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A room in heaven

The death of a loved one is almost the death of you.

It’s been more than a month since we lost our sister, our precious Ate Katrina, who was only 29, to a viral disease that started out as dengue and ended in a complex heart condition that baffled even the doctors attending to her.

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She was admitted to the hospital thrice in four months, and endured three surgical procedures to remove a recurring fluid buildup in her heart. The first two operations were successful; a third one was not even an option.

But fate seemed harsh. During her last confinement, when Ate was finally moved to a regular private room after having stayed in the intensive care unit for nearly a month, things began to go downhill. Her condition worsened despite her doctors’ expectations.

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She was restless. She had difficulty breathing. Her vital signs were unstable. Her respiratory and heart rates rose as her blood pressure dropped. Tests and bedside procedures had to be done. And that was when her doctors discovered another fluid accumulation in her body, this time targeting her left lung. A decision was made for a third operation, which proved fatal.

We lost Ate. And it was the most painful feeling in the world, the kind that would make you want to hate life and even question God, for a moment: What happened? Where did our prayers and desperate pleas go? Why Ate? Why now? Dear God, why did it have to happen to us?

All of a sudden, nothing made sense, most especially to our parents who love the four of us so dearly. It felt like we were blindsided in the most unimaginable manner. We couldn’t believe that our Ate was gone. We were inconsolable.

The loss was too much to bear, and was immeasurable and unfathomable. It was solid pain and suffering in every sense of the words.

We could only pray for strength for all of us. We could only cry and offer one another tight embraces. There seemed to be no available words to console a grieving parent and a devastated sibling. None, at that point, not even the words “I love you.” It was heartbreaking.

Heartbreaking to realize that things would no longer be the same for us. We lost a family member. We lost a sister who was a constant part of our plans and our dreams, one who had made us draft a picture of our future still together in a big compound, with our respective families and kids enjoying one another’s company—a picture that also involved disagreements and arguments, because “mind your own business” just never works for us.

Yes, we are one another’s business. We take care of one another. We love one another so much that we will readily give up everything if one needs our service. We will fight one another’s battle as if it were our own.

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And as Ate was fighting for her life in the hospital, we fought the battle with her. We stayed with her the entire time, took shifts in the ICU, as if we were professional private nurses. We bathed her, assisted her every motion, monitored her vital signs. We assured her that everything would soon be all right. We stayed strong for her and also for our parents, whose hearts we could feel were breaking every time they saw our Ate in pain. We prayed incessantly.

It was a real test of faith for the family. But we didn’t give up. Ate deserved to be fought for, especially for everything that she had done for us, for all the smiles she had put on our faces, for the unconditional love and care she had provided us. We remained united as a family. And we continued to seek God’s understanding and mercy. We prayed harder each day to give Ate a longer life.

At around 11 in the morning of one Divine Mercy Sunday, God gave us an answer to our prayers. But it was in a different form, seemingly incomprehensible at that time. God took Ate to His kingdom where there is no longer pain and suffering.

To be honest, understanding God’s plan for the family continues to be a daily struggle. We are still figuring out how to live each day without our Ate. We miss her more each day. It is almost torture.

But for whatever plan God has for us, with all my heart, I trust Him. I believe that He took Ate from us on a Divine Mercy Sunday for a reason. He forgave her. He saved her from more worldly torment. And He gave her complete healing.

Looking back at Ate’s entire confinement in the hospital, from her plight in the ICU to the operating room, I think that God was probably just taking His time—with the help of all the angels and saints, including our beloved Tatay up there —to prepare a bigger and grander room for Ate in heaven.

And when God was finished, He showed Ate the room, and she loved every bit of it.

Melissa Andrea de Quiros, 27, is the communications manager of Full Circle Communications Inc.

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TAGS: death, Family, Melissa Andrea de Quiros, opinion, Young Blood
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