November 8, 2012 2:45 AM
A while ago I received one of the most painful phone calls ever. My beloved Dudee, Karla, died. Using borrowed laptop from Dai, I am typing the words now while the feeling is raw because writing, aside from crying, is the only form of expressing strong emotions I know.
Last Saturday I received a message in Facebook from Karole, Karla’s younger sister, asking me to come visit her ate because she is in critical condition. I immediately went the next day and was excited to be welcomed by the boisterous “HI DUDEE!” since her mom replied “Karla will be happy” when I said I was on my way. Instead, I saw a scene so opposite what I was expecting that I could not help but break down in tears (which felt wrong because I was supposed to be strong for her). My friend was in a hospital bed with all the scary looking tubes and machines attached to her. More painful was knowing what GCS 6 actually meant, or picturing the different possible outcomes of fluid in the heart and the lungs.
On my next visit, her condition was better. She was able to open her eyes and move her head. Everyone was feeling positive about the improvement and I was relieved to leave Manila for 10 days knowing that my dear friend was getting better. I wanted to be there when she is discharged from the hospital. Unfortunately, she was discharged the other way around.
Frankly speaking, this same scenario has crossed my mind: she leaving and me being kilometers away and unable to see her for the last time. The thought even prompted me at one point to ditch Dams and his birthday just to be near during the critical days that would follow. But I know Karla, and I know she hated it when people compromise just for her. She never wanted to be a burden. Not to her family, not to her friends, not to anyone.
Hard as it is not to be able to attend her wake and grieve with others who loved her, I think it is also a blessing that I am away. I don’t want to see her in a coffin, that is one place I never pictured her in. I would prefer my last memory of her – that last time I visited and the way she just stared at me, not knowing if she was comprehending what I was telling her, not even sure if she recognized me – over the one I would have when I attend her wake and burial.
Many people asked, why her? She was so kind and sweet. She was too young. Why do bad things happen to good people? I also had the same sentiments and as if God was reading my thoughts (which He actually knows even before I thought them), a freshly pressed post yesterday caught my attention. According to the author, there are questions far too complex for our minds to comprehend.
Why are some deaths so terrible, why is there illness, why do the innocent suffer, why isn’t life fair … the big questions can’t be answered by the mind; they are divine mysteries. To make this life bearable, to appreciate its sweetness, to live through the dark as well as the light and find some peace, we have to disengage our egos. We have to give up our desire to control life’s direction and outcome, and to acknowledge our submission and our dependence on the Divine. When we are Christians, we say Not my will but Thine be done; when we are Muslims, we say Insha’Allah.
In one thing I am sure though, things happened to her not because she deserved them but because she can handle them. Most of us would not have gone as far or fought as gracefully as she did.
The last time I saw her outside the four walls of a hospital, she was in remission and out of nowhere, the question of “what if it recurs?” was asked. I believed her when she said she would not be under the mercy of chemotherapy again, that enough was enough. My friend has suffered far too much and it might be hard to accept and fathom but she left in a perfect time so let us just be thankful that her pains are gone.
Many people pitied her but pity is the last thing she wants from us. Prayers and remembrance would be more likely. It’s better to remember her as the loud and lovely lady with one of the most hearty laughs and who loves eating CrePes and Jimini’s pizza than the sickly girl who battled the big C for close to four years.
When we were in college, we always teased Karla about her age. She was older by a year or two than majority of our batch. She hated it when her age was asked or when we call her “Ate”. Well dudee, most of us would grow old and turn gray but you will forever be 22, you will be forever young! Naks.
Actually, I’m feeling fine. But I know, sometime in the future, something would remind me of Karla and then the reality that she could no longer be reached thru text and that she no longer occupy the same space that we do would hit me hard in the face. Before that, let me go through and indulge in Kubler Ross’ stages of loss and grieving because that’s the proper and healthy way to do it.
Let me start with denial.