Saturday, June 28, 2008

Disaster Mismanagement

Published in my Roots&Wings column in the Lifestyle Section of the Philippine Daily Inquirer, 29 June 2008

"Grief is a journey, often perilous and without clear direction, that must be taken. The experience of grieving cannot be ordered or categorized, hurried or controlled, pushed aside or ignored indefinitely. It is inevitable as breathing, as change, as love. It may be postponed, but it will not be denied."~ Molly Fumia

The manner by which Sulpicio Lines has handled the tragedy that is MV Princess of the Stars is a classic example of what disaster management should not be.

The actions shown by this shipping company whose track record for accidents and mishaps is now perhaps the worst in the Philippines has been deplorable, to say the very least. Sulpicio has not shown an ounce of compassion to the families of those who have died, the survivors, and those who continue to be missing.

As I write this, no clear-cut measures have been made to ensure proper identification of those bodies found floating days after the tragedy. Family members of missing passengers have not been properly housed, ferried, shuttled and advised about what is going on. Yes, as one banner story in this paper announced last Friday, ‘World stops for grieving kin of missing passengers”. When tragedy strikes, especially when it concerns the life of someone whom you love, everything else in your life becomes meaningless.

I ask myself, what kind of bereavement support is being provided for these families? At least over in Cebu, through the DSWD, the local government has been offering some form of debriefing or grief support to the survivors and those whose loved ones have yet to be found. Their loss is ambiguous, the kind of grief that takes forever to heal from, one where it is very difficult to find closure.

At this point in time, the best that Sulpicio Lines can do is get their act together and provide for the families of the 800 or so passengers that have yet to be found. Thank God for organizations such as the Public Attorneys Office (PAO) and the Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption (VACC) for stepping in and giving the bereaved families form of direction.

Sulpicio Lines offer of 200,000 pesos per victim is not the way to go with these families. In addition to this, or even over and beyond the financial assistance, genuine compassion, care and concern towards the families waiting would have been much laudable. Instead, these family members have gotten the opposite.

Gina Virtusio who was the Public Relations Manager at WG&A Superferry (now Aboitiz Transport Group) told me that the gesture most appreciated by families affected by a tragedy of this magnitude is the support and care shown to them by the shipping line. She recalls how when in February 2004, Superferry 14 was bombed by the Abu Sayaff, the entire company involved themselves in primarily caring for the victims families. “It was really tough and as employees you are only human too and so you are prone to break down. At first you will really get yelled at, cursed, almost to the point of being beaten, but you just have to ride it out and show them that you care,” she says. In the end, Virtusio says that the families eventually became very close to them and that she even remains in touch with some of those affected by the tragedy. “You must show compassion, there is just no other way,” she stresses.

I am reminded of what former New York Governor George Pataki said after TWA 800 crashed off the coast of Long Island on July 17, 1996, he said, “It became clear to me that, as Governor, I was going to make a difference – and in more ways than one. I began to realize that even in the darkest moments on the job, I could somehow bring light to someone, somewhere… When I heard the news, everything that seemed important just minutes before, suddenly became irrelevant. It occurred to me that one of the most important functions a Governor can fulfill,is to extend a caring hand to people in despair, and give them what they need most in times of sorrow: comfort, understanding, and a shoulder to cry on.”

Days after this horrible crash, a memorial service was held at the site attended by all the family members of the crash victims. The ceremony was broadcast all over the world, allowing others as well, to show love and support for the family members who needed it so desperately. Pataki says that he has never stopped thinking of those people. “The moments I spent with them are forever etched in my mind and in my heart. Many of them told me that the service and all of the state’s efforts on their behalf, helped ease their pain…One of the most important things we can do in life is to give a piece of ourselves to lighten the burden of others.”

You would think that after a spate of tragedies that began with the MV Dona Paz, Sulpicio Lines would have mastered the art of crisis and disaster management. Apparently, this is not so. Pain and anguish cannot be swept under the rug by 200,000 pesos. Compassion and care far outweighs money in times of tragedy.

I think of the 800 families affected by such a deep and searing loss that will change their lives forever. I end this by sharing with them a poem written by Janelle Davis whose sister Rose died in an Alaska Airlines crash in January, 2000.


