It was around five o’clock in the afternoon of March 19, 2010 when I met Gab for the first time.
Gab was a nine-year-old boy confined in the children’s ward of a public hospital in Southeast Asia. He was suffering from a severe case of leukemia.
He was staring into space when my friends and I visited him. I inquired who Gab was among the little boys in the ward and he slowly lifted his hand, offering a faint smile at the same time.
We watched as he willingly offered his left arm when a nurse came in for his dose of medicine. We talked to his mother while Neil, one of my friends, took a book and read to him. That was when we learned that he could not read or write. This was because he was diagnosed with cancer of the blood when he was just starting his pre-school education.
We found out that Gab’s father left his family in these trying moments in their lives, just when they needed him most.
His mother would ask their neighbors if she could wash their clothes in order to support him. This was just for a cheap price just so the whole family could have something to eat, and Gab could be provided medicines.
We learned so much about Gab already when his mother told their life story.
That was when we realized that the food, financial assistance and the stuffed toy we gave him were not enough. Those could never make up for all the days and months he was bedridden. Our gifts weren’t enough at all for all the times he was not able to run and play, watch movies, or go to school like other children. But then Gab embraced our little teddy bear as if it were a precious and expensive gift, as if it meant a lot to him.
Gab stayed in the hospital for more than a month.
I saw him many times and I brought other friends with me to see him and give him encouragement. There was one visit when we thought he was finally gaining weight. But we found out that he was actually suffering from edema, the swelling or abnormal accumulation of fluid beneath the skin. We witnessed his pain, his hardship, his struggle to stay alive.
When I learned that he was finally brought home, I felt better, thinking he was getting better. But I was wrong.
Gab died in front of his mother and siblings last May 28th. He never got his wish of seeing his father again, but he got his wish of leaving something behind for his family.
He saved the money given by people who visited him in the hospital. Gab gave that to his mother for their basic necessities. And through his own perseverance, he got his wish of having a television set for his family. For a boy who did not have much in life, acquiring a TV was already a dream come true. And even in his last moments on earth, he still thought about the welfare of people he would soon leave behind.
I’d never met a nine-year-old kid like Gab who thought and saw beyond his years.
He only whined and got irritable when his tiny body could no longer bear the severe pain he was experiencing.
For some reasons, I did not go to his wake or join his family and friends for the final send-off for him. Maybe I was hurting. Or maybe I somehow had an idea of what he went through. It was because I remembered the years I too had bruises, allergies and dizziness. Most of all, I also had fainting bouts due to my anemia which was bordering on leukemia. Maybe I felt guilty that I did not suffer like him. And maybe I just wanted to remember him when he was alive.
There were too many questions running inside my head. Why did I have to meet him? He only had two months to live when I set eyes on him. Why did I have to learn the painful facts about his life? And why was he born in the first place if he would only suffer… and if he would be gone too soon anyway?
I kept searching for answers as I kept remembering the life of Gab. As days went by, I kept wondering about his purpose in my life. Then one day it just dawned on me.
I met Gab to obviously learn something from his life, short though it had been.
It is to accept whatever situation I was in. Also, it is to accept that this was just a borrowed life. And so I have to make the most out of it. Every moment of every day counts. Each person should be appreciated and valued, even if we only meet him or her for such a short span of time. Every gift should be treasured. Likewise, every little help –even from a stranger– should be appreciated. Life is not just about good times, it can also mean suffering and sacrificing.
And it’s really not about how long you live on earth. Rather, it’s really about how many minds you can inspire. And most importantly, how many lives you can touch.
As I am writing this, I am finally celebrating the life of Gab. It’s nice to feel that I am celebrating the break of each new dawn. Also, it’s awesome that I’m celebrating this precious gift, this gem called life… my life which Gab greatly touched.