In 2006 I found out that my junior high friend, Clifton’s brother was diagnosed with Aplastic Anemia which is a blood disorder that disables the bone marrow to make new blood cells. We were in junior high and my last memory of Clifton’s older brother, Clifford was at the Foothills ICU.
I often hung out with Clifton and the gang (Ian, Patrick, Francis, Mini Mike, Josh, Chidi, Taylor, Reiner, Ryan, etc). The coolest thing about Clifford was that every time I would call their house to talk to Clifton he’d ask me who was calling and once I told him it was me he would say, “What did you call me?…you call me Kuya (which means older brother in Tagalog), have you no respect?!” and because he just had this cool heir to him you would most likely call him whatever it was he told you to, but for me…something he didn’t know was that I have always longed for an older brother.
My parents had a miscarriage before they had me and I feel like maybe I longed for an older brother so badly because that miscarriage was probably that brother. However, growing up all I could remember was how attached I got to older brother figures and I rather enjoyed when Clifford got mad at me when I forgot to call him Kuya, and just how much I reveled in actually calling him my older brother.
Clifford was an older brother to a lot of people, he was someone people looked up to and respected. He was a leader who may have had some chips on his shoulder, but knew what loyalty to his friends meant and helped define that for many of us for years to come.
As I continue this series, it is not to reveal someone’s morbid portrayal of life and death, but to showcase the beautiful wonders of the world, God and the blessings He bestows upon us even during suffering and struggle.
I was very fortunate to have experienced this last memory of Kuya Cliff, he was in the ICU and his friends and family were allowed to say their last good-byes. By this time he was quite frail, but still in his eyes, they were bold and brave and strong, not only for himself, but very obviously for his single mom, younger brother (Clifton), baby sister (Lovely), his friends, but mostly for his own children (Jason and Shealynn). Now this image of Kuya Cliff derives from my own eyes and I only know what I saw and the side of him that he showed me so I am missing quite a lot of pertinent information.
However, on May 20, 2006 Clifford Paul Jimenez died. My first death of a friend. At this point in time I feel like I was mirroring everyone else’s reaction to death because looking back, I still don’t think I understood what death entailed.
My next memory foreshadows the next episode of this series. In my parent’s burgundy Honda Accord I rode with Josh (a family friend and friend - a close friend of Clifford’s) who had asked me if he could drive us to the burial site at Eden Brook. Josh’s reputation of driving was not known to be the best, but to stay cool I said, “sure, just don’t get us killed”. Fortunately, he did not get us killed, but he did drive right into the grass at the burial site as we exchanged stares and laughed. As we were walking towards where Kuya Cliff was being buried, Josh mentioned “man, this is so weird. Cliff was so awesome…one day we will be together soon my friend” as he looked up into the sky and then to the freshly placed tomb slate with Clifford’s name on it. Even if I could not understand death at this point in my life, I truly saw sadness behind Josh’s eyes and could grasp the loss of a true friend.
The bountiful amount of friends that attended his service was great to see. Young boys growing into men, appearing fatherless…leaderless (yet again…these statements come from my eyes). It was undeniable that everyone lost a brother that day.
Looking back, this loss set the stage for a very monumental death that turned my perspective of life and death around. So in memory of my Kuya Cliff, I thank you for welcoming me when I felt like a nobody, even the few minutes you’d hassle me, meant a lot. Thank you for this memory and thank you for being the first Kuya I never had. You are surely missed.
As far as I can remember, at the recesses of my adolescent mind there is a man who is carried by sweet memories of ‘mama soup’ (instant noodle soup), tomato/mayo/seasoning salt sandwiches, the smell of old spice and a giving heart.
This man’s name was Alejandro Juan. The father of my mother, the husband of my maternal grandmother and the only grandfather I knew.
As children, we think that our parents and our grandparents are eternal, that they will live on forever; the idea of death was never thought of unless brought about through the actual death of someone.
The point of this series is not to reveal someone’s morbid portrayal of life and death, but to introduce and showcase the beautiful wonders of the world, God and the blessings He bestows upon us even during suffering and struggle - we must ask ourselves, in difficult times how is God offering us life?
Memory No. 1: We used to live in Edmonton (my nuclear family & my maternal grandparents) they lived in an apartment near Southland mall. When my cousins would visit from Calgary, ‘Lolo’ (as we called him, and in Tagalog means grandpa) would often take us grocery shopping with him to IGA (which is now known as Sobey’s). I personally loved those times because they had mini carts for kids and we each would push them, hoping Lolo would put something in our carts.