Do not stand at my grave and weep.
I am not there, I do not sleep.
I am a thousand winds that blow.
I am the diamond glints on snow.
I am the gentle Autumn’s rain.
When you awaken in the morning hush,
I am the sweet uplifting
rush of quiet birds in circled flight.
I am the soft stars that shine at night.
Do not stand at my grave and cry:
I am not there, I did not die.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

How Lulu Orena Survived Her Daughter's Abduction

“I was always against her going to Mindanao because I knew it was very dangerous,” Lulu Orena tells me with a smile a few hours before Ces was to check out of The Medical City. “But Ces has always had a mind of her own. Minsan she will tell me that she’s going there for an assignment, when she does, I always remind her – ‘Ces, paano na ang mga anak mo pag may nangyari sa iyo?’”

Dressed in a white cotton tunic over slacks, Lulu was still visibly tired but terribly relieved that the worst was now over for her eldest daughter, Ces. She recalls how on she became hysterical upon finding out on the morning of June 9 that Ces had been kidnapped. “Chary Villa called me to confirm that she was missing and that she had been kidnapped. When I heard the news I knew that my worst nightmare had just begun.” On the ride from her home in Fort Bonifacio, all the way to the ABS_CBN studios in Quezon City, she says she was a wreck. “I was shaking all over and having palpitations like crazy. Nanginig talaga ako,” she recalls.

On day one of her abduction, she had the chance to speak briefly to Ces, whose first words to her were, “Mommy, mommy, please don’t cry,” Lulu shares. The nine days that followed were the most difficult days of her life. “One more day was just a day too long,” she says looking back. “I was so hungry for news the whole time that I kept the television on at our house 24/7. One television was tuned in to ABS-CBN and another one to GMA-7. The radio was constantly tuned in to DZMM. “I really wanted to go to Sulu. I didn’t care. I just wanted to be near my daughter. To be in the same place with her. When I saw on television, the things she had left behind in her room, it really broke my heart and I wanted to board the next plane to Sulu but my children would not let me.”

Lulu is grateful for the blessing of her children. Daughter Grace kept her company all throughout, while only son Frank and youngest daughter Joyce were busy with the negotiations. The rest of the Orena brood had been tucked away in a safehouse with Ces’ three sons, while Lulu and Joyce, opted to remain at home. “I would just be crying at makakagulo lang ako sa negotiations.” Each day that came and went was sheer torture she says. When nightfall would come, she would break down in tears, thinking of how Ces was faring in the jungle. “Pag uulan, lalo na akong nalulungkot and I would really storm heaven with my prayers. I would ask God, all the saints, Mama Mary, Ces father (who passed away in a helicopter crash in 1993) to please keep her safe from harm.”

Sleep would come fitfully and only when her body could no longer take the tiredness. “They gave me sedative but it did not work,” she smiles. A mother’s anguish and worry, far surpasses the effects of any drug. Lulu clarifies that there is no truth to the news that she had a stroke or a nervous breakdown. “I was close to it, I guess. I became very depressed and lost all desire to eat and exercise – things that were part of my daily routine. All my thoughts were focused on Ces.” Respite would only come briefly when her grandchildren would return home from school and wrap her in their hugs, saying that it was going to be okay and that their aunt would be home soon. “I don’t know what I would have done if my children and grandchildren were not around. Siguro patay na ako ngayon,” She shivers at the recollection.

At the time of our interview on Friday afternoon, Lulu was still feeling the effects of the stress from the last nine days. “Medyo nanlalambot pa rin ako but I cannot stop thanking God for carrying us through,” she shares, her tired eyes, beaming with joy. She is also very grateful to everyone who prayed for her daughter’s safety. She made special mention of her late husband’s classmates, members of PMA Class ’61 and their wives who threw their full support behind her. “I am just so grateful and having gone through an ordeal such as this, I realize that the most important thing in life is really just family. Money will come and go. You can always earn it. Material things will lose their value. To have a strong faith in God and having your family intact, safe and sound, that is what’s most important.”

When the chopper carrying Ces finally landed on the helipad of The Medical City that rainy Wenesday afternoon, Lulu says that it was a miracle made real. She shares that the very first thing a tearful Ces whispered in her ears when they hugged was, “Mommy, I’m sorry, I’m so sorry.” Forgetting all the anguish she had just been through, just like any mother faced with a repentant child, she told her eldest daughter, “Don’t say sorry. It’s all right. You’re home now and that’s all that matters.”

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Ces Is Free! The Medical City's Official Statement

Ms. Ces Orena Drilon arrived at The Medical City this afternoon at 2:30 PM. She was flown in by helicopter from the Centennial airport.

