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A Letter to Paul
by Ma Donna Vela
'It scared us all out when you tried so many times to bash your head against the wall just so the pain eases away. But it didn’t...'

A letter to Paul
It’s been a long time since you left, but I still become so emotional every time I share your story to my friends and colleagues. Didn’t I tell you I miss you? I know you are happy wherever you are right now. I know you no longer feel any pain and agony up there. And I am just so glad thinking and believing you indeed are. I just want to tell you that I miss you and that I always cherish our memories together.

It has been so many years since I last saw your angelic face and sweet many years since I heard your beautiful laugh full of life, or heard you call my name out loud while rushing about to give me a huge and loving hug. It’s been a long time. Isn’t it strange why I find myself talking to you this way? It’s just so sad that I never had the chance to tell you what’s inside me. I don’t really know, but there were just so many things left unsaid.
I remember how smart you were in school during our elementary days. I haven’t told you but I had admired you from the day I could remember. I admired the way you had effortlessly mastered the math tables and how you confidently and gleefully recited them one by one while I struggled to. Yah, I know - you were the best mathematician in the family.

Didn’t I tell you that I had envied your high spirits? I had never seen you cry when hurt, nor had I seen you felt nervous nor scared. You were so tough and full of courage.
Didn’t I tell you that your Ate looked up to you when we were younger? No, of course I didn’t. I never had the chance to. But, I knew you were always there when I needed you. I remember how you sneaked out to wash the dishes just so I would be spared to do that task I was assigned to do. It didn’t matter to you that much because you would have the chance to share what your day had been. It’s just so amazing why you never ran out of stories to tell.

You never got tired. You were just full of energy. You were so transparent and so candid. And by the way, didn’t I tell you that you had the perfect facial features I had ever seen? I always believed that you seemingly had the most beautiful sculptured nose and alluring eyes - emphasized by your long and impeccably curved eye lashes - I had ever laid eyes on. I never got tired of staring at your twin dimples and adorable narrow lips that added a lingering appeal to your sweet contagious smile. Your smooth and soft snow-white delicate skin and your fine and curly brown hair were just so remarkable. Indeed you were beautiful that whenever I think of you, I see the most beautiful angel I had ever met.

And when you were hit by a tricycle and pitilessly dragged your frail body underneath almost a kilometer away, you never cried. They said you were so calm when you got up after that accident despite the blood all over. The doctor thought you were so brave a child. They had never seen anyone so lively and surprisingly fine.
You had a number of stitches on your head but they seemed not to matter to you at all. You were still energetic and cheerful. The x-ray neither revealed anything bad nor unusual. We indeed thought you were all right, but after a year, I heard you screaming out loud in the middle of the night unable to stand the pain. It scared us all out when you tried so many times to bash your head against the wall just so the pain would ease away. But it didn’t, and so you were airlifted to manila the following day just to find out that you had a brain tumor. I didn’t understand what that meant then, but I knew it was something I didn’t believe would happen at all. It couldn’t be I thought…It wasn’t possible. The doctor gave you 6 months to a year to live, after you had undergone a surgical treatment. I knew you bravely defied it and you proved them wrong. Miracles do happen.

The first two years of your continued therapy and treatment were tough. You were so vulnerable that Mama had to stay with you full time in the hospital. Yes, you refused to give up. The first time you came home after that agonizing and prolonged first of the series of medication you had to undergo, you seemed so feeble and a little different. It’s so painful just thinking why they made you so physically weak. What did you do to deserve that? But despite what you had become, you still had the high spirit in you, though you hardly could stand on your own.

Wasn’t it just amazing how you still managed to wear those beautiful expressive eyes and sweet smile I always loved to stare at? I knew you were in constant pain, but you hardly showed it. Didn’t I tell you I admired you more for refusing to give up hope? I thought I would have given up the battle a long time ago if it was mine.
You were so brave and indeed your courage gave us hope. You became our inspiration…my greatest inspiration. Didn’t I tell you that your ordeal taught me, at a very young age, how to be emotionally strong and optimistic all the way? At first I couldn’t help but question why these things had to happen to you. It wasn’t just fair. You were so young and full of promises. But I knew things happened on purpose and I had no right to question what you’re going through.

But along the way, it was sometimes hard to hold on. Sometimes it was just so easy to give up, but we managed to move on. I knew the doctor warned us that you would gradually lose all your senses all along. That was one of the risks of you going through the medication process that we had all accepted. And we never had any choice, did we?

Anyhow, I didn’t know it would be too painful a process for you. We saw how it slowly transformed you…how you slowly became totally out of control. It was just amazing how talkative you had become that it was sometimes so annoying. You probably didn’t know it, but it was painful for us the most to see you that way. And when you had lost your sense of smell, I had witnessed a lot of times how you desperately tried to smell every single food you took in, only to end up feeling hapless and puzzled. I knew how you physically weakened every single day as you continued your regular radiation therapy. They said that your body wouldn’t accept all the nutrients you took in which made you even more vulnerable all the way. And yet, you never questioned things as they happened. You just bravely accepted all the pain that came your way.

On your fourth year of medication, I went to Manila to study. Didn’t I tell you that I had always believed that you would also do the same? Didn’t I tell you that I had always dreamed of you living a normal life and pursuing a career you wanted after all? I didn’t see any reason why not. I always believed that you were so smart, talented and confident, weren’t you? But it remained a dream and you never were given the chance.

Every time I went home, I witnessed how you slowly deteriorated. You used to eagerly and cheerfully try to greet me with your hug every time I saw you. But on your sixth year under medication, you were so detached and more fragile than ever. I tried to ask you why you didn’t even bother to greet me. I tried to cheer you up but you were just emotionless and indifferent. Didn’t I tell you I was shaken to learn that you hardly recognized anybody nor heard anything around you? I thought you would never get tired, but you did and I didn’t realize that it would wear you out so soon. Why did you let go? Why did you let it take the cheerful life and the courage I had so admired in you? I was so sorry for being so helpless all those years…I didn’t know what to do. All I could do was sit next to you and cheer you up. I knew that wasn’t enough, but you never complained. If I could only take away your pain…If you would only tell me how, I would…I just wanted the old talkative, lively you back. But, you just wouldn’t listen. I didn’t realize that you had just waited for us to come home just so we’re all together, until it was time for you to finally let go.

For six years, you had been so brave until the very end, and I had admired you more. Sometimes it really is worth cursing at those people responsible for what happened to you, but what’s the point if it wouldn’t even ease the pain, let alone bring you back? We should have asked them to pay for what they had done, but for some reasons I couldn’t understand then, we never did. Yet, after all the pain, the world wouldn’t stop spinning. I may have lost a smart brother, a great friend, a sweet angel, but I had gained wisdom and mature perspective of life’s realities…And that will never wither.

I know you are happy now. Thank you for the inspiration to move on especially through difficult times. Thank you for helping us realize the essence of living life and for having the courage to face life’s challenges. I miss you.
Love, Ate

© Donna Vela -April 2003

Financial Analyst

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