I can still clearly picture every detail of his physique and facial features. After three months of being away he came home, slender and tall like what he used to be when he was still high school student. He lost enormous weight, excess pounds that he gained from impulsive eating, the huge belly he used to stroke like how pregnant woman does, the round face which resembled full moon. He went back to his normal shape in a span of three consecutive months. Time will fly and I will become old and gray and weak but these memories are the ones that will stay with me, untarnished with time, vivid like a 4D film in my mind. He was peacefully lying on his bed in his room. I whispered to his ear, “Kuya, gumising ka,” (Older brother, wake up) because I’ve heard that when someone dies hearing is the last sense that will vanish. First of April, 2010, Holy Thursday when Kuya passed away in his room after three months of being away from home. June 3 was my college graduation day so I immediately went home after the ceremony because Kuya’s wake was still going on. This wasn’t the first time that a loved one died in our family so I knew the routine. People would visit and we would offer coffee, juice and some bread, candies and nuts. On my father’s wake, relatives from far provinces were coming and staying with us for few days. Papa was well-known because he was a friendly man. Throughout Papa’s funeral service our house was jam-packed with relatives and friends but Kuya’s only had his immediate family, us. He was only 24 years old and our relative didn’t know he even lived. He wasn’t popular and had no close friends. Friends of us who didn’t personally know him dropped by and were saddened by his story but it wasn’t enough reason to stay with us for so long.
Endless tears had shed and sleep was forgotten. My exhausted eyes succumbed to shallow slumber and only to be awaken with remorse. In my waking hours my mind was constantly trying to answer every agonizing question while staring at the burning candles and dying flowers beside his white casket. Why, Lord? He lived to suffer for almost half of his life. He didn’t enjoy the life You have given him. Are you so merciless to allow this to happen to him? Why did you let him live and tremendously suffer? I will never know how much pain he felt because it was beyond my comprehension. Only Kuya can explain the degree of pain he experienced. Only him can tell the amount of suffering he had gone through. Everything that happened to him was unimaginable and unutterable. No word can ever be sufficient to describe them. My mind could only get a hint by mere observing his gawky body, the reddish hue in his fatigued eyes, the unpleasant marks and scars in his uneven complexion, unkempt hair, cracked lips, decayed teeth, bleeding gums and unsteady gait. If eyes were the mirrors of our souls then his soul was lost, striving though ruined, uncertain but genuine, misunderstood and mocked, careless, carefree but hardened by world’s cruelty, unstoppable, limitless but irrational, illogical by human standard. His soul was unique like everyone else but his uniqueness was strong, worrisome, eerie. I’ve seen it all through his eyes. The way he blinked when he spoke. The way he closed his eyes when he tried to doze off. The way he stared at you but didn’t look at you. The way he glared at anyone and looked away. The way his eyes glowed as he told about stuff that he adored. The way his eyes twitched when he was about to cry. The way he glanced into the air in silence and I could give anything in exchange for knowing what’s on his mind. Perhaps not knowing what’s in it spares me the agony. After all, ignorance is a bliss.
I used to believe that his healing depended upon the level of faith I have in God. So I was holding my white tiny Bible as if I was holding Kuya’s life in my hands. I couldn’t remember the scriptures but what I remember is the blazing hope as I whispered the verse like a prayer. My mother shouted my brother’s name. “Kristian!” I tossed my Bible aside, ran to his room and witnessed hope disappeared before my eyes. Mother tried to revive him but I knew it was finished. He breathed his last and I knew it the moment he closed his eyes because it was the first time I saw him in such so much peaceful state. His face had no sign or trace of sickness, affliction or misery. His face was almost angelic. Kuya’s death was so sudden. We were enveloped by resentment and despair because of his unexpected passing. But despite mourning, as I looked at his sleeping face the serenity which was evident in his aura radiated to the air of his wake. I didn’t know why we felt such calmness and tranquility when our mind was in turmoil and confusion.
Mourning was infinite. He was alive in my dreams but he was scary and ruthless. He was worse in my nightmares than he was in real life and in several times I would wake up forlorn, breathing heavily. Perhaps my subconscious mind hadn’t moved on with his tragic existence. To move on, I must hold on to the truth that actually happened. I must believe in reality that truly existed. For nine years of recalling the event, ruminating every single detail of that significant moment, I eventually started to accept and believe. My heart screams that his soul is no longer lost. In his death he was found. My endless questions to God began to blur as an image of Kuya’s angelic face became clearer. When he died his melancholy ended. His death is the beginning of his life.