Ms. Drilon is in good spirits and requests that she be given time to rest. She is accompanied by her immediate family members. Her two companions, Mr. Jimmy Encarnacion and Angelo Valderrama are also confined here in the hospital. The Medical City respects and values theprivacy of its patients and requests that the media extend the same to Ms. Drilon, her companions, and their respective families.

After an arduous and very difficult nine days in captivity, Ms. Drilonwishes to spend some quiet and private time with her family members. The Medical City is committed to extending to her the best possible care during this period. We will update you on Ms. Drilon's condition as she authorizes us to do so. Thank you very much.

Ces, is a TOWNS sister. It gave me great joy to witness her arrival today from my office window and to be able to deliver this message tonight. We are so glad she is back and safe. Now her journey to healing begins.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Gabriel Garcia Marquez_A Letter To My Friends

Tonight I am wistful. H has just left for Vietnam and once again we are apart.
I am wistful too because tonight, I looked intently into a dear friend's photograph and saw great sadness masked behind a smile. I know those eyes so well. And my heart breaks to see you in such pain. I wish to share in your sadness but for reasons only known to you, you refuse to let me into your life at this point. And so I share in your sorrow from afar. I pray for you and storm the heavens for your loved ones. I find comfort in knowing that God stands in the gap, in the chasm that you opt to build between us, for now.
Nothing by accident...Tonight I stumbled upon this beautiful letter, written by Gabriel Garcia Marquez who has been diagnosed with terminal cancer. My friend Ardy, from whose blog I discovered this piece, says that we should not wait until the last minute to write a letter such as this. Marquez's words shine through the darkest of nights. His sorrow has given birth to such wisdom that leaves us breathless and inspires us to do just as he has written...
This is for H, and all my loved ones, and my dear friend... may this illumine the dark night of your soul. If God, for a second, forgot what I have become and granted me a little bit more of life, I would use it to the best of my ability. I wouldn't, possibly, say everything that is in my mind, but I would be more thoughtful of all I say. I would give merit to things not for what they are worth, but for what they mean to express. I would sleep little, I would dream more, because I know that for every minute that we close our eyes, we waste 60 seconds of light. I would walk while others stop; I would awake while others sleep. If God would give me a little bit more of life, I would dress in a simple manner, I would place myself in front of the sun, leaving not only my body, but my soul naked at its mercy. To all men, I would say how mistaken they are when they think that they stop falling in love when they grow old, without knowing that they grow old when they stop falling in love. I would give wings to children, but I would leave it to them to learn how to fly by themselves. To old people I would say that death doesn't arrive when they grow old, but with forgetfulness. I have learned so much with you all, I have learned that everybody wants to live on top of the mountain, without knowing that true happiness is obtained in the journey taken & the form used to reach the top of the hill. I have learned that when a newborn baby holds, with its little hand,his father's finger, it has trapped him for the rest of his life. I have learned that a man has the right and obligation to look down at another man, only when that man needs help to get up from the ground. Say always what you feel, not what you think. If I knew that today is the last time that that I am going to see you asleep, I would hug you with all my strength and I would pray to the Lord to let me be the guardian angel of your soul. If I knew that these are the last moments to see you, I would say 'I love you'. There is always tomorrow, and life gives us another opportunity to do things right, but in case I am wrong, and today is all that is left to me, I would love to tell you how much I love you & that I will never forget you. Tomorrow is never guaranteed to anyone, young or old. Today could bethe last time to see your loved ones, which is why you mustn't wait;do it today, in case tomorrow never arrives.
I am sure you will be sorry you wasted the opportunity today to give a smile, a hug, a kiss, and that you were too busy to grant them their last wish. Keep your loved ones near you; tell them in their ears and to their faces how much you need them and love them. Love them and treat them well; take your time to tell them 'I am sorry';' forgive me','please' 'thank you', and all those loving words you know. Nobody will know you for your secret thought. Ask the Lord for wisdom and strength to express them. Show your friends and loved ones how important they are to you. Send this letter to those you love. If you don't do it today...tomorrow will be like yesterday, and if you never do it, it doesn't matter either, the moment to do it is now. For you, With much love, Your Friend, Gabriel Garcia Marquez Thanks to my online buddy and friend, Ardy Roberto, for leading me to this beautiful reflection.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Raphe, Renz and LT Remember Rudy, the morning after

