Uncle Romel took my sister's life on Saturday, May 17, 2003.
He was 31 years old while my sister was 18 years old.
(I am 32 years old writing this to you.)
7 months later, he wrote a letter to my 16-year-old self and my parents. We each had a letter from him. (That was 3 letters total.)
And we were surprised.
At the time, I was in denial. I was grieving and mourning. I was not able to function. I had no sense of purpose in life anymore. I could not accept my sister's death.
I hated my Uncle. I wanted him dead. I wished somebody would torture and kill him. I expected him to feel the same pain and agony as how he stabbed my sister multiple times using a kitchen knife.
"What do you want now?" I asked myself to his letter while my parents heard me. "What else do you want from us?"
I didn't open his letter right away. Because anger took over my mind. I was swearing and cussing at his letter.
Finally, it took me about 15 minutes to open his letter.
I was curious. Because I wondered what exactly was his message to me and my parents.
It was an apology letter.
(Picture of his envelope and letter shown below. Dated on December 27, 2004.)
I still hated him. I assumed he was playing a game with me and my parents. And I thought he was lying to me.
"I will never ever forgive you. Go and die! My sister is already gone." I talked to his letter after I finished reading it. "You cannot fix it anymore! It is all your fault! You are making it worse by writing a letter to me and my parents."
My parents and I didn't want to forgive him. We decided to mail his apology letters back to him. But I forgot whose idea this was.
Before we returned his letters, I remembered my mom copying each of them in our copy machine. I was upset. But I allowed her to copy the letters.
16 years has already passed.
Last year, I was ready to reread his letters. But my mom misplaced them somewhere in her room.
Great news happened on Sunday, May 5, 2019. My mom was able to find the copied letters. Thank you, mom.
My mom gave me the letter. But I decided to let her open and read it to me.
As she read it, my 32-year-old self was sad. And I was crying. My mind was processing.
I remembered my solo trip to China from last year. I met a 67-year-old British woman, Liz, at a hostel in Shanghai. She was traveling too.
She held a grudge with her father. Liz went to his room. She found a letter.
It was an apology letter from him to her. Her father had already died. She read it in tears.
I remembered another solo trip to the Philippines (aka PH) from last year. I am glad to have visited my family over there. Because I learned my uncle was writing letters to everybody as well. I discovered it from my cousin.
Uncle Romel suffered from loneliness.
I was reading Johann Hari's book, Lost Connection: Why You're Depressed and How to Find Hope. He was learning more about loneliness from neuroscience researcher, John Cacioppo.
"Loneliness isn't the physical absence of other people, he said – it's the sense that you're not sharing anything that matters with anyone else. If you have lots of people around you – perhaps even a husband or a wife, or a family, or a busy workplace – but you don't share anything that matters with them, then you'll still be lonely." Johann writes. "To end loneliness, you need to have a sense of 'mutual aid and protection,' John figured out, with at least one other person, and ideally many more."
My uncle was asking for forgiveness. Nobody cared. He was seeking unconditional love. My uncle tried to find any way of communicating with everybody in his family, even though he hated to write and read. (No smart phones at the time.)
My family and I hated him for life. And we chose to ignore him, even myself. We saw him as a forever villain.
During my PH trip from last year, I also visited my uncle's gravestone. (He died in 2008 at Napa. And he was buried to his birthplace.)
After my mom finished reading my letter, she had 3 more copies. It was a letter to her and my dad.
And another letter written specifically to my dad. It was written in 2006. (My uncle actually had written 4 letters to us.)
The 2006 letter was returned to my uncle too.
He was still begging and seeking for us to forgive and unconditionally love him. It never happened.
Again, my younger-self wanted him dead when he took my sister's life. And he did die. My uncle lost his life on June 17, 2008 in Napa, California.
At the time, I was happy when he died.
"He deserved it," I told myself. "That's what he gets."
I got what I wished for. But my heart was still severely wounded.
I was still angry at my uncle, even though he lost his life in 2008. Because I wasn't able to love myself first. I hated everybody too. I chose to have enemies. And I held grudges.
