Kuya Julius.

Sunday, July 09, 2017

Truly, one of the worst things that an overseas worker could possibly feel is when something wrong happened back home and you need to be there ASAP. You can't fly miles to be there nor teleport at the place you would want to be, so you'll be there to experience the longest, agonizing and very nerve-wracking air travel of your life.

I remember that time as though it only happened yesterday. It was a hot Thursday noon, and lunchtime was over.

I got a normal, paid phone call from my father, telling me details of what has been their situation my brother in the hospital. I was mad with what's happening because last time my brother was admitted to the hospital was in 2013. He had tuberculosis, they said. I recalled one vivid conversation that kuya told me that after he recovered that near-death experience, he'd do better with his life.

He actually did... at least.

He used to be so obese that when he got sick during that time, he shed a lot of weight. He didn't want to march down the aisle as a groomsmen for my wedding because he was feeling shy with his new image. I tell you; he did really lose a lot of weight. In exchange, he gave a speech for us on behalf of my parents. It was warm, sweet and touching, just enough to pinch him in the cheek. Everything was good. I thought he would maintain the slim figure. He told me so. He was destined to work in Dumaguete (somewhere in the middle region of the country) and we could see him traverse the other unknown gems of the Philippines. It seemed so fun, being that simple traveler that he was. But then, year by year, he's starting to fill back all the weight that he lost. He's starting to look heavier than the previous. Whenever we meet when I go home, his tummy was looking bigger and bigger again and I keep on stressing him out with the conversation we had. He kept on ignoring me and called me "KJ." I warned him that if he ever gets admitted to the hospital for some another shenanigan, I'd probably not help him anymore. I was dead serious at that time. He was quiet, and just continued being the person that he was.

Back again to the phone call on that day in June, my father told me to prepare for the worse, and checked with me if I could ask my superiors to file an emergency leave. Something felt wrong and weird. Kuya was in the ICU, battling for his life. I heard my mom's voice in unknown mix of calm yet despaired tone, and I was fighting my tears, so they would not hear the weakness that is starting to consume me. After the phone call, I called my husband that I'll be going home, and one of my trusted colleague, cried on her and went straight up to my boss and excused myself to leave indefinitely.

I rushed home and Albert was already preparing our luggages. He would come along with me, fearing that if I travel alone, I might not make it due to the emotional stress. I was crying, I was trembling, I was overthinking things that might happen. It was undeniably the toughest day... a day that I once feared that would happen, was actually happening right before my very eyes.

As soon as we landed in Manila, we immediately rushed to the hospital. It was still clear and vivid in my memory when I saw my brother battling in a lot of tubes and machines connected to his body. It was painful to watch. I know that he does not want me to see him that way, he might felt embarrassed by the outcome of his stubbornness. I remained calm beside my already-tired looking father, who hadn't slept properly for days. I believed that my brother would surpass this, just as he did years ago.

Since my parents are already old, I decided to go out and do all the things they need for paperwork, like his Philhealth, his claims in the office and among others. I was stressing myself because the medical representative of their company was telling me that we might not claim anything from the company's health benefit policy. I was furious and didn't know what to do. I seeked help from his colleagues, verifying that my brother is included in that all-in benefit program. Our hospital bill is increasing every 3-4 hours, and it's no joke. Basically I did all the things my parents cannot do in terms of filing and sorting things so they would lessen their stress. 

Few days later, my brother's condition was getting worse. He had multiple organ failures, and the bacteria that had spread in his lungs are rapidly growing. He was in that state of coma. I was nearly losing hope, even if I settled his financial issues and all the elderly folks were already trying to discuss and prepare for the worse. I do not want to mingle with such scenes like that when I see my mom was crying in pain. They then decided for me to rest for a bit and come back in the night. 

I went home to my in-law's house and tried to sleep, and when they called me back few hours later, dad called me, telling me that kuya had to revive once. I was nervous that I couldn't stop crying and rushed my way back to the hospital. 

The doctors on duty already expressed their honest opinion on what to expect in the next few hours. They told us that his chances are getting lower and lower. My parents, Albert and I talked, and had the biggest decision in my entire life. They don't want to prolong my kuya's suffering. I don't want to see my mom crying to a point of her not taking her medicines properly as well. I do not want to see my distressed father, who has never experienced seeing any member of his family being in that circumstance, as he was always away and abroad. I never see the day that on behalf of my parents, I am signing a legal paper of discontinuing all the operations of his machines until his last breath. A few of his colleagues kept up in those waiting times just like us, but it was then after they leave, ten minutes later that my kuya, left this world.

It was the wee hours of the 4th of July, when he joined the rest of our loved ones in a better place. From that time until he was discharged, I was fully awake and was almost all in charge to his funeral wake proceedings. From the chapel, the choice of flowers, payment of this and there, almost a lot. Handling his social media accounts were tough, as you don't know how in the world you're going to tell his colleagues, acquaintances and friends that I was taking over and informing such a sad news. It was a week of tribute for him until to his supposedly 33rd birthday. I was even the one in charge of making a short eulogy on behalf of my parents. It was all on me. I remember myself fighting those moments of urge to cry in front of my parents out of grief, but I remained a calm composure, warm and welcoming to guests. 

Who would've thought that he would be gone so soon? Even until now, I felt that he was just working in Dumaguete, and we would just seldom exchange messages on what fun place to go next. That birthday celebration for my mom in February last year seemed fun and happy for mom, not knowing it was the last that she would celebrate it together with him. That first, complete family vacation here in Singapore, two months before his demise seemed so fun and amusing that I never thought would be the last that I would be seeing him alive and happy. Those times that he wished for my safety here and wished for me to always welcome him happily whenever he visits me yearly.

None of that would ever happen again. 

He was the only brother that I've known and I've looked up to, even if there are times he tends to know a lot and brag a lot of nonsenseness. He was this generous kind of person to his colleagues. He was ill tempered, he hates you if he literally does, and then talk to you again few minutes later. He was so trivial of things, even those things you are not interested of knowing. He was, just like my parents, are excited to a new addition to the family. He loved get-togethers and out-of-town trips. He enjoyed that.

I missed you, Kuya Julius. I know that you're in a happy place now.


I could not believe that it has been a year since all these things ceased to exist. 

Thank you for all the good and bad things we've shared together. For being a kuya and also an ate that I never had. Thank you for remembering me whenever you buy souvenirs on your travels. Even until now, it is hard for me to play this "only-child" role, but at least you made sure that even in my dreams, you were there, reminding me that there is more to life that I need to look forward to.

I love you, and I'll always be your little sister.

Happy Birthday in heaven.

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