I guess, I would always be plagued by my conscience for failing to see you during your last moments. I traveled for 14 hours just to bring Mama to you while you were still alive but we were late for about 30 minutes. Before leaving the Philippines, Mama would always ask me after your funeral, “Why did I not see him alive? He’s been in the hospital for several days.” The answer is quite painful but I tried to amend in ways that I know you’ll be proud of.
Try as I might, the memories of what happened in the past continue to haunt me. Sunday when I woke up around 3:00 a.m. to prepare for our trip in another competition when I read the post of my eldest sister, Nene. It was the news about one of my brothers being brought to the hospital. Immediately, I tried to call her but the call was not able to go through. I then tried around 5 a.m. when I was already in school waiting for our departure on the way to the contest venue. I was surprised to learn that the brother she was referring to was Nestor, I always refer to him as the high and mighty. Not only because of his physical built but also his perceptions about things which seemed to be always inarguable. What he said was final and irrevocable and indisputable so it seemed.
Around noon time, his condition continued to deteriorate according to my sister. I tried to make arrangements for my coming home knowing that my mother would not be able to make the long travel without me. By Sunday night, my sister told me it was inoperable and Nestor was unconscious. His condition then worsened and the news was the same, he wouldn’t be able to make it. By Monday night, I received more calls from my siblings urging me to go home so Mama could travel from Batangas to Bicol. My brother then, was already brain dead.
By Tuesday, I was awakened by a very loud bang of a door in the classroom where we were staying coupled with the howling of dogs. I left the school 5:15 a.m. to endure the long travel from Nasugbu to Rosario and Rosario to Bicol. It was 11:30 when I arrived in Rosario and immediately packed the things of my mother telling her we’re going for a vacation in Bicol. She was too happy with the news to even bother asking why I was back a day earlier from a contest. On that day, my eldest sister was calling me nonstop. Hurry. It would not be that long anymore.
Same thing happened in the car. She was calling me nonstop and during the travel, we didn’t even think of having stop- over. I whispered many times to the driver to make it fast and thankfully, my mother did not even notice. Around 20-30 minutes before arriving in Naga City, my eldest sister called me again to go directly in her house instead of the hospital. Thinking that she was just probably wanted to have Mama rest first, I heeded but opted to just stop first in Jollibee nearest to her home for dinner. It was beside the hospital.
While waiting for our order, the children of my brother, Nestor arrived also. They immediately cried and my mother looked puzzled but again she did not ask anything. I needed to make eye signals to them to make sure that nobody would say anything about the condition of my brother since my mother didn’t know yet.
I called my sister and told her to meet me outside of Jollibee. Within minutes, she went out of the hospital. She then told me that my brother was already dead and that he would be brought out of the hospital. I was in shocked but couldn’t cry since Mama who was inside the Jollibee would notice. The inexplicable raw pain same with the one brought by my father’s death engulfed me. My youngest sister joined us but again we control our emotions for fear that Mama may not take it well with her frail condition. My eldest sister told us that arrangements were just being made and my brother will be brought back in our hometown.
I told her I wanted to see him first then we all ran in the hospital. Everything was happening outside Jollibee with our emotions concealed only by the car. As we neared the door of my brother’s room, everything crumbled and I finally let go of my emotions. It was a very painful feeling knowing we could have seen him alive if we only arrived 20-30 minutes earlier. I remember the blinding pain and when I remembered the last time we saw each other, when he gave me a pat in the shoulder and told me, they’re leaving already, I never thought that it would be the last time I would see him alive. What’s more painful? It was knowing that my mother was just in the next building oblivious to the fact that her son has just died. There were many what ifs. But, I know despite of my grieving heart, that God has reasons for everything.
Death is part of life. However, the circumstances that embraced it are what bring more pain. My brother was not a saint. We fought and argued a lot just like what he loved doing with my other siblings. But, deep inside him, I knew how much he cared for us. When I was so ill six years ago, he gave me a call and told me to ask for another opinion in Manila. More than the financial support, he made sure that he monitored also my health progress.
It’s been seven months. The brother who probably never got sick, never complained about any pain, and acted as if he's the king of arguments, and told me so smugly back in first year high school that I would only win in the Regional Chess competition if I defeated him first, and the one who's constantly annoying his sisters about boyfriends and husbands, was really gone. The pain was the same yet there was also that dawn of understanding. Had it not been with his death, where am I now and what am I doing may be totally different. I knew that with his demise, we just gained an additional angel in heaven. It pained when you knew that goodbye you utter was already forever but God has ALWAYS reasons for everything.
Tor, you rest now. We miss you and Papa. Thank you for everything…words I failed to tell you before you passed away.