Whenever it is Holy Week I always remember his death. We can easily believe that it is an coincidence that he happened to passed away on the same week when Jesus was beaten, crucified, died in the Calvary and rose again. But my heart which can see what the eyes can’t, tell me that Kuya died on Holy Week and not on ordinary day because it signifies something else. God use symbols, metaphor and numbers to rely His message to mankind. The Bible mentioned Jonas who was stuck in the belly of the big fish but after three days and three nights he was released by the fish. The story of Jonah is compared to the resurrection of Jesus as states in Matthew 12:40 AMP, “for just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the sea monster, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.” Jesus was three days and three nights in the tomb and on the third day He has risen. Bible has taught me that there is no such thing as coincidence nor accident. People live and die for a purpose. Kuya was clinically diagnosed with major depression at the age of 15 and later on bipolar disorder and couldn’t finish school. He jumped from one institution to another since then. Because of stigma I chose to shut my mouth up about his ailment but now I am declaring this in confidence. His life in this world was a story of sorrow and illness but his death is another story. His death is God’s way of reminding us that in death we don’t leave home, WE GO HOME. Kuya is home where Jesus is.
Jesus died in a gruesome way and though people nowadays are trying to imitate His crucifixion during Holy Week, Jesus’ was incomparable. Why is it necessary for him to die in that horrible manner? Why is it required that he must die anyway? If He is a Son of God why didn’t Jesus choose to amaze the world with His power through rising up to heaven without any marks of cruelty and nail pierce? He could do it. He had an option but he chose to surrender Himself to mankind to be scourged, condemned, mocked and betrayed. He let them call him hurtful words. He let them put a crown of thorn on His head to ridicule Him. He let them give Him sour wine to sip when He said “I am thirsty.” I think I already know the answers to all my painful questions. Struggling life isn’t equal to meaningless life. Beautiful and comfortable life isn’t equal to meaningful life. The Lord who became human to be with us didn’t choose an easy life. Jesus came down for the broken, lost, abused, maltreated, sick and poor and to be able to understand them He became one of them. Being one of them doesn’t mean He was forsaken. I remember Jesus said in the cross before He died. “About the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud [agonized] voice, “E li , E li , lama sabachthani ?” that is, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” (Matthew 27:46 AMP) And I understood. It was an initial human reaction and as a tormented being in flesh we often ask God questions as if answers would eliminate the hurt. But the Father hasn’t forsaken Him. God hasn’t forsaken my brother. Jesus died to save the sinners who repent and believe in Him. As the Bible says in John 3:16, For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son that whoever believes in Him (Jesus) will not perish and will have an everlasting life. The everlasting life that God promises pertains to the perfect life with Him in paradise for those who believe in Jesus.
Kuya is finally living His impeccable life that He didn’t experience in this evil world as Jesus promised. I know it for sure as a youngest sister who knew him so deeply since we were toddlers. I couldn’t decipher his deepest thoughts but I know him like how I know it’s about to rain when its gloomy. I know his wonderful parts that others fail to see. I’ve grown with him and saw him evolved into worst and then into best and it was when he was lying on his bed, morning of April 1, Holy Thursday, sleeping but not breathing I saw him in his best feature. There’s no more denying, like Jesus who rose up from His tomb and now siting on His throne, Kuya Kristian Dhan’s soul arose and left his frail and sick body and went up to where there is no more sadness and sickness. On that significant day, calmness and tranquility that we felt weren’t delusion. It was real like the breeze that blows the sea toward the shore. I can’t see but I feel it’s touch even if I close my eyes.
Everything in here is temporary. Everyone of us will soon die. But the ones who trust and believe in Jesus will live forever. Life in here has sorrow, anguish and unhappiness but Jesus overcame it all. Kuya overcame it all like Jesus. Like Jesus who was beaten and mocked, my brother was also beaten and mocked because of his ailment but like Jesus who died and now lives, my brother died but now lives. For these crucial realizations that others may require a lifetime to contemplate, I thank my dear Kuya. To be his sister is such an extraordinary role that not everyone will be given a chance. Jesus has turned my mourning into dancing. In the most perfect place with the most beautiful worship song I can ever hear surely we will be singing together, lifting our hands up to God, dancing in the beat as if no one watches because Jesus will wipe the tears in our eyes and there will be no more pain.
“You have turned my mourning into dancing for me; You have taken off my sackcloth and clothed me with joy,” Psalm 30:11 AMP