Published in my Roots&Wings column on June 15, 2008 in the PHILIPPINE DAILY INQUIRER My heart broke when I saw photos of Raphe and Renz Fernandez as they spoke at their father’s necrological service. In the same breath, I was in awe of his widow, Lorna as she sat listening to her husband’s speak of their fond memories of him – clearly a picture of beautiful grace and faith under pressure. To grieve in itself is a difficult process to go through. So much more when you have to do it under the public eye. The Fernandez family is blessed in the sense that Rudy was able to prepare them and prepare himself to meet his Maker. Rudy had been quoted as saying that he was often in deep conversation with the Lord because he wanted to get to know him better. “After all, I will be meeting him soon,” he quipped. Speaking to Raphe, Renz and Lorna the day after Rudy’s burial, my heart was warmed by the genuine closeness this family possessed. Raphe’s professor and thesis mentor at the Ateneo, Dr. Rofel Brion, had introduced me to him a few years back when he was working on a paper about his grandfather, the late great movie director Gregorio Fernandez. He had always struck me as a bright, young and sensitive young man. The morning we spoke, he seemed fully in control as kuya and now the man of the family. The Fernandez’s had decided to sleep in the same room after Rudy’s wake. Choosing to cocoon and stay together, finding solace in one another. The boys were still both groggy when I talked to them, still reeling and tired from the week’s past events. Lorna says that Rudy had indeed prepared them well and for that she was very grateful. She paused when I reminded her that Sunday was Father’s day and I could hear a slight sigh from the other end of the phone. “It’s his 9th day….” She said. It was comforting for her to know that all these “coincidences” seemed to be orchestrated from above. She said that she was very proud of her boys and the way by which they were handling their loss. “We really did not have that much time to talk to one another while we were at Heritage until one night when Raphe approached me with a problem and so finally we had to sit down as one family. I was tired and a bit upset and I was thinking to myself quietly, diba dapat ako naman ang alagaan nyo muna… until Renz said something that made me stop – sabi niya, “Mama, mag-alagaan na lang tayo.” Lorna said. I smiled when I heard that, and thought to myself, yes, Rudy had prepared his boys very well. I asked Raphe why he opted to do an extemporaneous eulogy and he said simply that it was because he wanted it to just flow. And flow it did. As well as the tears of the thousands who had come to mourn their very public loss as they listened to him talk. When I asked him what he would remember the most about his father, he said that there wasn’t a single lesson he could his place his finger on because there were just too many. “To place a number on it would diminish the importance of the others. It was really in the way he lived, the way he loved us and showed us that he cared. It wasn’t really through words, but more through actions. Whatever legacy he has left us, nasa dugo na namin. These lessons will be easily remembered and called upon when the times become tough.” For now, Lorna says, they just want to rest and be by themselves. Travel maybe to some quiet place where they can be refreshed. Sleep still does not come easy to her or the boys and every nook and cranny of their home carries with them some portion of Rudy. The emotions, she shares are so intense, some moments she cries out for him, on others she is as still as she normally is. “It’s really more the loss of the person himself that drives you to sadness,” she says. As in any other loss of a loved one, it is the longing for the one who is gone that is the most painful. Coming home after the funeral, upon entering the den, Lorna says, it finally hit her that her Rudy was truly gone. For now it is just her and the boys who fill her world. It is a long process yet, she knows, and this brave family’s grief work has just begun. The manner by which Rudy prepared his family for his loss is a poignant example on dying well, one, that many of us can learn from. And his widow and sons openness and care for each other under the most stressful of times, is a gift and a beautiful lesson to us all on how to grieve well. Rudy, would certainly be proud

Monday, June 09, 2008

Losing Pare

There is a pall of gloom upon my house right now.

Last night our helper lost our beloved three year old pug, Pare. Right under her nose. Right under her watch.

We came home at 6:30PM and I recall seeing him briefly in the garage. By 845PM, M, our helper said casually, "Wala si Pare?" I was no longer able to finish my dinner, as did the kids. I flew out of the house, on to the streets in my tsinelas and began looking for him. After about 20 minutes of going up and down our streets, I decided to drive to my mom's house, pick up two of her helpers and when we got back home, resumed our search. We did not find him.

Today we put up posters on all the village gates, sent out flyers to all our neighbors and prayed. But I am numb. I cannot even cry. Neither can Pia, who loved the dog dearly. I don't know, maybe when you have experienced one loss after another, something in you dies. either that or your heart just becomes stronger? I don't know.

It's now almost 24 hours since he disappeared. I hope that whoever has him is good to him. I pray he will be returned to us by someone whose conscience will bother him or her. I mean what blessing can there be in a stolen dog? You have taken someone else's joy. God sees everything, whoever you are.

