My cousin passed away last Thursday.
The news of my cousin's death was so sudden, I wasn't able to digest the initial information. However, the relative who sent me the news was as serious as hell.
How could this happen? It wasn't like she was bedridden and all. She was quite a dynamo, shuttling between two houses caring for her own family and for her ailing father. (He went on ahead of her already.) If there was an award for self-sacrifice all in the name of family, she'd be the runaway winner.
Now she's gone.
The funny thing about my relationship to her is that it's her husband who's my actual cousin. She was the in-law who inured herself to our family because of her sweetness and kindness.
I come from the younger set of cousins on my mother's side of the family, which is why some of my nieces and nephews are just the same age as I am. During my growing-up years, I formed a bond with two of these said nieces -- Sylvia and Christine. Whenever our other cousins/nephews/nieces would bully us, we'd confront said bullies as a three-girl team. Sylvia would cry, Christine would raise her eyebrow, and I'd provide the physical retaliation -- being the biggest among us three. (Not applicable in present time. hehehe...)
The three of us were my cousin's first babies. Their couple didn't have the ability to create babies of their own so they initially relegated themselves to rounding us up from our respective parents, bringing us to their home, and spoiling us to Kingdom Come. Soon, they added a sweet child to their family, and our three-girl team became a quartet with the addition of Julieanne.
Sylvia, Christine, and I all grew up knowing this couple as our surrogate parents. I constantly remember those times when the husband would drive us around in his Volkswagen and get into an accident of sorts. (Somehow it always happens whenever us kids were onboard. Go figure.) My cousin would then bring us to Cherry Foodarama along Shaw Boulevard and let us point to anything we like (mostly candies and other small treats), and we would conclude our grocery visits with each child having her own bag of goodies.
As we grew into weight-conscious teenagers, our relationship with my cousin also transcended. While the others were chastising us for our foolhardy ways, my cousin was always the understanding one. She treated us like adults when others still treated us as children.
Christine went on to live in the United States, and I left Manila to raise my own family in the province. But whenever I was in Manila, I would often stay with my cousin who, I believe, is among the most hospitable relatives I ever had. She always made sure that I never left their home hungry. Her usual question to me was, "O, kumain ka na ba?" (Have you eaten yet?) She'd offer me advice on places to go, how to get there, and even how much the fare would be. Most of all, she never ran out of kisses and hugs to give out in generous amounts.
I was in their place exactly one year ago, and while we didn't get to talk much, I remember hugging her just before leaving to return to Cebu. It was a short but meaningful hug. Little did I know that this was going to be the last hug I'll ever share with my cousin.
I knew of my real cousin's infidelity a long long time ago. I especially found it profoundly disturbing that the other woman would even have the gall to come to their household and partake of their family's food -- as if it's a normal thing.However, my dear cousin (the departed one) never showed any anger toward that jezebel. Thus, I thought, if she has the power to dismiss her husband's infidelity and act like everything's right with the world, then why shouldn't I?
It was Sylvia who broke the news about my cousin's death last Friday. She related in detail how my cousin began having difficulty breathing, and how she tried to contact her husband through his cellular phone to no avail. By the time her husband found her, she was unconscious on their living room sofa. She was pronounced dead on arrival when they got to the hospital.
As it turned out, the main reason why my cousin's husband wasn't able to receive her texts and calls was because his cellular phone was in the pocket of his other woman! And even she failed to notice the phone's ringing/vibrating!
What if her husband did get her calls? Will my cousin still be alive right now?
It's these "what ifs" that are tormenting me right now. This, as well as the fact that I couldn't be in Manila to see my beloved cousin for the last time before she travels to the Great Beyond.
One thing's sure though: after all the emotional trauma my cousin has gone through, she has been able to exact her revenge on the people who did her wrong. As of this very moment, my real cousin and his kulasisi are being judged not only by those who loved my departed cousin but also by God.
It was through my cousin's death that her husband and his woman are now getting their just desserts.
My cousin's sudden passing from this world has taught me another valuable lesson: that life is too short for dillydallying. One should treat each day as his/her last, and thus, he/she should always make the most of what life can offer.
I am at the crossroads off my life right now. I've seen so many opportunities just slip through my hands, and now I realize that with the diminishing opportunities coming my way, I should make it a point to seize them with whatever energy and resources I have.
I owe it to myself. And I thank my cousin for making me realize that.
May the Gods rejoice at your arrival. Heaven's newest daughter is coming home.
This blog is lovingly dedicated to a wonderful cousin, aunt, friend, and mentor, Elvira P. Mana, we will all terribly miss you.
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