They say that when children die, they do not grow. Nice was only five then, our dear little angel. We didn’t think she’ll be taken from us a few days before her birthday. Still we celebrated it, we felt we had to or we would have died of loneliness. The celebration was just as gloomy as everybody had expected. Everybody had puffy eyes and it went without saying that we all missed Nice terribly. Mama even bought the cake that Nice begged her to buy for her birthday. It was painful seeing her quietly hide the pain…and Papa, too. But we all pulled strength from the fact that Nice will never have to suffer the pains of blood transfusion and the heinous rounds of chemotherapy. Yet, Nice was the bravest person I know. She had learned to be brave at a very young age, for instead of crying and fighting off the nurses, she submitted docilely to them, just screaming “Jesus, Jesus” when it really hurt just as what Mama had told her to do. She fought her disease and she fought it well that God would have been very proud of her. But we understood that it was best for Nice to be with God than to be with us and suffer the things her little body never ever deserved.
We visited Nice at Manila Memorial. It was almost six when we got there. The whole place was bustling with people and merchandise. It was more like Christmas in November. It helped that we didn’t bring a car. The rented tricycle was better at snaking through the now narrow streets, made narrower by heavy vehicle and foot traffic. Mac, Shery and KM arrived ahead of us. Already, they made themselves a comfortable place on the grass. At the sight of them, Gabby ran towards her Tito Mac and played with KM. It was nice to see the kids having fun. Just like what Nice did a few years back before leukemia got her. She would have been 17 by now, on the 11th of this month, to be exact. And then it hit me. For so many years now, I long for the care of a big brother. I want to be loved by a big brother just as I have loved Nice as her big sister.
I used to have a kuya until May of 2001. They said it was a failed robbery. The knife went through his rib and caught a good portion of his heart. At the force of the stab, he dropped to the ground and was dragged a few distances away in the effort to conceal his body in a grassy lot. Somebody phoned me at around 2:00 am informing me that Kuya was rushed to the hospital. Another call, and the voice hesitantly announced that we lost him. I must have screamed at the loss and shock that I awaken my father from the other room. I was especially attached to my kuya and breaking the news to my parents made it all more painful. Even then, I had to delay my grief because Mama had a heart stroke and she shouldn’t be hearing news as bad as the death of another family member. But with the needed support provided to her, mama was able to accept the news with minimal repercussions to her health. Still everybody did not cry openly for it was sure to badly affect her and worsen her condition. Kuya’s remains were buried in the province. He left us then with 2 boys, a two-year old and four-month old infant.
Time heals all wounds, they say, just as memories fade in the coming and passing of time. Ours were healed, I sense it. More so, the addition of new children in the family made an innocent repair to make the hurt forgotten. And without the hurt, fond memories of Nice and Kuya surge and dwell in the heart and the mind making them as alive as they can be. May these two people that I loved dearly rest in God’s arms forever.