A life well lived, a life well loved
On March 31, 2011 a cousin of mine passed away. It was a great shock to his whole extended family; he was just 26. He is the first relative of my generation to go. The wake and funeral was held in the Philippines. I was asked to say something on the last day of the nine-day vigil; since I could not be there, I wrote something and asked my sister to read it. I've been crying off and on since he died, so I've decided to publish what I wrote, as kind of tribute to him, and closure for me.
It sucks living half a world away. Here, life did not pause to mark X's * passing, and I grieve alone. When that grief slips through the cracks, the people who happen to witness it are kind -- but I fear they do not understand.
What was he to you? Your cousin? Weren't you much older? To them, I fear, a cousin is someone who grew up far away from you, someone whose name you struggle to remember at Thanksgiving and Christmas.
How could they understand that the bonds of our large, close-knit family go beyond age and distance and time? I will never forget the cuddles I gave that beautiful baby boy..... the skits and dances that my sister and I forced him and everyone else to take part in......the shared grimaces as we endured yet another marathon family photo session....... the lazy waves as I went off to lunch or a shopping spree with his mother and sister ..... those naughty grins on New Year's Eve as he and his dad tried to corrupt old stodgy, stick-in-the-mud Manang** with a shot of whiskey. He will always be my cousin, and I will always be his Manang.
But as much as I grieve for him, I grieve twice over for those he left behind. So it is to those who love him whom I now address.
To my aunt and uncle: For a parent to bury their own child is heartbreak beyond words. I never truly realized this until I became a parent myself. I wish I could be there with you. You are in my thoughts and prayers.
To his sisters: I know you will miss bickering with him. I promise to treasure every insult I exchange with my own siblings, for his sake.
To all his cousins: Please teach me how to make his "Red Boardwalk" drink so I can raise my glass in his memory.
To the women he will never love. To the nieces and nephews he will never spoil. To the children he will never adore. I am sorry for your loss. We were the lucky ones. We knew him.
Finally, to Mark Zuckerberg, inventor of Facebook: Thank you for giving me a way to share my tribute and see others do the same. I do not grieve alone, it seems. If not for Facebook, I would never have been able to witness the outpouring of love and memories from friends all over the world. For those of you who don't have access to his Facebook page, I'd like to share some snippets with you:
I'll always remember someone who was completely unpretentious and friendly with everyone he met.
The life of the party, the infectious smile, and the ever so subtle charm..your star shines bright.
Your energy, smile, and infectious laughter will always be remembered fondly in our hearts.
I know you're in a better place, and my prayers are with your family and all the lives you touched.
You told me once that if ever you passed away, all you wanted wanted was for your buddies to light a spliff for u...This one's for you bro..thank you for your friendship and all the happy memories that came with it!
I'll blaze a fat one for you. cheers to you bro!
The best single malts are in heaven kiddo...
I'd like to end with another tribute I found on Facebook, written by another of his cousins. It's from Hamlet, and it expresses exactly what I want to say him: "Now cracks a noble heart. Goodnight, sweet prince, and flights of angels sing thee to thy rest."
Happy Love Thursday, everyone. Tragic as his death may be, this boy was LOVED.
* All names have been removed.
** Manang is how some Filipinos (from the Tagalog and Visayan regions) address an an older sister or relative. The term signifies respect, but is more familiar than Mr. or Mrs -- it also signifies affection and closeness.