The way I grieve is by writing. When I try to talk, I usually start sobbing. Or, I just have too much to say throughout the day and it feels like I just don’t get over it that way. So, I turn to my blogs, seeking a place to remember my loved one. I turn to the internet to share my feelings.
Yesterday, my cousin took his own life.
I have been sporadically crying throughout the day, including this morning. I’m trying not to think about him, but I also don’t want to stop thinking about him.
B was three years younger than me, the same age as my younger brother. They were supposed to be “the pair,” since they were the same age, but B was quiet. He was reserved. He kept to himself at parties. He struggled with a lot of health problems since he was born, and it became a lifetime of medications and restrictions. He was studying to become a nurse, but we never really knew if that’s what he wanted or if that’s what he was just expected to go into.
He was my cousin on my dad’s side, the side that I barely knew. B and his younger brother were the only cousins on my dad’s side that we had in Hawaii, so it was always just us. They were my other brothers. I always saw B as my brother.
My brothers didn’t find similarities with him as much as they did with his younger brother, but I took a liking to him. I, too, liked to keep quiet, although never as quiet as him. One thing that we often went through with our Moon side was the dreaded family trips to Philippines. We all hated it, but we all went through it. We all followed our parents around, letting them lead us around in a foreign country surrounded by a language we barely knew and kept close to each other because of it. I’d always find comfort in B. We once spent a week in the Philippines staying indoors together, him reading his Game of Thrones book and me reading my books, instead of mingling with our family like we should have been.
Then, he’d speak. He was so funny. He kept making GoT references, comparing everything I talked about or what happened around us to events in the book. I couldn’t stop laughing. He was so quick, so witty, so smart when he opened his mouth. He was deathly allergic to peanuts, and when he saw that there were peanut snacks on our table, he picked each package up in front of us and threw them away. “No need to thank me. I just saved us all.”
I always talked to him, asked him how he was doing, kept him company even in silence. I laughed at his comments. I encouraged him to be himself around me. I knew he was different. I wanted, hoped to God, for him to know that I liked him the way he was, or that I was a cousin he could talk to if he wanted to. I always knew he was struggling internally with many things, but I couldn’t force him to open up to me. I did only what I thought I could do. And now, I wish I could have done more.
As it was, we had no idea how much pain he was in. Never in our lives would we have expected this to happen. He left behind his parents who had done everything his whole life to make him as comfortable as possible, a younger brother, and cousins on both sides who loved him more than anything. It really makes you think that no amount of people in your life will make you feel less alone when it comes to depression. I still don’t understand it. I’m having trouble processing that my cousin, my brother… is gone. Just like that.
The whole ordeal makes me think about my real brothers, who I’m thankfully very close to. We call each other to vent, we hang out, we talk about our feelings. I make sure that my brothers know I’m here. I don’t care what you know or think you know about your siblings or loved ones; the truth is, you don’t know anything unless you take the time out to talk to them and spend time with them. I can’t imagine losing one of them to something as tragic as suicide.
Next week will be the one year anniversary of my grandma’s passing. She went naturally. There was nothing else that medicine or science could’ve done — it was her time, it was coming and we knew it. The same with my other grandma the year before that. The holidays have become a time of loss for us.
I’ve lost a lot of family over the years, but yesterday was the first time I lost someone to something like this.
If you, or anyone you know, are suffering from suicidal thoughts, please don’t hesitate to talk to someone. You are never alone. You have a family, you have friends, and if you don’t, you have the National Suicide Prevention Hotline. Call 1-800-273-8255. You are loved, wanted, and here for a reason.
To my cousin, I hope you finally found the peace you were looking for. I’ll always miss you.
Today is Memorial Day. I know it’s supposed to remember those we’ve lost in war, but my family has taken it to remember all the ones we’ve lost in general. No disrespect or anything. We’ve just…lost a lot of people.
I think the first person in my family to pass away was my maternal grandpa in 1996, when I was four years old. I don’t remember much of him, just that he gave me a necklace that I wore daily until I lost it when I was six. My mom brought me to Philippines for his funeral, and in Filipino tradition, they threw me over his coffin before they buried him. I had no idea what was going on.
A year or two later, my dad’s eldest sister passed away from cancer. She was living in Chicago and left behind my four cousins who were around my age range. We all flew to Chicago for the funeral and I didn’t really know how to feel since I didn’t remember meeting her.
