Only happy thoughts, kuya Ali

I have a choice: to let my heart shatter or to recall how life is amazing

It has been two weeks. My brother Alfred Dominic S. Gonzales passed away last April 7, after bypass surgery due to fatal arrhythmia. He suffered a massive myocardial infarction. He was 45 years old.

I never imagined I would be writing my brother’s eulogy this early in our lives. I could write either about how my heart was shattered into smithereens, or about how he made me recall how life is amazing and beautiful, just as how he lived it. His obvious choice would be to celebrate. He does not like drama. He finds it cheesy and gross. (Please allow me the present tense.) He would send me the green-faced, vomiting emoji if I become overly dramatic. 🤮

So here it is, no drama, only happy thoughts.

My mom asked me the day he passed away if I felt that Kuya Ali loved me. I said, always. I am secretly thrilled whenever he calls his daughter Dana by my name by mistake. To me, it’s like he still thinks I’m his baby sister so that he mistakes me for his baby daughter. Weeks before he passed, his gifts kept on coming. I even wrote about it in my journal because although his generosity was not unusual; the frequency was. He renewed my car registration this early, though it wasn’t due until October. He brought my car to the casa for preventive maintenance. Had the batteries changed, too. I added, can you also bring it to the carwash? He replaced my seven-year-old MacBook Air without my asking. He just texted me out of the blue that it was on sale. And when the units sold out, I sent him a crying emoji. 😭 He went out of his way to find me the unit I wanted anyway, Covid quarantine and all.

And then recently, he bought me a new KitchenAid food processor as advanced birthday gift, which this time I asked for, and I was ready to throw in another crying emoji if he didn’t buy me one.

With him, it was like I never grew up. I was a spoiled sister. When he gave, I readily accepted, and I asked for more. Because that was the kind of Kuya he was. He was always ready to shower me with love. He always made me feel like his baby sister.

And now I forever will be.  “And when you need me, put your arms around anyone and give them what you need to give.”

He made sure I was there when I needed him, so it is now my turn to be there for his children, Marco and Dana, whenever they need me. It was a most heart-wrenching conversation, talking to the two children about losing their Dad. I told them they could ask me anything about their Dad. Marco, who is 11, asked me what his Dad was like at his age. I told him how he is so much like his Dad in so many ways. I reminded him about the saying, “monkey see, monkey do,” because even if his Dad didn’t tell him to act a certain way so he could let him become his own person, he does exactly what his Dad would have done. It is remarkable how much a part of my brother is in Marco.

Dana, at six, is still too young to process her feelings, but I am grateful she opened up to me and said that losing her Dad is like losing their pet mouse, Fluffy, except that she’s sadder now. I told her when she misses her Dad, she can ask me about him any time. Her dad left Dana only such good memories. He never said “no” to her and showered her with affection. I will make sure she remembers what a good father and brother he was.

Messages from Marco and Dana

Marco’s gift for his Dad last year

He is not just my brother, but a brother to hundreds of others. He was the two-term president of Alpha Phi Omega Beta Chi (APO) chapter, and he had many other civic involvements, as his wife Rose and I are finding out from his chat groups—BBIC, PPDBTIMI, and all other acronyms you can think of. Not even this pandemic could stop him from going out to a tree-planting project. When Rose told him to stop going out in this pandemic, he convinced her by saying tree-planting would help eradicate COVID.

Over the week, the eulogies given by friends all said one thing—he was all about selfless service. Even to others, he gave so much more. He gave his all.

His business partner recalled how my brother would insist on hiring people for projects even if it meant eating into their profit margins. He sponsored a basketball team and provided their uniforms, sometimes even their transportation allowances just so they could show up for the match. In the memorial service held for him by the Salesian community, Don Bosco Makati’s rector Father Favi said kuya Ali was the epitome of a true Bosconian; he always chose to be better. The Philippine National Police gave him a salute at his wake, one reserved for high-ranking officers. The PNP committed to the security of our family; that was their promise to Kuya Ali, as a way of giving back the service he had given them. I told my cousin about this and I said, I never knew any of this, even his connection to the PNP. My cousin Nina said, in half-jest, well, he probably knew you were likely to abuse that power! I think I tried once when I asked him if he could help my friend get across town during the quarantine. And he said, “That’s why there’s a quarantine. You are not allowed to get across towns.” His sense of integrity was unwavering in that way.

Even when the waves come, so too will the calm 

Sometimes I’d get annoyed that he was such a slowpoke; he moved at a glacial pace. I realized after listening to stories about him that he dropped whatever he was doing for anyone whoever happened to ask  his help. “Isang tawag lang (All it took was one call),” his friends said. There were over 400 people at his virtual wake. If everyone was saying, “Isang tawag lang” and he’d drop everything for you, how could he possibly have had all that time for that many people? He wasn’t slow; there were just too many people to serve, and he treated everyone with equal importance.

I have never felt such piercing sorrow in my days. But today, I felt a little better, as if a dark veil has been lifted. My tita said grief is like a wave, and I just have to ride it out. I feared that the wave would never end.

Today, I felt lightness for the first time in days. And it gave me hope knowing that even when the waves come, so too will the calm.

I can let the grief consume me, or I can choose what to do with that grief and let it give me strength. So I will choose to remember all the good things and celebrate his life.

It won’t rain all the time
The sky won’t fall forever
And though the night seems long
Your tears won’t fall forever
It won’t rain all the time

(From the epic scene of The Crow, one of our favorite movies.)

kuya Ali wrote his Greatness List when he was 20 years old. This is all him.

In memory of Alfred Dominic S. Gonzales. (Guitar – Joey Dizon. Piano – Paolo Seen. Video – Reph Mendoza. Graphics – Gelo Lagasca)

About author


Spanning two decades of a career in publishing, she began to see the lockdown as a priceless boon – for it has given her the leisure of unleashing her potential as an amateur baker, writer, and digital publisher.

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