So he's dead. But it looks like his death caused an avalanche of events and chain reactions so to speak. I'm grappling with them and dealing with them the best I know how. This is the first among some of what happened as a result of his death.
I visited the wake three days in a row. I met the family. The family met me. They were warm, nice and very accommodating. We talked. About him, about me, about him and me. He lead a secret life away from home. He never brought anyone over to the house. Not even workmates, or friends. They know his sexual preference but no more than that. They wished someone would come out and introduce himself to them. I was the only one. The mom was especially warm, more so when she discovered that I was Ilonggo too. He never mentioned that to me. Now I know why he kept on making lambing for me to speak Hiligaynon. I don't know why he never told me his family were Ilonggo's. Both his mom and dad. One was from Bacolod one was from Iloilo.
The last night of the wake, I met a very outspoken and very beautiful aunt of his.
Aunt: Hi, so you are Luis?
Me: Yes, tita.
Aunt: I have heard so much about you. Thanks for coming hijo.
Me: You are welcome tita.
Aunt: Too bad, we met just now and under such sad circumstances. Well at least, now we're acquainted.
Me: Thank you tita and condolence po.
Aunt: Condolence too hijo. You have lost someone too. Welcome to the family. Don't worry. You do not need to be ashamed. We love those whom our nephew loved. We don't care which gender he chose to love. It doesn't matter. As long as he loved.
Me: Thank you tita.
Aunt: We hope to see more of you ok?
Me: Yes po, tita.
Aunt: Tomorrow at the funeral, of course?
Me: Yes tita.
At the funeral, I came a bit early. Two of the closest cousins were there and they were very warm. The black mourning pins came. It was distributed among the family members. I was surprised when his mom called me and gave me a pin. I didn't want to be presumptuous so I kept it in my pockets.
The tita saw me. She asked me to help her pin hers on her dress. Then she noticed I was not wearing one. She asked why I wasn't given one yet. The mom came over and asked where was the pin she gave me. I took it out of my pocket and she got it from me and pinned it on the left side of my shirt.
Everyone was kind to me. They kept patting me, asking if I was okay. I waited until the chapel staff brought out the casket. Everyone started getting into cars and transportation. I went with a sister and his closest cousin. At the funeral, I tried my best not to cry. I did not want to make a scene or draw attention to myself. I wasn't able to help it. I hope I did not bawl out too loudly. Then came the final viewing. The family went first. I did not want to view him one last time. I want to remember him the way I do. He looks so emaciated in his casket I did not want that to be my last image of him. Somebody took my hand and led me to the casket. It was another sister. Then white roses were handed out. I was given one. We were supposed to throw it down the hole when the casket has been lowered. I felt my heart break. I didn't know that it would feel this sad and this heavy.
Then I was handed white balloons. They told me I should have the honor and privilege of letting them go to drift in the afternoon skies. Symbolic of us letting him go and committing him to the heavens up above. I quickly wiped the tears that were trickling down my face. I never dared to take off the dark glasses hiding my eyes. Good bye kumag chan! The family insisted that I ride back to their house with them. I told them before that this was one of the things we fought about. He was adamant in not bringing me home or introducing me to any one of them. I was not able to find a way to decline. When I was at their house, I realized I miss him all the more now that I have seen where he lived. His mom made me promise to keep in touch and visit anytime I wanted. I promised.
Nine days later, I got a text from his mom. She was inviting me for dinner with the family to commemorate the 9th day of this death, and for a despedida party for the sister who was going back to the states. I tried to decline saying I lived a bit far from where the dinner was to be held but she countered by saying they're picking me up. So I went. My heart melted when I arrived and kissed his dad. He had the sweetest smile for me. In his limited range of motion, he tried patting my back. He is a stroke survivor.
Dinner was good. It was nice to see everyone recovering nicely and it was good to see them meet again under lighter circumstances. I smile deep inside when I realized that I'm the odd one out. I know that remembrances are important, but sighed too because I know I'm living on a borrowed time. Sooner or later, we would have to part ways and move on with our own lives. We will run out of remembrances and reasons to meet and get together in memory of him. I was wrong, or so it seems.
After dinner, the younger guys wanted to go videoke. Naturally, I got grabbed along. He was musically gifted and it was inevitable for them to comment that although they never saw us together, we must have made a good pair. We both sing well. I tried brushing it off. Just remembrances. When the gang was slightly liquored up, the close cousin asked me if I knew how to play the piano. I said I do not know how to play any musical instrument. She laughed and said she'd enroll me for lessons. To complete everything. I laughed it off. Not until someone interjected and said, "Oo nga kuya, para kumpleto." Then the cousin said. "It's like this. We lost him, but we gained you. You actually look a bit like him, especially when you laugh and your eyes disappear. Same body type, same sexual preference, same gait, same body structure, same musical gifts, same poetic gifts, same sweetness, same manner of speaking, same manner of dressing, same movements, only more masculine, same wit, same humor. Almost a lot like him." I smiled. Of course, they got my number, my facebook account. I shivered. "Yeah, so much alike. Feels like kuya arranged a replacement for us when he is gone. Basta, from now on, kuya ka na rin namin. Replacement ka na."