THERE'S one piece of news that we do not want to hear ever. Though we know it will come to all of us, we always wish and pray it won’t. But it’s like a thief in the night. It comes and sometimes it takes the most valuable part of us.

Death.

I used this word recently in one of my examples in the training. I said you can write a one-word paragraph to emphasize your idea then go to the next paragraph to expound it. For example, death. Period. Go to the next paragraph.

Now, it becomes real. It is no longer my example. It is the real thing. And it is this one thing that hurts me so badly now.

Death.

The sudden death of my brother Joel kept me stunned up to this day. We were just together. I stayed in his room in Seda for a night and had our breakfast together in the morning. If I only knew it would be the last, I would have held his hand and hugged him so tightly.

He took a selfie of us and that would be the most valuable photo and memory of him. I want to remember him that way. So alive.

Way back in high school, I introduced him as my twin brother. We only had one year gap, and we can be mistaken as twins especially when I insisted on it.

We did not see each other every day until he moved to Davao City for college. Joel stayed in Mati City in Davao Oriental together with my father and brother Jay. We would meet on weekends. Either my mother and sister Pia would go to Mati or they will travel to Davao.

Mati City has a very special place in his heart. He valued his school, Immaculate Heart of Mary Academy, and his friends and classmates. I guess it was the best part of his life.

Even before he arrived in Davao City last month, October 20, he already planned how to spend his 15-day vacation. He allotted three days to spend in Mati City to meet his friends and classmates. To visit the places that he missed. To witness the Sambuokan festival.

We had petty fights and one big fight but it did not tear us apart. It was just part of growing up. And as we grew older, we valued each other more. I didn’t know he would be so kind and generous to us.

I am so proud of him, and I know he is proud of me too. When I said I wanted to pursue my Doctorate, he volunteered to pay for everything as long as I’d promised to finish it. I didn’t fail him.

Joel always had this American dream. He always wanted to go to the USA to work and live there. He worked as a Clinical Laboratory Scientist in North Carolina for nine years before he transferred to Big Bear Lake, California.

After spending 15 days here, he flew back to the US on November 5. Nine days after, we received the saddest news on the day of my daughter Maureen’s birthday. He had a heart attack while driving. On a cold night. In a far place.

How can it be not so hurting? He was alone and we just talked about his plans for his travel back home next year. I didn’t know he would go back home to God instead.

Now, we are finding ways to bring him back home. We can no longer see him physically alive. But he will be alive in our hearts forever

We are just so blessed that his friends from Mati and Davao are helping us. As I am writing this, Grace, Bro. Jovie, cousins Aida and Christine are now inside his apartment to find the needed documents. I know the heavens will help us.

If only God would give me the last chance to hug him, I would take it as the most important event in my life. I would tell him how much I love him and value him as my brother. I never told him I love you in his face. I just find it so corny and awkward.

But today and for the rest of the days, let me tell you now...I love you, Joel.