The only person I know and love who has always had a genuine love for life, who never just endured it, but rather always lived with the joy and abandon that seems to many a thing of fiction, was diagnosed with a neurological disorder that is slowly erasing who he was, replacing him with a man he was not ready to be. An old man in a younger man's body.
He spent some time in denial. Begrudging acceptance was followed by internalized anger and depression that surfaced as anxiety and insomnia.
A calm, accepting exterior is belied by irrational hope in miracle cures peddled by soulless quacks.
Interactions with others are explicitly avoided and when inevitable, are followed by the fretful query, "Did I look normal?"
Normal. Those brief moments of feeling like his old self.
Most often limited to nighttime when he sleeps.
All of this could be, and was, borne with stoicism.
What could not, however, was having him respond affirmatively to the doctor's question: "Do you have thoughts that you would be better off dead?"
Or, overhearing him say he hates himself, his life, as it is now and the cure-less future that awaits, where dreams are dead and you awaken to a nightmare. Every. Single. Day.
These glimpses of feelings he hides beneath a shell of strength and optimism (or is it just silence), opened a flood of tears that were neither cathartic nor soothing.
I suppose they were cleansing as they washed away the masks we wore to protect each other and ourselves from a reality we can't bear to face....
Except I think the masks are back in place.
I went to a camp last week. It was a place I had no desire to go to. The person in charge left my mom a voicemail inviting me to the camp. I was happy when I heard it and decided to go but there was no room left. Eventually I got over it, that was until I was told there was a spot open again. I ended up going with a full scholarship.
I felt so much anxiety when I arrived but by the last night of camp I could not hold the tears in. This was a church camp and that was the night I decided to recommit my life to Jesus. Our pastor had told us he believed God was going to do something very powerful and I believed him but I had doubt. Half way through my preacher preaching I started to cry. Then my pastor told people to stand up if they accepted Jesus for the first time to stand up. Then he told us to stand up if we were recomitting our life to Jesus and I was one out of the ten to stand. I cried so hard.
God is more powerful than I realized. He is so powerful that I couldn't hold back my tears.
Striving to be understood
I am a person that respects every being’s existence. I like people despite apparent flaws. I’m not an extrovert but I connect on individual levels. I may say something goofy or lame at times. Yet, a lot of times I’m just a person striving to be understood… Not by everyone but at least the people I live with.
Family. Those are my people, regardless I’m oftentimes misunderstood. It’s like the years of living together has taught them nothing about me. They are patient with outsiders, but a single act or deed I do pisses them off.
I question my existence most of the time because of their behaviour towards me. I had prayed for a rescue but my saviour over time disappointed me.
Now I believe my only escape from this constant strife is writing. But the ability to do that too is questioned in almost every argument.
I got this far surviving through my words. Why does that get questioned is beyond my understanding! Why provoke me to discard the one thing that keeps me sane and happy?
Strangers are kinder and more understanding than the people we feel we belong to.
I want to strive no more. I’m tired of proving myself. I’m exhausted from showcasing my existence.
That’s when I break down. I cry to be understood… by my own people. The people that I want to care about but disregard my knowledge, understanding, abilities and capabilities.
I don’t mind a world of fame but what is fame if you can’t share it with the ones you love? If they care a damn about how you get there, it’s no point letting them in on your success, right? They didn’t believe in you anyway. Yet, me being the kinder person would want to let them know about my successes, not to rub it in their faces because of their lack of support, but because they are “family”.
To me, family is the power that makes me cry every single time that I do.
Before the legislature building lies hundreds of backpacks. Marked with Orange handprints all over. Each backpack represents a child that never got to wear it. Each one of those little lives was taken away before it was their time. They never got to grow up. Never got to fall in love. Never got to start a family. Never got to see the wonders of this world.
Standing there at the footsteps of the legislature building. Holding my little girl by the hand. My eyes begin to water. She looks at me with a look of care and confusion. "What's wrong Daddy? Are you okay?" She asks. I whip my eyes and pretend that nothing happened. "I'll tell you when you are older."
The Casket in the garage
Over the years of fighting cancer, it kicked my butt. I wanted to hear the testimony of a lady who was visiting our synagogue during the week. I sat in the back row with my wife and was going to tough it out. Half way through her wonderful testimony my wife says I was turning ash gray.
“Are you okay?” said my wife Sarah.
“No, we need to go I am very sick.”
My wife called our friend over. He took one look at me and called his son over, and they took me to the car. I could see the concern on the faces of my friends and my wife.
Sarah drove me home and talked to me on the way. I began craving sugar and ate all her mints and the hard candy we had in the car. I felt like I was going to die. The pain was overwhelming, but I insisted to go home. I told her if I am going to die, I will do it at home. My ez-chair became the world where I would sit and fight the pain which was ripping my body apart. I filled my mind with prayers and calling out to God.
