November 15, 2013

On Death and Super Typhoon Haiyan/Yolanda

My best friend lost her mom at the start of this week. 

The heartbreak I felt when my own mother broke the news is probably only a fragment of hers. I wish every, single day that I could find a way to get back to the Philippines to be physically there for her, to offer a hug, a tissue, a hand to hold, a shoulder to cry on, someone to talk to. But I'm here many miles away, and that hurts, and so I'm trying to make sense of it the only way I know how -- through writing.

Every year since I moved back to the USA, I have lost someone important to me - my lolo (grandfather) in 2010, a high school friend in 2011, a tita (aunt) who's known me since childhood in 2012, and this year, I've lost two titas, including my best friend's mom. 

Death has been slowly taking people away. Good people. Loved ones. People who brought warmth and sunshine and joy into my life. People who inspired me, encouraged me, loved me. People who made an impact on the world, a good one at that. Each instance is a tragedy, and it never gets any easier to accept or come to terms with.

People are born. They live, and hopefully, they live rich, full lives and accomplish every single thing they were meant. And then they die, and hopefully, they die with no regrets. It's a natural cycle and one that repeats constantly. 

Even though I know it happens, and even though I believe that the people who die are off to a better place with the Creator, it is still so hard to deal with. One day, the person you love is here; the next day, they're gone. It's an abrupt shift, and since I don't do well with change, it's hard for me.

All these deaths have left me with a whole lot to reflect on, but today, I just want to mention this: people always leave a mark on you. The mark is not visible to the naked eye, and often feels like it doesn't exist. It doesn't matter that they've passed on into heaven; you still carry them with you. That's the true legacy they leave -- their impact on your life, on the lives of countless others. These people I've enumerated, and even the ones I didn't who I lost before 2010, have all made a mark on me, and I bear those marks proudly.

Death is still not something to be treated lightly, but I take comfort in the fact that I carry these loved ones with me in my heart and in who I am. All of you, the ones I've lost, will always be remembered. And for those of us left behind, we can take comfort in the fact that their legacy will continue on after their departure.

RIP Tita Tess. You were an amazing woman, with a positive attitude, encouraging heart and gracious personality. The world might have lost a light, but God certainly gained an angel.

And for the others I've lost - Lola Vacing, Lolo Joseph, Lolo Dory, Zendy, Tita Dodo and Tita Milette - RIP. You are still missed every single day.


Typhoon Haiyan
photo credit: The Guardian
Apart from the devastating personal tragedy that occurred this week, there's also a state of national calamity in my homeland, the Philippines, in the aftermath of super typhoon Haiyan/Yolanda. I'm so grateful to all of you who asked after my husband, family and friends who are still in the Philippines, and I feel very fortunate to be able to say that everyone is safe, sound and accounted for.

But this, of course, is not true for a lot my fellow Filipinos. People have lost everything - their homes, livelihoods, loved ones and even their spirits. There's so much tragedy, and every news report I read or update I get online makes me so, so sad. My heart goes out to all of my kababayans who are suffering the aftereffects of this great tragedy, and I continue to pray for our country and our recovery.

It warms my heart to see so many countries, organizations and individuals making incredible efforts to extend help and hope. Since I can't be there to help out in person, I'm taking this time to share a few ways that you can help from wherever you might be:


  1. This post was as heartbreaking as it was beautiful. It's devastating to see the damage to the Philippines and even more so to know that you lost someone so dear to you in the typhoon. I hope that things can improve in the Philippines soon, and until then, it'll remain in my prayers and heart.

  2. Aww such an emotional post. What happened in the Philippines is beyond words heartbreaking, and I'm sorry about your friend's mom and everyone else you lost - I know it's the cliché thing to say but I suck at being good with words in these kinds of stories it just gets me all choked up. We heart you <3

  3. So sorry for all the recent losses in your life. Prayers and thoughts for you and your friend. I lost my mother when I was a teenager and I can attest that they never leave your heart and memories. Also, one of my fav poems deals w/death and is called Dirge Without Music by Edna St. Vincent Millay, if you've not heard of it. *hugs*

  4. I support three children in the Philippines, and I haven't heard yet if they are safe or not. Thinking about them and praying for them!

  5. <3333 Love you, friend. I'm so, so sorry for your loss and my heart is still breaking for the people who are going through this tragedy...I can't even imagine.


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