(Please bear with my personal entries, I have this last one to share.)
For my 24 years on Earth, I knew this charming person who could smile his way out of anything. Last December, I celebrated my 25th for the first time without a greeting from this loved person who never forgot. Exactly a year ago, he was stolen from us. January 8, 2013, noon. I tried to commemorate his life with an Instagram post, I deleted it 5 seconds after posting. It’s not enough.
Last year, I wrote the following lines for his eulogy hoping I would get the courage to read it aloud. 10 years ago, I did the same for my grandmother. I didn’t even get past the first sentence which was “Mama Doray was born on…” and I was bawling ridiculously already. I knew this would be another humiliating display of waterworks if I read it in public so I kept it instead. I tried again for his 40 days, and the only thing I said in between spontaneous crying was “We went swimming. He drowned me. Ayoko na, Ninong. (I don’t want anymore, Ninong.)”
Kuya Tetet (Short for butete or tadpole), no matter how ugly his nickname was, is a beautiful person and he taught me one of the most valuable things he could about life. It is a shame not to be able to share this. So, let me try again:
Written January 12, 2013
“My fondest childhood memory with Kuya Tetet was when we would go swimming during summer in Calamba. There was this one particular time that he was teaching me how to float. I was 8 and he was 11, more or less. I was lying on my back and he had his arms supporting me so I wouldn’t sink. And then suddenly, he pulled me into the water. I thrashed and kicked and tried to get to the surface. For some reason, I found myself paddling like a dog to the edge of the pool certain I just drank a glass of pee. Kuya Tetet, being his pilyo (naughty) self, enjoyed watching me cry. I was so mad at him and splashed water at his face when he approached.
I shouted my usual sentences, “Bakit mo ginawa yun? Susumbong kita kay Mama! (Why did you do that? I’m going to tell Mama!)”
And he said in between his laughs, “Para alam mo na gagawin mo pag may humila sayo. Di naman pati malalim eh! (So you know what you’ll do when somebody pulls you down. It’s not even deep!)” And he stands up beside me and I see that the water is just up to his chest and that I could stand up without dying. In humiliation, I pushed him and left the pool to tell on him. He continued laughing at me. In my memory, he never stopped.
Just now did I realize how important of a life lesson that was. As an 11 year old, I don’t think he was trying to be deep. But as I grasp desperately for memories with him, this is what I remember most clearly. (Along with his spiderman stunt of climbing our floor to ceiling bookshelf in Lucena.)
During the minutes that the nurses and doctors were trying to revive Kuya from his cardiac arrest, I was alone on a bench near the stairs, reading the bible. It was very dramatic, I could not even believe it happened, how perfect the timing was. His room was just beside the stairs as well. I was a floor down. I heard shouting just after I read a verse. I ran up and he was gone. This was the passage:
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge Him.”
Kuya Tetet taught me how to float, how to drown, and how to kick my way to the surface. At a time of loss and grief as this, let us not forget the two things that we should always do. Trust in the Lord and let’s not drown in our sadness.”
I still miss him though, with the heaviest of hearts.