Rarely did I see my late grandmother smile, but when she did, she wore it elegantly and nobody in my immediate family came near to wearing her smile. Nobody, except my brother Michael, who just passed away last July.
Michael was blessed with the soft feature from my mother’s side, with his thin lips and playful laugh. When he was young, before he went to the US to study and took a part-time job that burned his skin, he used to have that perfect translucent skin – one in which you can see the traces of purplish veins across his chubby cheeks. My nephew Tim, his only son, inherits this beautiful part of him.
My brother’s later life had been such a conundrum to my family. He faced problems with his wife from early on but decided to plow through with such pretense of a marriage because he believed divorce would be a sin in the eyes of God. In happier times, he indulged in his son and daughter; in oft-occurring unhappy times, however, he escaped to the other worlds – online war games and junk food. His body started to show the ravaging effect of a weak heart. When he happened to stay with us, my mom would try to barge in his room to talk to him, but he just locked her out of his life, except those times when he could no longer bear his shortness of breath and nudged my mom to take him to the pharmacy.
My family’s predicament had not been kind to him growing up. We have a strict father – one who didn’t know how to show love to his own children – and he was such a bully to me and Michael. But especially to him. Mom often said it’s because my father hated my grandmother so much. She probably did not approve of my mom’s choice of a husband, so she tried to ‘sabotage‘ her marriage; the only thing my grandmother could not escape from was her devotion to Michael, as he reminded her of her husband. My grandfather and Michael shared the same middle name, Christoffel, and the same built as well. Only that whereas my grandfather had been a very fit adult due to his nature as farmer and headmaster (and during the Indonesian civil war, it had not been easy to eat 3 times a day), my brother was overweight since he was only a little boy. He had to fight obesity and heart disease until the end of his life.
For such a short life that he lived, all 36 years long, our family failed to see the beautiful heart he possessed. He’d been such a fierce fighter, being persistent when it came to something he’s passionate about. He was a gentle giant of a man – his close friends cherished his generosity and patience toward their friendships. While I did not blame his wife for her shortcomings, I could not help but wonder if things were different, a loving wife would make him lead a happier life, and probably a longer one as well. He left such a hole in our hearts that sometimes we just wonder how little time we had had with him.
Sorry Mike, I believe God always kept you close, and He’d like you to spend eternity with Him rather than seeing you suffer on Earth. He who had created your inmost being, who had knitted you together in our mom’s womb, had called you earlier than he does the rest of your family. It’d be such an honor to see you in one of His mansions, when my time comes. ‘Til then, thank you for the life you gave as remembrance to your gentle presence, and most of all, thank you for the life of your children. When they grow up, I want them to be just like you: fierce and loving life, and most of all, fear God.
Godspeed, Michael Tendean (1977-2013).