharing it with you. Kung saan man kami makakita ng colour pink, doon kasama ka namin.
Sweet dreams to you, our princess.