Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Friends: Mites

Yesterday would have been Mites' 28th birthday had she not succumbed to cancer seven years ago. She was a college blocmate and eventhough we were not in the same barkada, Mites was one of my closest friends outside my little circle.

I remember how we usually hang out in their org tambayan (where I would later be inducted as an honorary member) and talk about this guy she liked. That room has only one window (actually, only half of a window, which was shared with another org next door--a mere wooden divider separating them) that faces one of the windows of the Music building across the street. Sometimes when Mites was really upset about something the guy did or did not do, we would pretend that he was standing by that Music window and shout at an imaginary him. At times, we screamed at random passersby. We always had a good laugh after.

Another favorite bonding activity of ours was to lecture her best friend on how to handle her relationship with her then boyfriend. Oh how we failed on this. I could not have done it with her help and I did not succeed on this later on my own.

I remember how Mites first learned about the tumor on her leg. It was discovered after she was bumped by a motorcycle. She broke the news to us (me and her barkada) after one of our classes at AS. I told her not to worry and assured her it would be nothing serious. And then we all spent the rest of the afternoon at Sunken Garden. Ironically, this was one of my fondest memories with Mites. We even had a photo shoot that afternoon.

Later on, Mites proved that I was wrong. That what she was battling with was nothing but serious. But I remained optimistic and so did she. She skipped a semester before returning the following semester. I squeezed myself beside her on a couch in our college when I spotted her that first day she came back to school. She was wearing a wig because she lost all her hair but she looked healthy and full of promise.

The bloc went to the beach the following semestral break. On our first night there, we lied on the sand and waited for falling stars. We were lucky because there was a meteor shower. I wonder if she wished for a longer life.

On our last semester, she had a remission. I had one class with her and her best friend that semester. One time, after class, she said she was having a hard time walking. Our class was at the third floor and the building did not have elevators. Her best friend and I held each of her hand as we went down the stairs. We had to stop once in a while because Mites was really in pain. I felt her grasp of my hand became tighter with each step.

The next day, Mites sent me an MMS but it might have been not compatible with my phone because I could not view it. So I sent her an SMS telling her that I could not view what she sent me. She replied saying that she just wanted to thank me for helping her. I told her to take care and that she was very much welcome. I did not see her again or received any more messages from her after that day.

Later on, I became busy with my thesis and I only got updates about Mites through her best friend. She said Mites did not want us to visit her or to worry about her.

Days flew and it was only weeks before graduation. March 22, 2005. I was at our home in Batangas when I got a call from our blocmate telling me that Mites was gone. I was in my room with my mom and nephew and I just broke into tears. My mom, not knowing how to comfort me, quietly left the room; while my nephew, who was only five then and might not have any idea what death meant, hugged me.

For years, I still cried whenever I remember that day. There were nights when memories of those times I shared with Mites would visit me, and it made me wonder why I never held on to those thoughts tighter, longer. I cannot even comfort myself that I have made the most out of those times or that I experienced them fully. At times, I comforted myself that she's just somewhere far away.

It became harder for me when I worked with her best friend in the same company. Our everyday casual conversations sometimes brought Mites in naturally. Whenever I hear her name, I always pictured myself holding my heart, protecting it. I mastered the will not to fall into pieces and cry.

On her third birthday after she passed away, I realized that I have been sporting that don't-feel stance. And I wrote a letter to Mites about it that day. In that letter, I told her that I still cannot promise her the day when I will face her memory with my heart unguarded. I vowed, however, that there will be no tears from me on her birthday--only smiles and wonderful recollection of the moments we shared.

After writing that letter, my heart felt miraculously light. That was when I realized that I have let her go. Her absence no longer make me grieve; it now reminds me how blessed I am that she became my friend.

But I still think of her when I see falling stars. And I miss her more in summertime.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Family: My Maternal Grandmother

Whenever I think about losing someone, I am reminded of the day my maternal grandmother (or Nanay as we call her) was hit by an owner-type jeep and was pronounced dead on arrival at the hospital. It was the first time I really understood what it felt like to have a loved one be taken away from you. I could say that it was the saddest day of my life so far.

The year was 1994 and I was 10 years old. My sister was celebrating her 15th birthday and I had a short exchange of words with Nanay about it that morning (I could not call it a conversation because that was all it was, an exchange of words), not knowing that shortly after lunch, she was to be taken away from me. From our whole family.

Days after her funeral, I found myself walking into the old house and calling out, "Naaa-nay? Naaa-nayyy? Nanay?" as I had been accustomed to. It happened several times and each time, it took a while for me to snap back to the reality that she was gone. In one instance, my uncle heard me and hushed me, "Little, Nanay is dead..."

You know how when you are having a bad dream and the pain is so real until that moment when you realize it could just be a bad dream, and you decide to just go with the flow of events while willing yourself to wake up? I have had moments like that even years after Nanay died. I would think of Nanay and wish God has made a mistake and that He will give her back.

I did dream about Nanay, especially within months after she passed away. But she was always alive in my dreams; she was even cleaning the old house in one of them. "I had a vacation from heaven," she told me as she applied wax on the floor.

It was only recently that I dreamed of Nanay not being alive. It was her funeral and I was crying like I did during the real funeral but I felt peaceful in that dream. When I woke up, I knew that I have finally accepted that Nanay's stint in this lifetime really ended 17 years ago.

I have let go of Nanay's physical presence but that does not mean I do not miss her anymore. I do still miss her, especially when we have family reunions. I may not see her physical body anymore but I still feel her presence. When I am inside the old house or at the farm, her presence lingers and it is not the spooky kind. Indeed, death cannot kill what never dies. As her granddaughter, she touched my life and will be a part of it, of me, forever.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Letting Go

So, how do I expect to go about this process of letting go? I have read several articles that tackle the so-called art of letting go and I agree with most of them. I especially associate myself to those who believe that letting go does not mean getting rid of parts of you or your life - be it a person, thing, feeling or idea.

It is not attachment that hurts us but detachment. Some take this as a precaution to never be attached to anything in order to avoid loss. But I don't buy that. How else can you experience life without attachment? I think it is necessary to be attached, to hold on to every person or thing that life gives us. We should embrace and experience fully whatever is right there in front of us at each moment, and then when it is time for you to leave or be left behind, do not fight it.

At the bottom of letting go is not detachment but acceptance. Acceptance for what once was, now is and probably will be.

This blog sums it up in four words, accept that "like before is gone."

Sunday, June 12, 2011


I used to have a blog with the same title and tagline as this one, which i deleted in 2007. I am reviving it now in an effort to document the befores in my life that were gone - temporarily or for good, I am not sure.

During the time when I started the original blog, I was thinking of coming out with a book in the process. The book would be about all the stuff of life that were taken away from me - things, pets, friends, loved ones and even time as well - by someone, over time, out of mistake, due to selective amnesia or by forces of nature.

I am not one to dwell in the past but I value the ~experience. So here I will try to document my memories of the lost and eventually learn to let them go completely. Wish me luck.