I sit and write this as I am looking out at the beautifully lit San Francisco skyline. You would think I had a different outlook on the year that has been. Don’t get me wrong – there is much to be grateful for. If anything this year has reminded me of how blessed I truly am. But I am writing this piece as a reminder to all those out there that live pretty great lives, but still get down sometimes. Life is tough – and you are allowed to feel the lows too. You are allowed to get sad. You are allowed to get frustrated. You are allowed to get angry. And yes, you are allowed to vent and complain if you need to. There is a little bit of self-care in letting your emotions take its course.
“Everybody hurts sometimes,
Everybody hurts someday, aye aye…”
This year started out on quite a low for me. I lost my grandfather. Though he lived a full life and suffered very little, it is never easy to say goodbye. Death also heightens emotions in those left behind. I saw and felt this again recently, when my husband’s maternal uncle passed away just a few weeks ago. This was one of the most difficult losses we (my husband and I) have had to face as he was our godfather in marriage. In the weeks that we watched his body fight so hard, but ultimately lose the battle with cirrhosis, we shed and saw so many tears. We saw a wife become a widow. We saw a daughter struggle with the greatest loss of her life. We saw a sister humble herself as she helplessly saw her baby brother take his last breath. And I saw my husband’s heart break.
When the time finally came to lay his body to rest, it was a very sad few days of services and mourning together with the people who loved our ‘Ninong.’ And when it was over, I thought the personal grieving and healing could begin. The night after the inurnment, we sat to dinner with my in-laws for my husband’s birthday. It was nice to be complete. It was nice to be together in celebration. Then I got a call. A call no one ever wants to receive.
This time, it was my cousin that had passed away. Tragically. He was just a few months older than my husband.
We immediately excused ourselves to be with my family. My sisters, cousins, and aunts rushed to be by the side of the siblings he left behind. As much as I wasn’t prepared to say another goodbye, I found comfort in being surrounded by those that have known me since I was born. The emptiness was filled with hugs, and stories of the past, hand-squeezes and understanding glances. In that moment, I was so grateful to be a part of this group of individuals who I knew would show up – regardless of time and distance, and even differences.
“There’s a time that I remember, when I did not know no pain
When I believed in forever, and everything would stay the same
Now my heart feel like December when somebody say your name
‘Cause I can’t reach out to call you, but I know I will one day, yeah…”
As it turned out, I had a flight to catch the very next day and could not attend the services. I’m sure you are probably wondering why I still left, or why I couldn’t just postpone my trip. And I know you are questioning because I did too. I still do. But I knew I had to go. As much as I wanted to be with family during this gut wrenching ordeal, I also knew I had to board that plane because I had nothing of myself left to give. I was so physically and emotionally exhausted, and devastated by loss.
So here I am in one of the kitschiest cities in the world – full of beautiful places, interesting landmarks, and trendy restaurants – yet there are moments wherein I just burst into tears. Tears of loss. Tears of guilt. Tears of regret. And without the presence of those who are feeling this same sadness there is nothing to fill that emptiness.
I guess everybody grieves differently. I chose to do it quietly this time. Though I missed everyone back home, I was also thankful for the silence. It was in those moments that I could see his face smiling the way he would on those crazy nights out we shared. I could hear his laughter after cracking a joke. I was brought back to a time wherein we had more time. Time to share with more than just our ‘inner circle.’
“Toast to the ones here today (aye)
Toast to the ones that we lost on the way
‘Cause the drinks bring back all the memories (aye)
And the memories bring back, memories bring back you.”
You never know when it’s going to be the last time. Growing up, one of my favorite Christmas traditions was spending the 25th with my mom’s family. We would all share a meal and play bingo. All us cousins loved it. I don’t remember why that stopped. I wish I could’ve known that a few years ago would be the last time. I might’ve taken a better mental picture of that night. I wish I could’ve known that the last time I saw my cousin in our nephew’s birthday party that it would be the last time. I might’ve given him a tighter hug. I might’ve told him I was there. That we were all there for him, no matter what. I wish I had known a few weeks ago in the hospital with my uncle that it would be the last time I heard his laugh. I might’ve written down what we spoke about. I wish I had known my grandfather had less time than we expected. I would’ve held his hand a little longer.
As 2019 comes to a close, all I have are memories of these souls that have touched my life in one way or another. So in these quiet moments, I will remember them and cherish the images that keep replaying in my mind. I could look at it as a bitter end, or I could see it as bittersweet, knowing that I was blessed to have had them in my life, even for a short time. And knowing that they are in a better place.
So I will try and focus on the positive, and smile through the tears – but 2020, may I ask that you please be kind? And if you are wondering why I am quoting a Maroon 5 song, its honestly because it plays on the radio around 10 times a day – and this isn’t an exaggeration. And every time I hear it I have flashbacks of the wonderful times I had with all the people who were gone too soon – from grandparents, to uncles and most especially, you dear Miko. I think I will always see your face when I hear that song, and yes, “Memories bring back, memories bring back you.”