I Lost my Aunt to Leukemia

It’s been nearly seven months since my aunt died, and the constant pacing of days and nights that pass by makes it impossible for me to let it all sink in, except for the few nights — when the world is eerily too quiet and the darkness seemed so inviting to swim through your thoughts.

See, my aunt’s death was something I never truly opened to anyone; it was always casual. I think it was an unspoken understanding that there’s little to be said when it comes to death. Thus, I tried to avoid the conversation of talking about losing a loved one in fear of killing the atmosphere of conversations I have with others.

But here’s the truth of losing a loved one you somehow knew was already going to go: no amount of preparation can suffice the day it actually happens and no amount of convincing could ever bring you back to this world believing it’s still the same.

Weeks nearing her death, my parents would constantly bring up her condition and would update us on a daily basis about what the doctor told them at the hospital. During these times, I was working until 9 pm and would take the bus home wherein there, I fight back tears as I slowly see the dimly-lit streets fly by from the moist window. By the time I get home, everyone has gone to bed and relief washes over me because then, I wouldn’t have to talk about it — not because I didn’t like talking about it but because I had no idea where to start.

Then on the day of her death, my brother called me while I was still in the middle of work.

“Have you heard about Tita Lani [Aunt Lani]? She passed away already.”

I was told that my parents and brother were all at the hospital to arrange the needed requirements for the wake and funeral. I arrived home that night to a quiet house. No one was home and nothing felt more comforting than that. I let go of a cry I have managed to hold in for so long in the remainder of the night of her death.

I look back on the days when my aunt was still alive —when she would be so full of life and her voice fills the room at family reunions and Christmas celebrations. I remember the times she and I would talk about how I am faring in school and how things are at home. And now, all I wanted was to ask her how she was. I wish I was able to ask her how it was being in her 40s without a family. I never really got to ask her how life treated her all these years. I wish I knew.

I would have asked her to sing with me in every Christmas and New Year reunions we had. I would have told her about my first heartbreak and the people I’ve let go for the past years. I would have told her what I hated and loved about our family and what I wanted to be years from now.

Yet, me and my aunt are too much alike. It’s almost as if she was a twin sister, bonded not only by blood, but also by wisdom and thoughts. She knows my heart well so I am certain she knows why I remained quiet all this time and I know her heart well enough to understand why she no longer had to ask.

And in the end, despite everything that has been unsaid between us, I am thankful that she and I did not need much words to understand each other’s hearts. I am thankful she let me mourn her death quietly and allowed me to feel her loss almost everyday because only then do I know that life does go on. And I can almost hear her whisper, “Tuloy lang [go on].” And I would let out a laugh because it hurts a lot to know how much I know your heart and I lost one of them too soon.