I was expecting to see Kuya in bed- looking gaunt, weak and in pain. Instead, he was sat on the couch, chatting away-looking strong and far from that person I was told only has a few days (or a month at most) to live. He was sort of surprised to see me, whilst I was happy to see him healthier than I expected. We hugged like old friends. And as I closed my eyes, I emptied my mind and my heart for a second to allow all the emotions through, silently and wholeheartedly. I could feel tears welling up in my eyes as I let go of his tight embrace, but I knew he didn't need tears at the time. He then said,"O, paupuin niyo si Cristine". Ate asked him very politely to go back to his bed so I could sit on the sofa. That simple gesture evoked some good memories of when I used to regularly hang out in their flat in Bristol. Suffice to say that I remain grateful for this couple's generosity towards me back then.
After an hour of catching up and sharing our positively stressful life in London with his other visitors, our conversation somewhat turned deeper. Kuya spoke in an almost melancholy voice. As I listened to him though, I saw the same person I met over five years ago- eloquent, sharp and passionate. Whilst he used to consistently speak with strong conviction, that day, there was this sense of humility in his voice. That hour of honest conversation with him reminded me of three of the most important lessons that I have learned through the years:
- Sometime in 2014, I wrote that "acceptance is the key" in one of my blogs about letting go and moving on. This was validated by Kuya when he said that he needed to accept things the way they were before he could finally let go. His words still echo in my head, "acceptance talaga". He said it took him a long time to be able to do this which really surprised me. I have always known him to be feisty and I assumed that he could easily let things go.
What I have learned (and still learning) from this life is that there are things that you cannot change no matter how hard you try. Stopping when you know you have done your best doesn't mean you are giving up. It only means that you have accepted the situation for what it is. Once you have done this, find it in your heart to let go, and believe that you can and will move on. Only then that you can truly be happy and free.
- Kuya and I parted ways in a rather disheartening circumstance. What once was a very strong alliance became somewhat a painful separation. To be honest, all that has happened in the past no longer matter to me, but my visit to Kuya made me reflect on what happened then. Perhaps during that time, we cared too much for other people that we were both unsure what and who was really worth fighting for. I can only assume that on his part, he fought for the right reasons and for the right people. Whilst on my part, well, I may have fought solely for the person who ended up hurting me, but then again, if it were not for that reason, I wouldn't be where I am now- in a place where every single battle is worth fighting for.
I don't know about you, but a person doesn't even have to ask for my forgiveness for me to forgive them. That's why when Kuya asked for forgiveness that afternoon, I knew in my heart and in my mind that there was nothing to forgive, only bridges to rebuild.
- As morbid as it is to talk about, death is a reality we all have to accept. I can't remember witnessing anyone I personally know openly talk about death, but Kuya did exactly that that afternoon. He bravely said that he is not afraid to die. This left me speechless, but I admired his strength. It seemed like he has accepted his fate and is ready to be with his Creator (from the words he confidently uttered). But not yet. I would like to believe that four weeks can be many more weeks, as examining him, he looked physically and mentally able to make it a little bit further. And I am claiming it.
Looking back on that afternoon, I am really glad I made an effort to visit Kuya no matter how busy my life has been. I am grateful that I was able to listen to him once again and make proper conversation with him, just like the old times really. I am praying that God will allow us to see each other again soon, hopefully not for the last time.
That afternoon was a poignant reminder that life is indeed too short. I am guilty of not reaching out earlier, but all that matters now is our renewed friendship. It honestly feels great to let Kuya and Ate back in my life again. I know not everyone deserves a second chance, but I believe we do. It certainly is never too late to start over again.