We are sad. So sad but life has to go on. It's a painful loss. I know it's not quite right to say but -- better a dog than a person. Para na lang hindi ako masyadong malungkot.

A part of me wants to strangle the helper who lost him. She's really been such a challenge to us. And now this. Sanctions obviously have to be put into place. He was a beloved family dog.

My family's grief is in suspended animation right now. We are sad but we cannot cry just yet. And again, I keep telling myself and my children, God allows this for a reason. May we be able to discern it. And if it is part of His plan, may He return Pare back home to us.

Sunday, June 08, 2008

Choosing Hope

I'm being tested. I just know it. "You cannot serve two masters..." I'm angsty tonight. Some things I cannot explain, no matter how hard I try to understand. Maybe for now, I am not meant to. "I'm angsty," I told my daughter. "Yes, it radiates from your pores mama," she says. "Why?" I ask her. "Why is __________ taking it out on me? What have I done?" I ask her, my 17 year old going on 45 daughter. "Because you are there and because _________ is confused and hurting and you are the only available target for that pain," she says. I stop, and think. She makes sense. A lot of it. We have the makings of a brilliant psychiatrist here. What do I want to tell YOU? I just want you to know that I continue to pray for you. That no matter how much you uknowingly or knowingly try to hurt me, it's okay. It makes me angsty, but I'll get over it. Maybe I should just take you out of the equation and focus on why I am here, at this time. And why I do the things I do. It's not about you. No longer about you, or me. This is BEYOND you and me. Maybe HE is testing me -- who do you serve? What is your purpose? In case you are reading this I want to share with you what Ken Gire said -- "When suffering shatters the carefully kept vase that is our lives, God stoops to pick up the pieces. But he doesn't put them back together as a restoration project patterned after our former selves. Instead, he sifts through the rubble and selects some of the shards as raw material for another project -- a mosaic that tells the story of redemption." I know this is a tough time for you. And no matter how much you try to convince yourself, no partner, or friend or loved one can make it better. Only God will see you through. I pray that you find hope instead of despair and find joy in the midst of your sorrow. It's really always a choice. I pray that you find forgiveness instead of hate. Let's stop focusing on ourselves and instead focus our love and support on the person who needs it. Let us find joy in the miracles we are being shown even if in your eyes they seem inconsequential, they are miracles nevertheless, and God's hand is at work, just the same. When crisis comes, you have no choice but to build yourself a "new normal". Things will never return to the way they were. There is no "catching up" on lost time in the work and personal front. Adjustments need to be made. Stop pushing people away and making them the target of your pain. I pray that you find, as Ken Gire says, your "redemption". Choose life, and open yourself up to the many possibiities that this new normal brings. It's late. My heart is heavy but I know this will pass. Tomorrow will be better. It always is.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

From A Sister To A Brother, Ten Years Later

Ten years ago, on an early evening not very different from today, our lives were changed forever by the loss of our eldest son, Migi.

Much has been written and said about that life-changing event, the nigtmare that you wold not wish, even on your worst enemy. The loss of a loved one changes you forever. The loss of a child leaves a mark on your heart and soul, so deep, that ten years later, as you draw a finger across the wound, you can still feel the ridges of the scar, and you cannot help but remember.

But today, ten years later, you are able to remember with thankfulness, for the brief time given to you, to parent a little boy who filled your life with great love and joy for four years. Our lives have been forever changed by your loss, Migi, and in the process, so many lives, ironically, have been made better by the searing pain of your departure.

Last night, I caught P, holed up in one of the rooms of our house, crying buckets while scribbling away on a notebook. She said that she would share its contents with me today. I thought that this was one anniversary where I would be able to get through the day without tears, but no, here I am at 7PM, crying buckets myself as I read this. Today, I sent out messages to special friends and family who had helped us navigate the journey this last decade. Now, with my daughter's permission, I share with you her beautiful memories of her eldest brother and how loss can impact a heart's child, just as deeply, perhaps even more than we as adults feel it. And how, in the process, the gift of loss is that it blesses you with a heart and mind wiser beyond that of your peers, and an unshakeable faith that no matter what happens, God will see you through.

Dear You.

I will admit I have absolutely no idea about what possessed me to write this letter. I thought that maybe it was because I’ve been so caught up in my vulnerability- I am a teenager after all. But it wasn’t that. It’s tomorrow, and my realization that after so long - there are still so many things that I haven’t told you.

