Facing the reality that a loved one could pass away soon

I rushed over from Manila to San Francisco in November because two of my brothers were both in the ICU for different reasons. One has quickly recovered and is back to work. At his age he should just be relaxing and not worrying about his businesses. He could be 100 years old and still be working. Edmund keeps reminding me to talk to my brother to force him to retire. I can’t. My brother would not listen. He would just smile and nod his head but he wouldn’t do it. Maybe because he can’t.

My other kuya remained in the hospital. I was able to visit him twice in November, gave him some pocket money (as if he was going somewhere other than the hospital bed).

He looked fine after the surgery that removed a mass from his brain and the doctors were even impressed at how soon he was able to stand-up. He seemed ready for the good times. But for some reason his doctors couldn’t explain, his health deteriorated. He couldn’t eat on his own, he couldn’t drink on his own. He was craving for food but the food he was eating found their way into his lungs which caused pneumonia. The quick recovery thing we were all hoping for became a wish for a recovery no matter how slow. We would be happy to see him eating, drinking, or sitting upright even on a wheelchair. Syempre, masaya if we would see him interact, smile, get mad, etc. None of that happened.

Kuya Junior was right. After the operation, he told us that we would be faced with making difficult decisions. As a doctor, a surgeon, he knew what was coming. He knew what our brother would be facing. He knew and had seen during his many years of medical practice that families will have to make painful decisions— what kind of treatment? aggressive, non-aggressive, or just pain management and wait until the patient gives up. My kuya was too frail to undergo any of the cancer treatments but he was excited to undergo treatments with the belief this would cure him. But he never got to start. His health dropped. His mind was willing but his body was weak. Hindi pa nagsisimula ang laban, parang patalo na agad siya.

Half of the Tans spent Christmas Day in Ayleen’s house.   The Bay Area group was there except Kuya Romy’s because they were caring for him.

Our annual grand family reunion came on January 6, 2024, and we were only four siblings. Kulang kami. But in our hearts, we would be 5 again maybe at the Tan Family Summer Barbeque most probably in July.

Kuya Lito, Kuya Junior, Len and ako on January 6.

Four Siblings

When Edmund and I visited him at the hospital’s affiliated nursing facility, he had lost weight and was coughing. He still couldn’t eat on his own and was being fed through a tube in his stomach. He still had a good appetite but he was being deprived because bawal. He would develop pneumonia if he takes solid food, or even soup, or even plain water. Kawawa, gustong kumain pero hindi sya makakain.

We found out that he was brought to the ICU the very next day because he was having difficulty breathing. And that’s where he remained till now.
He has bedsores kasi nga hindi na sya maka kilos on his own. And lalo na syang namayat. When I saw him last week he looked frail and had lost more muscles. Namayat na lalo.

He was sedated but I whispered to him kuya, kuya, hello kuya.

While we were there, I chanced upon the two male Caucasian nurses and the attending doctor. I thanked them for taking care of my brother. The level of care needed is beyond an ordinary person’s understanding and capability. Kuya needed 24 hours of attention. He has lost not only his ability to eat or drink, he now is connected to a ventilator so he can breathe. So many gadgets are attached to help him manage the pain, normalize his blood pressure, oxygen level, etc. and make him comfortable to the limits of what science knows.

Life support machines 1/29/24

There’s something invisible that’s attached to his spirit. The love of his family. The compassionate stare, hearts, and soul begging for the heavens to help him. To cure him. If that is not possible, at least give him comfort so he would not suffer anymore.

The word death seems surreal. We all know it’s real and final. But no one will ever be prepared for such an eventuality.
Even if I know and accept that it’s inevitable, the realization that it is going to happen, and could be very soon just seems too hard to handle. I have cried intermittently many times in the past few days dealing with anticipatory grief. One moment of disbelief followed by acceptance and calm, then panic. I would be faced with a loved one dying soon. My tears flowed at around 1:30 am this morning and right after I woke up, I just stared blankly at the floor, feeling numb, tears filled my eyes but refused to fall. The numbness was time-frozen to prevent a soul from departing.

How do I cross over from saying that my kuya is sick but will beat this cancer, to my kuya is kawawa and in extreme pain and he needs to rest so let’s pull the plug? How does a family do that? How do you transition from being a good sister to being the one who would give the go signal to put a finality to his life?

We are now in a waiting game. We wait for him to blink his closed eyes, or even move a tiny finger, to signal that there’s still hope. Or news that he has given up this one-way fight. Or we hope to receive no news because in times like this no news is good news.

We love you Kuya.


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