Much has been written and said about that life-changing event, the nigtmare that you wold not wish, even on your worst enemy. The loss of a loved one changes you forever. The loss of a child leaves a mark on your heart and soul, so deep, that ten years later, as you draw a finger across the wound, you can still feel the ridges of the scar, and you cannot help but remember.
But today, ten years later, you are able to remember with thankfulness, for the brief time given to you, to parent a little boy who filled your life with great love and joy for four years. Our lives have been forever changed by your loss, Migi, and in the process, so many lives, ironically, have been made better by the searing pain of your departure.
Last night, I caught P, holed up in one of the rooms of our house, crying buckets while scribbling away on a notebook. She said that she would share its contents with me today. I thought that this was one anniversary where I would be able to get through the day without tears, but no, here I am at 7PM, crying buckets myself as I read this. Today, I sent out messages to special friends and family who had helped us navigate the journey this last decade. Now, with my daughter’s permission, I share with you her beautiful memories of her eldest brother and how loss can impact a heart’s child, just as deeply, perhaps even more than we as adults feel it. And how, in the process, the gift of loss is that it blesses you with a heart and mind wiser beyond that of your peers, and an unshakeable faith that no matter what happens, God will see you through.
Dear You. I will admit I have absolutely no idea about what possessed me to write this letter. I thought that maybe it was because I’ve been so caught up in my vulnerability- I am a teenager after all. But it wasn’t that. It’s tomorrow, and my realization that after so long - there are still so many things that I haven’t told you.
So forgive me, your emotionally caught up sister, for waiting so long to tell you these things. For never taking a few precious moments to look upward and express the things I’ve always been meaning to say. But don’t get me wrong, I never forgot you. Not a single day goes by when you don’t cross my mind. In fact, it seems like so many of the small things I encounter on a day to day basis become catalysts for this overflow of memories of you.
I’m actually writing this from what used to be our old playroom- do you remember it the way I do? The blue carpet that always smelled like our dog, Casper; the yellow Little Tykes chairs with the matching table-Do you remember how I tried to teach you how to color within the lines one day and you ended up coloring the table? Those marks, they’re still there. So are the dinosaur stickers we stuck on the headboard of the Ikea bed, those glow in the dark stars in the bathroom door.. They’re all still around, little reminders of you. I still sleep in that bedroom we used to share. You may not recognize it, with the purple closets and the shelves dripping with books, but it still that same room to me. The one we used to build forts in with the yayas. The same one where you took your favorite mini golf club and whacked me on the head with (Though of course I’ve long forgiven you for that!). And the same one you walked with me to that night it went brown out and we were in mom and dad’s room. I was scared, so scared, that someone would just reach out from the dark and grab me! But your less afraid, more mature self at age three took me by the hand and said, “Ate, don’t be so silly!”. Without you, I never would have been able to change into my pajamas that night! But on a more serious note, each time I remember that moment I gain a little more faith in those circumstances where I am so filled with doubt. I may not be able to see where exactly I am going, but I have come to realize I’m never really alone.
So thank you. For giving me some of the sweetest, most meaningful memories any older sister could ask for, even in the short, four years we had together. It taught me quite possibly more than I’ve even learned in my 15 years of being in school. You taught me the concept of being a good best friend-you were mine. It wasn’t about the amount of time we spent together, but how we spent that time. You made every minute, every second count for me. Even in those moments where you would have attacks and palpitations - I was never really afraid, or even traumatized. I grew to have this sense of responsibility and care that I only show towards those who mean most to me in life. I grew to learn how to empathize with people in situations not everyone can understand. I learned how to fight hardest for those closest to my heart- even if that means I can get hurt in the process. You also prepared me for another big role I’m going to have to deal with for the rest of my life- being a excellent older sister.
You never met Leon. It’s one of the things that actually saddens me most- I can imagine life being so much crazier if I had the two of you around, driving me nuts. But I guess the Big Guy up there had other plans.
He’s not you, this Leon. He came into my life so soon after I lost you- but I never, not for a single second ever thought he would, or could replace you. He’s the smartest, geekiest, and most entertaining ball of energy of a brother any one could ask for. He’s very different from you, my calm, serene brother with the sad eyes, but I love you both the same. I just wish you had met him. This insane little boy who will dare to cut his own hair to look like the avatar (I bet you were whispering in his ear and egging him on!), but is sweet and honest enough to call any boy that hurts his sister a “provoking ass”. You two were parts of my life at completely different times, but without either of you, I would feel incomplete. He has always considered you kuya though. I know that it was you tickling him as a baby, being that angel that appeared in his dreams at night, leaving that permanent smile on his face. He remembers you that way.
I guess I’ve expressed my gratitude, now I think it’s time I tell you that thing I never told you enough when I still could. The last time you told me this was that night you called me after your surgery, you remember that? If only I knew that would be the last time I would ever talk to you again, then maybe I wouldn’t have run off to watch Madeline so eagerly that night. But I realize now that God had a reason for even that.
I love you, Miguel, I really do. Not did, but do. I loved you for who you were in my life as a child- my brother with the special heart. I love you for being the person who I believe has made the biggest impact on who I am today. You taught me a lot while you were still around. I love you because even today, you serve as one of my biggest inspirations. I love you because even if you may not be around physically, to say, pick me up from school or give me a hug when I’m lonely- but you are with me every single minute of every single day. I’m never really alone, am I. I may not know what the future holds for me, or what to do the exact moment I am faced with a crisis. But I live each day with the knowledge that there is still that one person out there who will take me by the hand and take me in the right direction of every dark moment. Thank you for being my guardian angel.
I know this has come a decade late, but I believe you were there at that moment I felt like writing this. You’re probably even reading this over my shoulder- I hope with a smile. Always know that your ate’s love for you is boundless Migi- it goes beyond the distance between the earth and the skies. Happy 10th Birthday in Heaven, I hope you’re having a blast with the dinosaurs. I’ll see you someday.
♥ your ate, pia