Later, two of my cousins passed away on a visit to Philippines just days apart from each other. One was two years older than me, the other my age. I barely remember my interactions with them (they were just six years old and eight years old when it happened), but to this day I can’t help but wonder what life would’ve been like if they made it. We would’ve been so close. One of them would’ve gone to high school with me and graduated with me, then there would’ve been four Garcia’s in Campbell High School’s Class of 2010. It would’ve been amazing. Their lives were over before it ever really began.
When I was in the sixth grade, my cousin got into a fatal car accident. He was 21. Today’s his birthday, actually — he would’ve been 35 years old today. That might’ve been my first fully comprehensible experience with death. I remember waking up at some ungodly hour of the morning — 3 am? 4 am? — and my mom rushing us out of the house and to the hospital, saying that my Manong Arthur had died. I thought she was overreacting. We got to the hospital and when I saw my cousin, the one who took me to my dentist appointments when my parents couldn’t, babysat us, let me come over to play with his new puppy, let me come over just to play Legend of Mana or Paper Mario on his N64 because we weren’t allowed to have video games…I panicked. We lived down the street from each other and I couldn’t understand that I wouldn’t be seeing him anymore. Life changed a lot after his death.
Years later, my mom’s brother in the Philippines passed away. I didn’t know him very well. She didn’t bring us to the funeral. Another year later, my dad’s brother in the Philippines passed away in a motorcycle accident. He didn’t bring us to the funeral either. Already, loss had started to become regular in their lives. My paternal grandfather passed away before I was born.
Several years later when I was 16, my mom’s other brother (she is the second youngest of 12, with a mere four of them being brothers) passed away from cancer (can’t remember what kind it was, but I know it was cancer). He was loud when he was drunk (which was often) and loved to sing karaoke. I didn’t see him at the hospital. His two eldest kids who had moved to Las Vegas on their own years before came back to Hawai’i for it. It was then that I realized that death was what brought my close family even closer.
One by one, we would be gone, and because there was so many of us, we had to grow thicker skin each time.
In 2013, my mom’s sister passed away. I was visiting home on one of my summer breaks from college. She and my mom were extremely close; when she was still a child, my mom took a 10 hour bus ride from Isabela to Ilocos and my aunty raised her herself, paying for her school all the way through college until my mom decided to move to Hawai’i with her other siblings. Because of that, my aunty was a big part of my life. I had so many photos with her, admired her love for traveling, and always marveled at the way she kept a calm and reposed personality amongst the craziness of my mother and other aunties. “Your aunty was my best friend,” my mom told me in tears, and I knew this was the worst loss she had so far (and probably to this day). I dreamt about her often after her death, and even now her absence feels foreign.
Then, in 2015, the unthinkable happened. My maternal grandma, at 93, passed away in Philippines. My grandma was everything to me, and it was naive of any of us to see her as immortal. She was the strongest woman that any of us ever saw. She lived through the death of her husband, three children, and three grandchildren…why couldn’t she live forever? This mother of 12, grandmother of 42, great grandmother of 38, great-great grandmother of five, loved to tell stories, laugh at jokes, and enjoy the world around her. We were very close, which means a lot from being one of 42 grandchildren. Her passing hit all of us hard. I was lucky enough to fly to Philippines for her funeral with my mom and aunties and see her laid to rest next to my grandpa after more than 20 years. I miss her everyday, to this day.
And now, just recently, my paternal grandmother passed away, making me grandparent-less. I have so much I can say about it. She actually lived with us since I was kid. When my dad’s sister was the only sibling he had in Hawai’i, grandma would go there on the weekends and stay with us throughout the week. She loved to sew and crochet, always sewing up our blankets and pillows when we ripped them, knitting us doilies and anything she felt like we needed. She was harder on me than my other cousins or my brothers, which I still don’t understand. She and my mom had a weird relationship, but after 20+ years of living together, her death left my mom in so many tears. We all flew to Philippines for her funeral, where I cried harder than at my other grandma’s funeral, despite me being closer to my other grandma. She was just always there and I couldn’t believe it finally happened. I still can’t believe she’s gone.
My husband never really lost anyone he was close to. When we started dating, he attended my aunty’s funeral with me and it was the first one he’d been to as an adult. I’ve already been to quite a few in my life and I know eventually it’ll be endless. My parents started having the “If I die, this is what you need to do…” talks with us a long time ago. Death is still a scary concept to me but all I can do is try to understand as I get older.
If I was back in Hawai’i, I’d be spending my Memorial Day at the cemetery with my family, celebrating the lives we’ve loved and lost. Today, I’m remembering all my family members who’ve gone, because to be forgotten is worse than death. Miss you all.