“God, if you are going to take me, this is a good time... But I know you have plans for me... Help me!” this was my mantra for three days and two nights.
Months earlier, I was working on updating my final arrangements. I did not want to leave my wife with a mess to deal with when I die. Over the years, I have kept all my important documents in a two-inch ring binder. It sits on my desk in a pigeonhole.
The agreement I had made earlier at a local funeral home would no longer honor our agreement and want way too much money.
The next Shabbat during our Oneg I brought this up with the Rabbi and the elders. Rabbi assured the fellow ship would perform the service. Randy, one elder, stepped up. He is a veteran and has a wood shop. He has the specification the VA requires for a Jewish casket and he would make one. He has a friend in Old Town who owns a funeral home; I was to call him to make the arrangements.
I call Randy’s friend and gave him the information and He will honor the burial insurance I have. Now my wife can have the other life insurance to help her when I am gone. I worked all the details out.
It has been three days wanting to die in my ez-chair and Sarah talks me into going to the Hospital. Before leaving, I called Randy.
“Sarah has convinced me I should go to the hospital, and the pain is so bad I just want to die.”
“You have put quite a scare in all of us. I am just about done with your casket, and everyone at the synagogue is praying for you,” said Randy.
Once we arrived at the County Hospital, the ER Doctor came in. He asked, what is the problem?
“The pain is overwhelming. Can you help me?”
“You’re a junkie, and I have nothing to offer you... you can leave.”
I called the patient advocate; I explained I had been going through treatments at the hospital for my cancer. And how the ER Doctor treated me and I need some help. I called the Doctor’s office in the same hospital and told him I was there and I had called the patient advocate.
It wasn’t long before the Doctor who had been treating me for cancer sends his PA down to check on me; He was in surgery.
Later the ER Doctor returned and apologized. He gave me the hair of the dog and the pain left slowly. After looking over my medical records, he said they addicted me to opioids. I had been on 45 mg fentanyl and taking oxycodone 10mg. When the Doctor had reduced the Fentanyl to 35mg to wean off the drug, I went into with drawls.
I requested to be admitted to their program at the hospital to help me off opioids. His response was he would check into it. The VA in Spokane was full at their mental facility. The ER Doctor admitted me to the Hospital there. After three days, they transferred me to the VA. I spent twenty-one days in rehab, in the mental ward.
During that time God present me with several opportunities to serve him. I started a Bible study and my wife brought me my harmonica. Couple of guys had their wives bring their guitars and in our free time we played music and praise God in our Bible studies.
The Doctor planned to release the five of us; she told me before I left. Hope you know you have made a great impact on the surrounding people.
“It is not from me, but who lives in me. For to live is Christ to die is gain.”
“It has been an honor to know you and you and your friend will leave this afternoon.”
When I returned home Randy called and said do you have a place for this casket, it is taking up a lot of space in my shop.
“Sure, bring it over and I will put it in my garage.”
As we unloaded the casket in to my garage, I told him the story.
“You know if I take a turn for the worst I will have Sarah bring the casket and lay it by my bed. That way, when I know it’s my last breath, I will roll over into the casket and save you all the trouble. “
“I can see you still have your sense of humor, all the fellowship has been praying for you.”
This was three years ago. I have since been through fourteen months of treatment PRRT. And the result has given me a new lease on life. The cancer has been reducing in size and it has stopped growing. I account this to the continuous prays of my brothers and sisters and the doctors and nurses who used their gifts to heal me.
Till god calls me home I have a full schedule, to seek his plan each day.
If ye love me, keep my commandments. (John 14:15)
Say it ain’t so?
Spare me the! I never felt so free again. As I’d had before. The Truth was reveled. (A friend? Judas) When the weight of the world fell on these. Shoulders that could carry on doing anything. Up until the moment something seized.
Why’d they let me tame tall trees? Just so I could reach the top and then. Chop! Me off at the knots. Knocked needs. While no less belittled are those of a mannequin wearing a crown of thorns. With hands and feet painted to look as though it bleeds. Can’t you feel the scorn?
I eye’d reed. And quicker than the sweat on my brow could vision deny. Smack! In the back of my knees. I’d bleed. Below the thigh. Hear me cry?
Was once the bee’s. Now I’m chopped liver. How the mighty have fallen. Like seen better days trees. Cut scene paper beats rock. Scissor Queens.
How will I look when looking back upon my dreams? Thank goodness I had the foresight to fabricate some retrospectives not so obscene. I cringe to often when looking back upon my teens.
The many flashbacks of which I’m not to keen. Making an ass of myself, not committing or overplaying my hand. Intoxicated and obnoxiously rude. Or maybe last but not least. I appeared apprehensive, uninterested, distracted, and sheepishly subdued. Which many also considered rude.
