Jul 22, 2015

    It's hard to reveal a loved one's death

    HOW do you tell your mother that she has lost a brother? I couldn't. So I texted my father to come home and tell her, and went to sleep.

    Last year, my favourite aunt died. In the days before her passing, we heard news of her struggle with liver cancer. She died on, of all days, Dec 30, when we thought we'd welcome the new year together. On the 29th, we received news that she was feeling better. We dared hope for a recovery, that she'd outlive the initial three months she was expected to live. We were quite sure. On the following afternoon, never had we been so disappointed.

    There's nothing more painful than being bereft of hope. To be able to come so close, to believe, to - damn it - hope. To hope for a better tomorrow, then be robbed of it. To expect everything, then end up having nothing - not time, not closure, not even a goodbye.

    My youngest aunt texted me the news. She said not to be shocked, but my eldest aunt had passed away. How can you relay such news and tell someone to not be shocked? When has the death of someone special not been an earth-shattering event?

    I was at a salon having my hair done and I had to try so hard to stem the tears. The earth stopped moving and all I heard was a certain ringing. There was a sense of disconnect, my head was floating.

    I was restless. I was numb. I was nothing. I went home to a silent house, save for my mother's quiet sobs. My father, our rock, stayed close.

    I've written letters and composed poems for my aunt. Until now, I still have her last text message.

    I can transcribe into words all that I want to say, but these will not reach her. She wouldn't know that she was my favourite, and that I always treasured her. My childhood memories of summer will always be bound to her.

    My uncle died yesterday morning. My youngest aunt told me to relay the news gently to my mother, so as not to shock her. I reckon the shock factor will not go away, considering that we're in Mindanao and they're in Luzon.

    There's no way we can be prepared for death, as news is filtered by distance and communication. We knew of my uncle's sickness, but not of its gravity and his proximity to death.

    My father had to go home to break the news. My mother wept. I found that I wasn't brave enough to break her heart.

    I've found that death redefines our roles. When people go, are we the same as we were when they were alive? My mother - is she still a sister to my aunt Leonor and to Tata, now that we have lost them? Is my father still Tata's brother-in-law, now that he has died?

    The season of death, like autumn, now plucks the leaves from the branches. Never has a falling felt more painful.

    Before I fell into a deep sleep, I heard the reassuring murmur that was my father and the muffled weeping that was my mother.