Thought is Real. Physical is the Illusion.
Your illness doesn’t define you, your courage and strength does.
Kuya Bot wasn’t diagnosed until late November 2015. By that time, he had full-blown AIDS. (My sister) Lyd, (my daughter) Ayin and I did a lot of crying that day. And, our greatest heartbreak was when we told Kuya Bot. That was brutally excruciating. In that moment, we all felt completely defeated. But then a beautiful thing happened. Family happened. We all decided that our pity party was only good for that day.
From then on, we fought the good fight.
I was tough on my Kuya and a drill sergeant to the rest. I told them what he was allowed to eat and drink and when to eat and drink them. Instructions and schedules were posted on his room door for everyone at home to see and follow. I would force him to sit on his bed even if he was too weak to move. We never allowed him to skip meals no matter how tired he felt. I reprimanded him like a child when he delayed taking his medication. I was tough on him, not because I didn’t love him, but because I love him way too much to let him go gently into the night.
When I left Toronto, my husband told me to stare down the upcoming ordeal and order myself to “Just fucking do it!”. Be ferocious and unreasonable and steadfast!
Taking care of my Kuya toughened me up. I never imagined myself doing the things I had to do while taking care of him. If I had to do something that I knew the normal me would cringe at, I would literally mutter, “Just fucking do it”. So I did. I became my Kuya’s parent and protector. I bathed him, fed and lifted him. I shielded him from prying eyes and ears. Every night I would tuck him in and tell him how much I love him. In the morning, I would rush to his room to make sure he made it through the night. I fought with him. And when he was too weak to fight, I fought for him. We all did. Daddy, my sisters, my daughter, (his caretaker) Manang Cita and I fought ferociously and unreasonably.
“Strength of character isn’t always about how much you can handle before you break, it’s also how much you can handle after you’re broken.”
My Kuya Bot was tough with or without me. He suffered, most of the time in silence. He hardly complained. Even at his unbearingly weakest, he never lost his sense of humour. When Lyd asked him who among his three sisters was the prettiest, his answer was “It depends who gives me the most money”. After a long sleepless night at the hospital, he would tell me to fix my hair because my husband wouldn’t like what he’d see (note: Jahan would’ve loved seeing me look like a ferocious bitch in this fight). When he noticed how skinny (my eldest son) Adrian was, he instinctively offered up the fruits meant for him. While hospitalized, he was so dedicated to his work that he would actually worry about deadlines. Even when he was too weak to stay awake, he would call me and Manang Cita to his room to pray the rosary for as long as he could. He kept his faith. The disease weakened and withered his body, but his spirit grew stronger than ever. At the end of each miserable day, he was full of love and strength and rage.
Kuya Bot was one tough gentleman.