You can’t win. If you only knew the fury that once burned inside me. That too was a sin?
At the time I was surprised I didn’t glow. From the anger I’d feel learning a loved one lied. "Say it ain’t so joe" Overcoming a disputed debt. Owed due to someone else’s not imaginary fear you can bet. Of completely concocted stigmas, dogma, and unnecessary dietary restrictions.
These just a few of the detrimental burdens parental units saw fit to ingrain in our premature psyches. So we might win the race to mirror their own. And appease Nike. Pagan toned. As baseless as black magic to put it politely.
Now I can rest in peace nightly. Free from the false prophets. That multiplied like mosquitoes. And likewise bite at thee. Because I questioned some of what I found questionable. Though I did so little I myself find my effort regrettable.
So in parting. I’ll say this "Never turn a blind eye when it concerns the blind in a bind. If it could help them envision and find some actual peace of mind" Ignorance is bliss remember. What you say and is heard has other designs.
Four years. It took four years of sweat, effort, and time to get where I am now. Learning and studying, I strove to begin the career that I found myself in. It is a place where I feel a desire, and it is a place where given more time, I will likely be a master of my craft. For a man that not too long ago was a boy feeling lost, that is all I had ever wanted. Sure I had the girl, and sure she was content with where I was, but I could not rest unless I knew for certainty that I could provide for her.
Four years. That's how long my wife begged me to relax from my pursuit, and to simply live a bit more carefree. After all this time, I still can't calm, for there is more yet to achieve and strive for. There are bills to pay, bigger dreams to achieve, and it simply cannot wait.
Four years. That' how long it took to receive some news. A little mix of my wife and I was growing. In that instant I knew the journey had all been worth it, I felt like everything was coming together.
Four weeks. That's how long we were going to wait after finding out. After that we were going to let our families know. Oh I could barely contain, and I wanted to scream from the roofs of our happiness of that little girl. I know it was so early, I know there is no telling at so early, but I felt it in my bones.
Four minutes. That's how long it took me to write an announcement post. Not for the baby that grew, but for my career that was blossoming. I wrote it with a hand near where the baby grew. My wife was almost jealous. I told her that a few more weeks and we'd have something even better to tell.
Four seconds. That's how long it took to ruin that. In a moment of blood soaked agony we lost that hope. One moment, a baby, the next, nothing. My wife screamed and screamed. I looked on completely dumb, there was nothing I could say, nothing I could do.
And it was in that moment that I knew. I would have traded four and forty more years for just a moment with you. To hold you with your momma, and to tell you how much we loved you - you who we hadn't even met yet. If we ever do get to meet you, in some heavenly place, please forgive me for those four years I wasted, I would have given them all just to hold you, even it was just one chance.
A Powerful Plot Twist
It was one of the last, if not the last, day of 2018. The cinema was notably nicer than any other. Me and my family were using up the tickets my mother's officemate got for the Metro Manila Film Festival, and we had already watched many other movies then.
We were watching Rainbow Sunset, which starred veteran actors Eddie Garcia, Gloria Romero, and Tony Mabesa. It had quite a unique plot, about the 84-year old former senator Ramoncito "Ramon" Estrella, who came out as gay and moved into his friend Alfredo "Fredo" Veneracion's house to take care of him, as he had cancer.
The movie then presents the disapproval of Ramon's children, who were then about to face their own problems then. What made me cry was the part when Fredo called Sylvia, Ramon's wife, and told her, "Ang daya ni Ramon," or "Ramon's unfair."
Turns out, Ramon died in his sleep, holding a speech for his daughter Georgina's 50th birthday that he didn't deliver, unfortunately, due to his children's disapproval of Ramon sitting next to Fredo. Then came scenes on Ramon's funeral, where Ramon's speech was voiced over, and the last minutes of the film, where Sylvia moved into Fredo's house to take care of him.
While Ramon's death was sad enough to make me cry, it was quite good to know that Ramon's children finally accepted Fredo, as they accompanied their mother in moving to Fredo's house, while giving gifts and saying "sorry" to their "Tiyo Fredo," or "Uncle Fredo." The last scene was a simple one, of which Sylvia feeds Fredo with soup.
Oh yes, I dearly remembered that film as the first film that made me cry. And that made me admire Eddie Garcia more, just in time for his untimely death the next year. And if it weren't that sad enough, Tony Mabesa died too, a few months after Eddie Garcia.
Recently our community has been struck by a horrible storm. The community has had to come together to help the over 500 homes affected. People lost everything thethey had. Children lost all of the toys and clothes. If the bond of a community isn't enough to make one cry then I don't know what is.