The evening of November 5 2015 was spent resting at home with my boys.
Alexander was in his room playing on the computer; Jahan and I were in the living room. I remember the exact spot on the couch where I was seated. I remember I was wearing Jahan’s blue shirt and my blue and white pajamas. I remember reaching out to grab my phone after it beeped to signal an incoming message. I remember the tv was on and I had to ask Jahan to lower the volume while I read the message. I just started crying.
Jahan had to ask me several times what happened.
I read it to him; I guess I thought reading it out loud would change the message. The events after were vague but some are clear as day. I am certain I called my sister, Lyd, because not only was she cc’d on the message, she’s on my speed dial when family emergencies arise. I was uncertain if she said she read it before I called or if she said she had to call me back after she reads it. I am certain she said “Oh Ate”. I remember telling her I’m going home. I am certain I didn’t discuss this with Jahan. I remember calling Daddy after and telling him about the message. He was furious.
Kuya Bot had HIV.
The message we got was from Kuya Bot’s good friend, Reyan. He told us Kuya Bot had been sick and he and his family had been taking care of him. He asked Kuya Bot if we were aware of his condition. Kuya Bot said yes but Reyan didn’t believe him. I knew my brother was discharged from the hospital a month prior. He was diagnosed with pneumonia and tuberculosis. It was so hard to get a hold of him after he was discharged. I called several times; he would pick up the phone and say “hello” but that was it. The last message I sent him was, “What did the doctor tell you? Can you pls tell me so I know how to help you. Im really worried. How are you?”. He never replied and Reyan’s message confirmed my suspicion.
I went to work the next day and waited for my director to come in.
There were no minced words or sugar coating the situation. I told him my brother was sick, what he had and my need to go home to take care of him. He allowed me to take 4 weeks off and instructed me to talk to HR to make arrangements. All my vacation days were supposed to go to a mother daughter trip with Ayin the following year. The rest of the day at work was vague. I just tried to finish as much work as I could not even knowing, at the time, that I’d be gone for 3 long months.
Saturday was spent buying supplies for Kuya Bot: gloves, masks, moisturizer, cleansers, disinfectant, wipes. In the middle of an aisle at Costco, I broke down again. The gravity of my brother’s condition hit me when I was putting packs of adult diapers in my cart. He was too weak to walk to the bathroom.
Everything was heartbreaking and scary.
Jahan booked the earliest flight to Manila. I left Sunday; three days after we received the message. I remember bits and pieces of my flight. I remember boarding the plane in Toronto. I remember getting off the plane in Vancouver and waiting a couple of hours to board the next one. The whole of that fourteen hour flight was spent half sleeping. Everything was heartbreaking and painfully scary.