(Part 1 of 3)

THEY say grief is the price we pay for love. The deeper we love, the deeper the pain.

It has been two weeks since my brother, Jose Eleuterio Galo “Joel” C. Valderrama, died due to cardiac arrest in the USA. His sudden death left us stunned and heartbroken. No, these descriptions are understated; not enough words can describe how we feel.

Until now, we have not seen his body yet for the last time. It is hard to die in a foreign land. Many documents are needed and we had to find his documents first.

Each day, as we grieve, we pray for positive news of his return. He may be lifeless in his return but every single chance of seeing him again for the last time is a grace for all of us.

Does the pain ever have to get away? No. We only have to learn to live with it.

We are just so blessed that some friends in America, who are angels in disguise, are ready to help us. They ease our worries.

Grace Napoles-Ohannessian, a family friend, shared her time and energy to work on the needed documents for Joel to be back home. With a family she needs to attend to, every effort she makes to help us is immeasurable.

She made sure Joel’s apartment is clean before turning it over to the owner and all his things are secured. Her kindness is beyond compare.

The same thing with Bing Duban, Joel’s friend, and classmate at the Immaculate Heart of Mary Academy in Mati City, Davao Oriental, who facilitated everything. It all started with her initiative to help.

Bro. Jovie Galaura, whom I have heard great stories of, went to Joel’s place in Big Bear Lake, California just a few days after his sudden death. His good heart proves that good men exist.

He then returned and helped Grace, together with some relatives – Christine and Aida – who is nearest to the place, to get hold of anything that will bring his body back to Davao.

The universe conspired to bring them all together to help us in these trying times of our lives.

While we await, I’d like to immortalize Joel.

His journey to America wasn’t easy. He needed to establish himself as a Medical Technologist (MedTech) here in the Philippines and the Middle East. For six years, he worked in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia and Tripoli, Libya before he finally entered America as a Clinical Laboratory Scientist.

Joel did not let anyone or anything steal his American dream. He had many reasons, and many of them I do not know.

But like any other Filipino, he wanted a white Christmas and to be the Santa Claus in the family who would bring gifts. He wanted to build his own house and earn dollars.

The salary of a MedTech in the country will indeed make him work up to his retirement before he can build his dream house. In working abroad, he can make it possible in a short time.

While working, he prepared for his retirement. He saved as much as he could since 2008 In America, but he was so generous to the family.

He would send financial support when one is sick or when one pursues post-graduate studies.

He loved to bring Nike shoes for men, Coach and Kate Spade bags for women, perfumes, and chocolates out of request. The last gifts he gave me were new Journalism books which I requested.

He afforded us gifts every time he went home, every birthday of a member of the family, every milestone, and every Christmas.

But at this Christmas time, all we want is him. Just him. Complete. Alive.

We know it would be impossible, but we can still make him alive in our thoughts and our hearts. He’ll always be.