For instance, my younger-self criticized my friends. I started secrets to myself. They never knew. This built my confidence. I always looked down upon everybody. Because I had insecurity.
Anger took control of my uncle's mind and body on the night of May 17, 2003. He wrote it in his letter too.
For instance, I know a father. He used his anger by yelling at his kids. Because he could not discipline them. His kids feared his temper tantrums.
One time, his 5-year-old son was thirsty for a soda drink. The father was annoyed by him. He took his son back to the store. He yelled and sweared at his son. He forced his son to get out of car. And to run as fast as he can.
The son was scared. He felt abandoned. He listened to his father.
The son was crying while he ran as fast he could at the shopping mall's parking lot. He was running away from his father. Suddenly, he heard his father coming closer to him. His father was chasing him down.
The father pushed his son down to the parking lot's pavement. And he started kicking his son. The father's anger took over his mind and body.
"I'm gonna call the cops!" a mother yelled from a distance. Her kids witnessed it too.
And she asked him if he was the boy's father. She continued yelling, "We will adopt him!"
The father stopped. He realized what he was doing wrong. The mother saved the 5 year old boy's life.
I have another story about anger taking over the mind and body. This happened about 6 years ago.
My dad was always giving his brother and his family everything. I was jealous. They came from the PH. And they have lived with us for 2 or 3 years.
Finally, they have moved out of my dad's house. I was happy. I don't need to see my dad always helping them anymore.
They contacted us for help a day after they left us. I ignored their phone calls. My dad was upset.
30 minutes later, I saw my uncle and cousins arrive at the house. I was angry.
"What do they want from us now?" I asked my dad. (It reminds me of when I was talking to my uncle's letter in 2003.)
I started yelling at my dad. We were arguing at each other. Then, my dad and I went outside on front yard. My uncle and his family witnessed our argument.
I shoved my uncle. And my dad wanted to fight me. I front-kicked him on the balls.
(I used my Tae-Kwan Doe skills on my dad. I never liked Tae-Kwan Doe. But my dad forced me to join Tae-Kwan Doe with him after my sister passed away. He was looking for a bond with me. Because we were grieving.)
I realized I did wrong. I walked away. And ran away from home. I was crying.
I held a grudge to my dad for a month.
My younger cousin had been physically beaten up from a classmate in her high school. I ignored it. They needed our help. But I was focused on my anger towards them. I was selfish.
From 2003-2008, I believed my uncle was waiting for somebody or anybody to comfort him. Nobody did. He couldn't take it anymore. He decided to end his life. My uncle didn't have any purpose to live anymore.
Uncle Romel, I am sorry to have completely abandoned you for 5 years. You are already forgiven. My friend, Liz, showed me it is not worth to hold a grudge on anybody, and especially, you. Her sad story made me realize I must learn how to forgive as well. My experience from solo traveling has taught me to be empathetic and compassionate. I didn't listen to your letters at all. And you were opening up about your flaws and mistakes for the first time ever. Uncle, you can hate me. But I want you to know I forgive you. And I love you.
"If we really want to love, we must learn how to forgive," Mother Teresa said.
Mother Teresa died in 1997. However, she was canonized as Saint Teresa of Calcutta in 2016. She cured a woman suffering from an abdominal tumor. And healed a man with a viral brain infection. She was able to wake him up from his coma as well.
I already have apologized to my enemies. I do not hold anymore grudges.
My heart has been healed.
I am at peace now.
For instance, I like to smile at strangers. It might impact them. And it might brighten their day, and maybe, life. Because they could be suffering from loneliness. They can see me as a creep. But I can't please everybody.
One smile can make a difference.
"Peace begins with a smile," Saint Teresa of Calcutta also said. "Smile five times a day at someone you really don't want to smile at; do it for peace."
Writing is powerful. It can last forever, such as the letters written from my uncle. It is meaningful too. For instance, it took me 16 years to finally forgive and unconditionally love my uncle.
Communication is key.
For instance, my buyer from FB Marketplace was interested in one of my items for sale.
"Just browsing through your profile. I find people interesting," she messaged me. "Everyone has stories to tell, even if they don't say a word verbally. You look pretty interesting. I relate to much of what you've written."
