Starting at 17 years old, I lost 4 friends in 4 consecutive years. Charmaine in 2005, Randall in 2006, Axell in 2007 and Krishia in 2008. All of them are my High School batch mates.
And my life was never the same ever since.
One is called a widow/widower for a spouse who gets left behind but there is no word to describe parents left behind by children who die earlier than their parents. Probably because it’s not the way things should naturally be, in the ordinary course of things. Or probably the pain is just utterly devastating that there are no appropriate words to describe it. Unspeakable, heart-piercing pain.
The way I went through it though, I did not need to become a parent in order to experience it. Friends left behind are not spared. At a prime age when possibilities are endless and the road ahead is exciting, death comes knocking four times to remind you that it’s not so much about the length of life as the quality of life you’ve lived and how much love you gave.
Especially if one of those 4 friends you’ve lost was a special friend, someone you’d consider as one of your what-if relationships in life. I clearly remember the last text message Randall sent me 3 days earlier before he died. It was a quote about love, which in hindsight, was a chilling premonition of what was to unfold 3 days later.
“A white sparrow fell in love with a red rose. However, the red rose told the sparrow that she’ll not love him, not until the sparrow turns red in colour. The sparrow then shot himself and blood spilled over his dead body. As the red rose looked at the sparrow’s lifeless body, she just realised at that moment how much she loved the sparrow after all. Lesson of the story: sometimes we only realise the value of someone when they’re already gone.”
3 days later, he was shot point-blank after a robbery attempt just outside his university. Your first love and special childhood friend gone in an instant, with words unspoken.
It has taken me 11 years to write this, for fear of my husband Karlo misinterpreting my love for him. Although this story has been recycled a million times over for very close friends who know my history, for those people who patiently listened to my stories in tears, for those who grieved with me and embraced my pain wholeheartedly.
But I wanted to give credit to Randall’s and my friends’ passing, because it’s due to the profound meaning of death that I am able to give and love this much. I sincerely believe that my relationship with Karlo is made more beautiful and meaningful because of the thin veil of death continuously hovering over me. And to every mortal being at that.
Everytime I wake up in the morning, I never fail to look at Karlo beside me, saying a small prayer of thanks to God for the gift of life and for giving Karlo to me as my husband.
Everytime I walk out the door as I head to work, I never fail to say I love you to Karlo as my way of saying goodbye. Because if it’s going to be my last day on earth, I want him to remember words of love and not words of parting ways as my last words to him.
Everytime I come home from work or Karlo comes home from school, I never fail to give him a long and tight embrace and say a prayer of thanks that I was able to get back home safely in the arms of someone I love.
Everytime we eat dinner, I usually just stare at him for no reason at all while he finishes everything on his plate, again being thankful to share a lovely meal with the love of your life.
Everytime it’s time to go to bed, we try to wait for each other’s pre-bedtime routine to finish. Usually it’s Karlo who has to wait for me since I have a loooonnnnggg routine to do. I hop on the bed, never fail to wrap myself in his arms, Karlo turns off the light from the bedside lamp and we whisper ‘good night’ and ‘I love you’ to each other as we fall asleep.
Starting and ending the day being with someone you love and filling the day with frequent reminders of love — this has been my everyday routine since Day 1 of our marriage… seemingly simple yet meaningful acts of love that are easy to dismiss and take for granted. If I’ve been doing a tick sheet of the times we’d exchange I love you’s to each other, it would be easy to fill up a page.
It’s been 11 years since my first love died. But it’s all thanks to him that I’ve never taken things for granted with Karlo. The pain of losing someone you love with words unspoken was too much of a burden to carry for the longest time and with death, you can never undo things.
Part of my wedding vows explained how I was living in a ‘dark room’ full of agony, regret and despair when Karlo came into my life. I sincerely believe that experiencing the loss of a loved one four times in a row served a purpose. It didn’t make sense to me at the time but as the late Steve Jobs would say, you can only connect the dots backwards. 9 years ago since Karlo came up to this very day, I couldn’t help but be amazed and grateful with how God has worked his wonders in my life.
I can still vividly remember my ‘bride’s moment’ when the cathedral’s doors were opened and I was fighting back tears, but tears just flowed nonstop as I was walking down the long aisle. While ‘Feels Like Home’ was being sung beautifully in the background, a flashback of my life’s past played in front of me. It seems that God did it on purpose – the ugly and depressing part of my life was played against a very beautiful backdrop. He intentionally made it happen for me to realise that He made me go through the hurt and the pain in order for me to appreciate how beautiful, precious and rare of a gift was waiting for me in front of the altar.
Our marriage isn’t perfect and will never be. We’ll fight, we’ll argue, we’ll bicker and we’ll disagree. But if you take into consideration the inevitability of death every single day, the problems and disagreements will have to take the backseat and instead, let the more important things about life, love and marriage take over.
Wedding Photos by Arwiny Lifestyle & Wedding Photography