So forgive me, your emotionally caught up sister, for waiting so long to tell you these things. For never taking a few precious moments to look upward and express the things I’ve always been meaning to say. But don’t get me wrong, I never forgot you. Not a single day goes by when you don’t cross my mind. In fact, it seems like so many of the small things I encounter on a day to day basis become catalysts for this overflow of memories of you.

I’m actually writing this from what used to be our old playroom- do you remember it the way I do? The blue carpet that always smelled like our dog, Casper; the yellow Little Tykes chairs with the matching table-Do you remember how I tried to teach you how to color within the lines one day and you ended up coloring the table? Those marks, they’re still there. So are the dinosaur stickers we stuck on the headboard of the Ikea bed, those glow in the dark stars in the bathroom door.. They’re all still around, little reminders of you. I still sleep in that bedroom we used to share. You may not recognize it, with the purple closets and the shelves dripping with books, but it still that same room to me. The one we used to build forts in with the yayas. The same one where you took your favorite mini golf club and whacked me on the head with (Though of course I’ve long forgiven you for that!). And the same one you walked with me to that night it went brown out and we were in mom and dad’s room. I was scared, so scared, that someone would just reach out from the dark and grab me! But your less afraid, more mature self at age three took me by the hand and said, “Ate, don’t be so silly!”. Without you, I never would have been able to change into my pajamas that night! But on a more serious note, each time I remember that moment I gain a little more faith in those circumstances where I am so filled with doubt. I may not be able to see where exactly I am going, but I have come to realize I’m never really alone.

So thank you. For giving me some of the sweetest, most meaningful memories any older sister could ask for, even in the short, four years we had together. It taught me quite possibly more than I’ve even learned in my 15 years of being in school. You taught me the concept of being a good best friend-you were mine. It wasn’t about the amount of time we spent together, but how we spent that time. You made every minute, every second count for me. Even in those moments where you would have attacks and palpitations - I was never really afraid, or even traumatized. I grew to have this sense of responsibility and care that I only show towards those who mean most to me in life. I grew to learn how to empathize with people in situations not everyone can understand. I learned how to fight hardest for those closest to my heart- even if that means I can get hurt in the process. You also prepared me for another big role I’m going to have to deal with for the rest of my life- being a excellent older sister.

You never met Leon. It’s one of the things that actually saddens me most- I can imagine life being so much crazier if I had the two of you around, driving me nuts. But I guess the Big Guy up there had other plans.

He’s not you, this Leon. He came into my life so soon after I lost you- but I never, not for a single second ever thought he would, or could replace you. He’s the smartest, geekiest, and most entertaining ball of energy of a brother any one could ask for. He’s very different from you, my calm, serene brother with the sad eyes, but I love you both the same. I just wish you had met him. This insane little boy who will dare to cut his own hair to look like the avatar (I bet you were whispering in his ear and egging him on!), but is sweet and honest enough to call any boy that hurts his sister a “provoking ass”. You two were parts of my life at completely different times, but without either of you, I would feel incomplete. He has always considered you kuya though. I know that it was you tickling him as a baby, being that angel that appeared in his dreams at night, leaving that permanent smile on his face. He remembers you that way.

I guess I’ve expressed my gratitude, now I think it’s time I tell you that thing I never told you enough when I still could. The last time you told me this was that night you called me after your surgery, you remember that? If only I knew that would be the last time I would ever talk to you again, then maybe I wouldn’t have run off to watch Madeline so eagerly that night. But I realize now that God had a reason for even that.

I love you, Miguel, I really do. Not did, but do. I loved you for who you were in my life as a child- my brother with the special heart. I love you for being the person who I believe has made the biggest impact on who I am today. You taught me a lot while you were still around. I love you because even today, you serve as one of my biggest inspirations. I love you because even if you may not be around physically, to say, pick me up from school or give me a hug when I’m lonely- but you are with me every single minute of every single day. I’m never really alone, am I. I may not know what the future holds for me, or what to do the exact moment I am faced with a crisis. But I live each day with the knowledge that there is still that one person out there who will take me by the hand and take me in the right direction of every dark moment. Thank you for being my guardian angel.

I know this has come a decade late, but I believe you were there at that moment I felt like writing this. You’re probably even reading this over my shoulder- I hope with a smile. Always know that your ate’s love for you is boundless Migi- it goes beyond the distance between the earth and the skies.  Happy 10th Birthday in Heaven, I hope you’re having a blast with the dinosaurs. I’ll see you someday.
♥ your ate, pia