This afternoon, I finally paid for the flu vaccines the family and Anne will have. But with a heavy heart, I had to, again, finally erase your name from the form I was submitting. I tried to put it off maybe because I did not want to face the truth that you are already gone.
I remember a few days ago when I sent Anne a text message asking her if you two would like to have anti-flu shots like before. And like before, she said yes. After all, we all need this, don’t we? So I printed the form and inked all our names on it. Five of us in the family, and on the last two lines, your, and anne’s names.
Fast forward to that fateful Friday night when Bong and I went home and we noticed your absence in the house. Anne was doing the payroll when I asked where you were. She said you hadn’t called since early afternoon when you promised her you would, as you have done for so long. I knew right then and there that she was worried but she did not want to magnify her worries by verbalizing it. Realizing her worry, however, Bong offered to help Anne locate you. We all agreed it would be best for me to stay with the kids. But not a long time had passed when my parents came to our house asking where Anne was. I could sense the alarm and fear in Papa’s voice when I asked him what was wrong. He told me that shocking, unbelievable news that you were gone. How, I asked him, did he know that? He said it was Anne who called him, albeit hysterical, to tell him they found you in your apartment. Alone. Unmoving. Devoid of life.
I immediately dressed up, woke the two Ates up so they could sleep with the two kids who were still awake at the time. It was barely eleven pm when we all left for your apartment. I was silently uttering prayers in my mind, and even bargaining with God to just make you well and we will all do everything to make things better for you. I was, in my heart, hopeful that there was still a chance we’d be able to rush you to the hospital so doctors could attend to you and save you. But in my heart, too, I knew that familiar painful, heart-wrenching feeling that there was no turning back. Because if there were still a chance you were still alive, they would have already brought you to the hospital.
What followed was like a scene in those drama movies that I didn’t particularly like watching. After all, barely 14 years ago, I discovered my own brother Lon, slumped on the floor of his room, lifeless. Seeing Anne hugging your lifeless body was just too surreal. I knew I would be grieving not just for you, but for my dear sister who you knew I love to pieces.
I went inside the room to be with Anne. We were both crying loudly, unable to contain our anguish. So many questions were running through my mind. What happened? Why did you die? Why couldn’t you wait for us? Why didn’t you tell Anne you didn’t leave the house earlier? Why God, why Onid? He was one of the most decent guys I’ve known and most importantly, I’ve never seen anyone love my sister this much. Why did you allow him to die? Why did you do this to us? You knew he wasn’t just somebody. I treated him like my own brother, after my very own left us. How could you have allowed this to happen to someone so dear, so young, so full of dreams, someone who never lifted a finger to hurt anybody?
The next scenes were just as painful…waiting for your family to arrive from Quezon City, the funeral parlor people getting your body and bringing you to the funeral parlor itself, trying to comfort Anne alternately and knowing how hard it is because I was, myself, grieving; Having to fill out that sheet of paper so the attendants could put the same information in your death certificate, going home with Anne, Bong and Ninang Mileng to get the clothes that would be put on you, going back to the funeral parlor, deciding with mommy and your family what coffin you would be laid in, and finally going home again with your family as we waited for the funeral parlor to let us know when you will be ready to be brought home to Baesa, a place you wanted to avoid so much because of the painful memories it brought you.
Looking back, your very sudden death brought the same anguish I felt when Lon left us.