Memory No. 2: Another wicked memory was at their apartment, Lolo would make us the best forts ever! Him and ‘Mimi’ (his wife, our grandma) owned this wicker-type armed sofa that he would hammer bedsheets and blankets to…yes HAMMER with nails, bedsheets INTO the sofa so that we would have the best forts…EVER!
Memory No. 3: Eventually Mimi and Lolo moved to Calgary where the rest of my cousins lived and once my nuclear family moved to Calgary, my cousins and I went to the same elementary school (St. Michael’s), one block away from their duplex. After school the 6 of us (Sam, Nate, Pia, Alex, Coco and myself) would walk to Lolo and Mimi’s house and awaiting us would most likely be either mama soup or toasted tomato sandwiches. He must have prepared 2-3 bags of instant noodle soup just to feed us and to spice it up he would add egg drops…what else do you feed 6 hungry filipino kids everyday? Until this day, I crave mama soup, funny how some things stick.
Memory No. 4: My cousins and I went to Wal-Mart with Lolo and I went straight to the shoe department where I found $5.00 rubber sport slippers that I really wanted. Seeing that it was only $5.00 I figured that was low cost enough to ask Lolo for…the little spoiled brat that I was. When I asked him if he could get them for me he said, “No we can’t, I don’t have enough money for that” and I pleaded, “please Lolo I really want them, pleeeeaaassseee”, not much longer we were at the till, but the worst part looking back was watching my grandpa pay for what I wanted as he jangled in his pockets for coins. I think as a child I felt bad for a few moments, but once they were paid for I totally forgot. Looking back, although this moment was minor, it has taught me that people do things for people they love even to the last penny.
It is a bit foggy, but I recall (possibly) sometime in late 1998 or early 1999 that Lolo was diagnosed with cancer. I was in grade 8, we all were gathered at their duplex when we found out. I don’t even recall him undergoing chemo or radiation, but over time, our jolly-always-smiling Lolo was wasting away. On May 1, 1999, Attorney Alejandro Juan (Lolo) died, 2 days shy of his 65th birthday. He died at Rosedale hospice (my first memory of a facility that looked like a cozy house, but had nurses working in it) which overlooked Calgary’s skyline from the perspective side of Eau Claire and China town…my first encounter with death of a family member…my first funeral & burial experience.
This man. His smile. Your memory lives on and I can only hope that your legacy of self-giving, love, sharing, utmost selflessness continues through each one of us. Retrospectively, we are offered life through your death in what it means to serve as you served (like Atticus Finch from ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’), love endlessly as you loved and to be slow to anger in all ways and always.
Thank you for leaving a lasting impression that encourages me to become a better person.
As far as I could remember, my fear for drowning derived from…believe it or not…drowning in a pile of high snow as I built snow forts with my best friend at the age of 9.
The point of this series is not to reveal someone’s morbid portrayal of life and death, but to introduce and showcase the beautiful wonders of the world, God and the blessings He bestows upon us even during suffering and struggle.
Edmonton is best known for its cold winters and high snow mounds that take forever to melt (Edmonton is 2nd worse to Winnipeg’s winters). This is where I was born and grew up for the first 12 years of my life. As a kid it was an absolute amazing time in the snow. My best friend Li-an and I would jump from the back porch into the fresh crisp white snow, it froze at a perfect temperature which allowed you to jump right into it and create a perfect circle/hole that replicated the size of your body. Through this we would dig beneath the surface and create our forts, bedroom after bedroom, eventually creating our own domain, right in the comforts of my backyard.
As my friend was carving away at her snow fort bedrooms down one “hallway” I was carving away at mine. Super excited to have a mansion of a fort (the snow was taller than a 9 year old so you could imagine the fun), I was growing a bit over zealous with the carving of my walls and unknowingly the wall of snow I was working on became too thin and could not carry the snow above it, with me under it the snow fort’s roof crashed down on me. I began to panic, but could still scream out “HELP! LI-AN HELP!” however with my panic I started to hyperventilate and the snow pockets did not hold much oxygen as it was quite dense and I felt as if I were drowning. For a 9 year old what must have been only 10 seconds, felt like minutes of drowning until I felt something hard hit my snow pants…it was Li-an…smart little Li-an found the shovel on the porch and was shoveling me out.
I remember Li-an holding me up to the back screen door calling my mom, my mom coming and saying “what happened?” and as I was sobbing as if I saw my life flash right before me, my best friend explained with concern and my mother tried to hold back her laughter, but took my pant suit off, hugged me and told me I was fine.
Sure, looking back it’s cute and yeah a bit funny, but I remember being 9 years old, and being furious with my mom for laughing at me.
As far as I can remember, this was my first experience of death…by snow.