"Thank you for taking the time to read it," I replied to her. "I'm glad to hear your feedback."
Then, I heard her full story.
One of my readers might be my future wife.
Whenever I die, anybody can visit and read this blog. I would like my wife, children, grandchildren, great grandchildren, and more family members to see it.
First, I have to get myself a mate. We shall see.
For anybody reading this at the moment or future, you get to hear the tonality and vulnerability of my voice.
Everybody has a story to tell.
I continue to slowly declutter. And I would find something to remember, like old newspaper articles about my sister's death. She was stabbed multiple times from my uncle on Saturday, May 17, 2003. (I will save these articles.)
I never talked about her death at the time. I was embarrassed. I was scared. I was an insecure kid. I was focused on others more than myself. I believed people will hate me. I assumed people will think I am crazy. I always wanted to be alone. I chose to keep it a secret.
I remember the last day I saw my sister. She looked sad. My sister had a crush on her friend for a long time. But he never expressed his feelings to her. She was hoping he would let her know. My sister did have thoughts about letting him know. But she left it on pause. She had no idea if he liked her. She was clueless by their mixed signals.
I used to live life with regrets. (It haunted me.)
Negative thoughts appeared on my mind every day. (List shown below.)
On November 4, my tennis and basketball coach was reported dead at his house.
Many people reached out to me. They felt guilty for not saying "goodbye" to him.
"I did not say 'goodbye' to him as well. I was able to come at peace with him from a 3-year grudge," I told them.
Also, I lost my sister unexpectedly, tragically.
"You build relationships every time you encounter people. Life is constantly changing. People come, and go. When you travel, you say goodbye. If you can embrace goodbye, you can become more grateful for the next time you say hello," my good friend told me.
Funny video taken on 9/15/13
We first met at a tennis court in 2006. I was finished hitting with my friends. As they were heading out, you friendly approached me. You talked to me about how you are a private tennis coach, and how you made your two children become great tennis players.
You went on talking as usual. In your wallet, you showed me your precious family photos of you, your wife, daughter, and son. You were always a wonderful storyteller.
You were my tennis coach.
Recently, I lost a loved one, my coach. He died unexpectedly.
(The last time I lost somebody so close to me was my sister in 2003. She died unexpectedly as well.)
I have known him, since 2006. Everything is a rush for me.
He made me become a better basketball, and tennis player.
Now, he's not here anymore. That's new for me. It takes a while to accept that he is gone. I am better now than my previous days.
It is not always easy to say, "Live in the moment,' when your loved one dies. I am human. I have feelings.
Earlier tonight, I was strong enough to open up about my strong relationship with Coach in his vigil service. I feel much better now.
What I said during his vigil service:
I hated funerals. I always avoided talking about death.
You're born, you live, and you die.
When I die, I would like to be cremated. No need to visit, and maintain my gravestone. Most importantly, I wanna save land for the future generation.
My younger-self believed that only the closed "ones" should attend his or her funeral.
For instance, during my sister's funeral, many people were in attendance. I was in shock. I was selfish.
I asked myself, "Were they even close to her? Did they ever talk to her?"
Now, I see funerals differently.
For those of you, who do not know already, my sister was gone in 2003. I already have written many blog entries about my sister. (Find my search box, and type "sister" on it.)
15 years has already passed.
Pictures taken from Virginia back in 1992. My family did not take much pictures. This is all I can find of you in the photo albums. Sorry, Uncle.
1st picture is Grandpa Sator (My dad's uncle from his mom's side), me, my sister, and Uncle Romelo.
2nd picture is Grandpa Sator, my dad, me, and Uncle Romelo.
For readers, Uncle Romelo is my dad's youngest brother.
Dear Uncle Romelo,
Last night, I was about to sleep, until I heard breaking news about an active gun shooter open firing his fully-automatic rifle at a music festival in Las Vegas. (At that time, the news reported 2 people dead, and about 200 injured.)
This morning, I woke up at 9:15. Then, I see a missed phone call from one of my good friends. (He called me at 8:45am.)
He brought up the gunshooting incident in Vegas.