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An occasionally belligerent mother of five and an autism parent / advocate who believes that traveling, good food and good company are vital to keep one sane. I've worked as a news writer/newscaster, a quality systems auditor, a ISO9001 consultant, an FM radio DJ, a Filipino tutor, TOEFL reviewer and have gone into the food industry both as an entrepreneur and as a mommy chef, giving a sponsored demo on healthy cooking in a mall and on local TV. My favorite job however, is being a mom and a wife.

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Friday, March 7, 2014

A 365 Day Journey

It has been a full year since my brother Verge left this earth. It was an eventful 365 days filled with a lot of tears, anger,  a bit of regret and somehow, quite ironically, laughter.

After Verge's funeral, standing beside his grave, our family was brought together

It was within this 365 days that I found the need to do a bit of soul searching and introspection. A need to come to terms with reality after the numbing, somewhat surreal blow of his loss.

It was touch and go for awhile...

Going 8 months pregnant with my last child, this photo was taken on the day my life had changed significantly. Not sure if things were going to be good or bad, he was my source of strength and support. He once told me that he felt as if he had failed me when he didn't come up for the birth of MAX. I never saw it as such, and I believe I told him so...

Old experiences were touched by memories of him. New ones brought on the longing of sharing with him what had just transpired. Old haunts were reminders of what was and what cannot be, while the dread of traveling out of Baguio, allowed me to relive over and over again, that awful five hour drive that I endured to see his mortal shell for the last time.  

At his wake - You know that line that people say when they peek into a person's casket? About them looking like they're just asleep? It's usual brought up in polite conversation. But I must say, Verge/Heaven looked as if he was just pulling a huge prank on us. He didn't look like he was asleep. he looked as if he was feigning sleep.

It was HARD to just simply exist. To just BE.

In that 365 days after my brother passed, the world continued to turn and time passed by. Giving no mind to the fact that I was chipped and cracked in places no craftsman or learned man of science could fix.

He's such a GREAT guy

We were all hurting. We still are...to a certain extent. Like a phantom limb that aches when an amputee wakes up, lessening over time, but never truly going away because the body it had been a part of remembers what it was like to be whole.

With Mamita and our favorite bunsos (youngest children)
I'd like to share with you our year long series of journeys. Being The Mediocre Wanderers that we are, it does not, in any way, resemble an Eat, Pray, Love kind of transformation; but still meaningful nonetheless.

The "Tito Heaven" Fan Club - my sons LOOOOVED their Uncle Verge almost as much as they loved me. And that's saying something about an Uncle who they only saw 2x or 3x a year

1. The Mom Journey - my children had just lost someone they truly looked up to. I couldn't even comprehend how to inspire them the way Verge's life had done to them. I just did what I knew I could do without a fancy title attached to my name. I SHOWED them and would repeatedly tell them that I LOVED them. Loving your kids may be a given, but sometimes, we're so caught up with the workings of the world that we assume that the people we care for KNOW that we feel that way about them.

I knew I was/still am loved by my brother because he has always been there for me. In our last conversation, before he was intubated, he told me over and over again, despite his lack of oxygen, that he loved me. In the end, it's ALL that matters.

Since he was born, Verge was my constant happy thought during the holidays

2. The Family Journey - Holidays were the pits, especially the ones where Verge would join us. Amidst the tears, our family made plans. Plans to travel more, gain new life experiences and enjoy our time together, in a different setting. Plans that we actually went through and loved every moment of. Before he died, I'd put off sharing these experiences with all the kids, thinking there will always be time. But life doesn't always work that way right?

Kate Havnevik summarized time and life in the lyrics of her song Unlike Me. While I agree with her that there are no guarantees in life, time DOES exist and there is no better time than the present.
We saw local sites - Palawan, Subic, theme parks and even something as commonplace as the village pool in a cousin's neighborhood.

laughter truly is the best medicine

We started to enjoy life's offerings and the glorious miracle that is laughter. Like honest to goodness laughter, AND not FEEL guilty about it afterwards.

JRR Tolkein once said "Not all who wander are lost". Verge too was a Mediocre Wanderer. That is, until he flew ahead to the ultimate destination

We admired the Philippines in away that Verge would be proud of, not hesitating to eat wood worms, scale great heights and meet new people.  That's how my brother lived. He was game for anything that he believed would enrich who he was as a person. And it really did.

Verge loved taking selfies before and after a meeting. True story: one time, he was busy doing so, not knowing that there were cctvs in the conference room. He found out about it when a security guard walked in and told him to stop doing so coz the room was being monitored :P

3. The Professional Journey - I remember him dedicating a good part of his time and life to his job. I don't know if the owners of the company he worked for knew how many times we PLEADED for him to take it easy, and towards the end, get medical attention here in our hometown, where we could watch over him. He declined, saying he didn't want to miss work. I learned, through Verge's life story,  that there IS more to life than having a career.

Best thing about work is hanging out with my boys after :D

Sure, money pays the bills, but money isn't the end all and be all of who we are. I've learned to schedule my career and household chores. My 4 hour work week (on average) as an industry standard consultant allows me to earn what is needed with extras for the fun stuff. My time is flexible and everyone was made aware that I will not take a contract that would take me away from my family for long periods of time.

Learning to think past my ego has also taught me to ask for help when I can't be a Suzy Homemaker, be it getting take out every now and then, bringing our clothes to the laundry or hiring cleaning ladies at home. Quality time for myself and my family is EVERYTHING. I WILL NOT BE MADE GUILTY for taking shortcuts in this aspect of my life.

4. The Sister Journey - my brother may not be here anymore, but this is a train ride with no stops. It gets frustrating at times as I cannot seem to let go of every single memory of being his sister, and how my life had been defined by having him in it. He was (and at times, I believe) IS always there for me when and where it truly matters.


...are forever

With his passing and because I was  AM his sister, I gained a new family of folks whose life's journey was made richer for having known him. It brought to mind a quote from one of his favorite authors, Mitch Albom: " Strangers are just family you have yet to meet".  In this tragedy, through the commonality of pain/celebrating Verge's short but ever so wonderful life, I was made a sister, a hundred times over.

One last selfie, right baby brother? :)

lastly, My Personal Journey -  In the 365 days since my brother passed away, I learned that I cannot totally please everyone including myself. I began to understand how the truth can truly set you free and the truth DOES NOT always hurt - but LIES always will. I realized that having a full heart outmatches a full wallet when I go to bed at night, and that while there is NO shelf life on grieving, it is IMPERATIVE to continue living my life - for the BOTH OF US and those who rely on me.


should you visit his grave, you'll find this as it's marker

From The Mediocre Wanderer, may all your wanderings be better than ours.

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