Have a happy birthday there in Heaven, Kuya Denz.

We’ll see you in our dreams.

There are many ways I could remember you, but those ways can never not bring me to tears even in the middle of the day, in a celebration, even I’m in the most wonderful of places. It was never the same and I don’t think it will be again.

I wasn’t special and still am not. Average, fortunately, but growing up I saw myself achieving some that would make me feel somehow special, and I saw it because you let me, you have believed and pushed me that I can, genuinely so.

I wasn’t a happy kid–I’m always being compared sometimes to my classmates, mostly to my cousins, neighbors alike, and anyone my age doing far better than I was. My mother, who I know perhaps loved me like any other mother could, wasn’t very fond of me not just like how any mother should. Growing up, it was such a heartache. It was difficult to deal with it and still is even if I’m already in my thirties being a mother myself. But, just like growing up, it has been less painful because you have always believed I can do things I want to do, even the things I don’t want to. You have always supported me even if it was a hassle and could be tiring for you. I couldn’t even remember a moment you said no, even if I bring myself to reminisce if there was one moment in my life you made me feel unimportant, just like how many others made me while growing up and as a grown-up in this time.

It has been what? Four years? Yet it has always felt like it was just yesterday. I always remember your birthdays even if sometimes it looks like I have failed to. Maybe pain made me show things less–my sorrows, my affection to others, maybe the neutral vibe and a giddy self helped cover things for me–it was easy, no justifications needed, case closed.

How do you celebrate your birthdays up there now? Do parties there have alcohol and karaoke, too? Is there a lechon in heaven? Is it fun up there? Pain-free? Sorrow-free? I wish we could have celebrated more birthdays but sometimes I think that maybe it is selfish to wish for it because I want to make peace, that whatever it is right now with you, you are better; and celebrating more birthdays like I usually hope will not be good for you anymore.

The sorrow I feel may be of selfishness–that I lost someone who genuinely believes I can do great things and without you, I cannot seem to fathom how I could achieve more and better. Maybe that’s just plain selfish. BUT within me I know, you deserve more life than it ever was for you because you touched people’s hearts without even trying, by being just you. There are just so many things others are thankful for you and your life lived. What I feel is perhaps just a portion of what Ate Che and the kids’ feel, but I’d like to also think I hold merit because growing up as a snobby little child, I have never once felt that I don’t deserve good things and good treatment for being me. Looking back as a kid, I did need understanding, and more than the Happy Meals and toys you have collected and have given me, I am most thankful for that understanding and compassion you have shown me.

I still cry whenever I think of you. It still makes me sad. Every year it gets sadder because I feel I am rather far away from yesterday than I could reminisce. Sometimes I stop reading and inserting information in my head with the fear that each file I stuff in my brain can replace the memories with you that I have in it because I don’t want to forget and I can’t. Maybe as a kid, I wasn’t destined to grow up like others, that difference put me through tough times, but now that I can duly understand, I really didn’t grow up like others because mine was a bit more special than theirs.

I wish you are happy wherever you are. I know that you guide all of us always. Happy birthday, Kuya Denz. We miss you.

We’ll see you in our dreams.

Author: shainnehostalero

Shainne Hostalero, MDC is a social entrepreneur (owner and founder of Happy Shift PH), a communication scholar, and a writer.

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