WE LOST Kuya Ken. I received a call from my Aunt Lanie on Sunday, August 3rd, that he was in the ICU and in a coma. It had been the day before when I was told that he was losing his vision, something which I knew was a sign that he wasn’t going to get better. Like a madman, I ran to the hospital so that I could see him before, well . . . before.

I hadn’t even gone inside the hospital when my cousin Pinky saw me. The look on her face said it all, and I went up to the ICU where Kuya was. To my relief, when I got to see him, he just looked like he was asleep. If it weren’t for the machines surrounding him, I would have thought that he was asleep on the couch of my house, the day after Christmas. I was silent, his brother Jiko next to me and the both of us just sort of stared into space. The next day, he was gone.

It’s been a very difficult month, for sure. Aside from my Kuya Ken, two of my former classmates lost a parent. What was chilling was that one of them had been declared missing, before the news broke out. It’s all so harrowing and sudden, and I know being an adult is hard, but I didn’t think growing up would consist of so much death. Losing Kuya has been draining me of all my energy, and I didn’t even think I would be as affected as I am. In a completely selfish way I am jealous of him, in that he does not have to go through any more pain.

There isn’t any sense when you think about why a twenty-three year old would just suddenly go. It is so cruel to think that your body can turn against you, that something could go wrong. Things happened so fast, unlike my mother’s. Hers was a slow agony that only the bravest can endure. Kuya was only two years older than me, and had the rest of his life ahead of him. Losing my Mom had been brutal on all of us, but this is a different kind of sadness. It makes no sense.

Ever since then it has been difficult, too difficult, to put my grief into words. As children, we were all taught to aspire to something from the word go. Kuya EJ was going to be the doctor of the family, Kuya Miko was probably going to follow in his Dad’s footsteps by being this big corporate guy. I wanted — and still want — to go to law school. Everything was planned, lined up for us, as far as the eye can see.

Kuya Ken was supposed to be one of two things; if not an architect, he’d be a full-fledged rockstar. In a way, he was. He was the only one of eight cousins that inherited our grandfather’s sense of musical ability. Lolo Greg passed away in 2006, which crushed my Mom. I don’t think she ever really got over it. In a way, she blamed herself for his getting sick and his eventual death.

My Lolo played the clarinet in the school band, and he was so good at it that he got a scholarship that sent him to college and, in general, changed our entire family’s life and brought us out of poverty and into the working class. Without music, we would be nothing. We owe his clarinet our lives. In a way, Kuya Ken was the same way. He wrote songs and could play several instruments. In comparison, I can’t even play Tamagotchi. With him gone, that part of our Lolo is lost.

And in a way, we are lost, too. There has always been eight of us. I have always had three Kuyas. He was certainly the most colorful of us, what with his tattoos and his devil-may-care attitude and his refusal to conform. He stood out, literally — he was the tallest, although my cousin Elland could give him a run for his money — and it is his humor and creativity and his individuality that I miss most.

I worry about his parents, my aunt and uncle, who are still reeling from the loss of their eldest son. I worry for Pinky, his sister, who went back to school in Cebu without her brother. I feel so bad for Jiko, who is the baby of the family and who looked up to Kuya Ken and now has to find his own way. I don’t worry that they’re not going to be alright, because they will. I worry for the grief, and the loneliness that follows.

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