Gusto kong sabihin na ang daya daya daya mo. Magpapaturok pa tayo ng flu vaccine e. Maghahanap pa ako ng seat sale sa mga airline companies para makapunta tayo ng Boracay. Napansin mo ba na kahit ang dami dami at sunod sunod ang mga seat sales ng eroplano, hindi ko mapindot pindot yung buy button kasi hindi makapagbook nang maramihan? Ako naman ang unang unang nalulungkot sa thought na di ka makakasama dahil nga limitado lang ang pwedeng magpabook. Kaya wag na lang. Gusto ko kasi maisama kayo ni Anne kung san lalakad ang pamilya. Magluluto pa ako ng ground beef with ubod spring rolls, tuna pasta, chicken fillet dishes, ginatang kalabasa at sitaw at daing na bangus. Magvivideoke pa tayo kung saan sasabihan mo ako nang bakit ganyan kaganda ang boses ko to which I would just reply with a smile. Magkakampihan pa tayo sa Ginebra habang magkakantyawan kayo ni Bong dahil kampi naman si Bong sa BMeg. Tatawagin pa kitang panget at sasagot ka naman ng “hindi ako yun!” kahit na yun naman palagi ang bati ko sayo. Magpapacarry pa sayo sina Jem at Cassie at sasawayin pa kita dahil mas mabigat pa yung dalawang bata kesa sayo. Pasasalubungan mo pa ako, si Anne at Kara ng Magnum at pagkatapos kong dali-daling kainin yung share ko, pagagalitan kita kasi di mo ako dinalhan ng pasalubong. Tatawa-tawa kang magsasabi nang, “next time, dadalhan na talaga kita,” kahit na ako nga ang unang una mong inabutan ng pasalubong mo. Aasarin pa kita nang maraming maraming maraming beses at tatawa ka lang nang tatawa nang maraming maraming maraming beses din kasi alam na alam mo namang lambing ko lang sayo yun. Dahil ang totoo, pag may problema kayo ni Anne, ako ang unang unang naaalarma. Ako pa nga ang humihingi ng paumanhin sayo at nagsasabing pagtitiyagaan mo ang kapatid ko kasi kahit anong mangyari, mahal natin siya pareho. Sasabihin mo pa saken na oo, alam mo naman yun at mahal na mahal mo rin siya. Atsaka sa birthday mo, reregaluhan pa kita at ipaghahanda katulad nung ginawa natin nung huling birthday mo. Kasi hindi ko pala nasabi sayo, hindi na kapatid ang turing ko sayo. Para na nga kitang anak dahil sa lahat halos ng mga plano ko, pag kasama si Anne, hindi pwedeng hindi ka kasama.
There are still so many things we could have done together. You’d have married Anne and I would gladly arrange things for you. You wouldn’t have to pay for a choir or a wedding singer because aside from a wedding coordinator, you would have me as a wedding singer, too, aside from Bong who would gladly step up to the plate. And I know, Bong and I would be there every step of the way for you as you build your life together.
But all these are water under the bridge now that you are no longer with us.
On that first night when we held the wake for you, I missed you more because I saw how your relatives, the Santiagos and the Ignacios, took care of Anne. All of them knew her, and all of them obviously love her. It was something I regretted because how could that still continue when the very reason for that happening has already left us? The pain was too raw, too felt, too difficult to bear, especially because all of us were grieving for one person, for you. I did not know all of your relatives but I shared their grief because in the very short time we knew each other (yes, almost three years is still very short) you became a family to me. And I regretted that I did not come to know your beautiful clan early on. We’d have sung together, told stories together, enjoyed things together. I would have wanted so much to know them more because in them, I knew I would see more of your goodness.
I honestly don’t know how to help Anne get through each day knowing how much she misses you. I’ve told Bong and other people before, that your passing makes it doubly hard for me to go on because while I am grieving your passing, I am also grieving for my sister who has practically lost everything she cared about. It’s easy to tell her that she still has us, her family, but it was you her life revolved around. For days, I had been praying to God to just give me the wisdom to make sense of the many questions she asks because I ask the same questions myself. When someone has left us, it really is difficult to understand why that should happen.
But then, I also know how much you have suffered, how much you’ve given without waiting for anything in return, and these thoughts allow me to just accept this sad fact, thinking, hoping, praying, that you are finally at peace.
Rest in peace, Nid. And like your family and relatives, I shall await our next meeting on that glorious Resurrection Day.