Saturday, November 15, 2008
A Hundred Thousand Swans
A Speech by:
Enrique Salvador E. San Agustin
September of 1988… It must have been around 5:00am when we heard it; loud thumps and banging coming from my sister, Jette’s room! Noise loud enough to wake up everybody in the household! Naturally, we all rushed to Jette’s room to see what was happening; and what we saw would send a chill down my spine…
Jette was banging her head against the concrete wall of her room! Blood was oozing out of her ears and nose! Blood was everywhere! She had been complaining about migraines and headaches for the past several months but the doctors we consulted with found nothing wrong with her. But if there was nothing wrong with here, why was she banging her head against the wall?
Without wasting anytime, we carried Jette, screaming and kicking, to Dad’s car and took her to the hospital.
At the hospital, doctors ran several tests and procedures on her but found nothing. Finally, the MRI Result came out and indicated that Jette had a tumor the size of a one-peso coin wedged between her skull and her spine! She had Cancer! She had cancer? What? I started to worry about a lot of things! I worried about Jette! She was so afraid of pain! She would cry at the slightest hint of pain. And what about Mom? How would she cope with this? She worries about everything! And me? I didn’t want to lose my only sister! But in the midst of all my fears, one thing worried me the most… My Dad!
Jette was my Dad’s entire life! She was the reason he got up every morning. She was the reason he worked so hard! Jette could make my Dad do things no one else could get him to do. I remember once when she was in the 2nd Grade; she made my Dad promise to give up smoking if she got high enough grades. This might have seemed like some small request, but let me tell you, nobody; and I mean nobody comes between my Dad and his cigarettes! But Jette dared; and Jette got high grades too! So, my Dad took out an entire ream of Marlboros and placed them on the dining table. He then took out his best gold-plated lighter; polished it and laid it on the table beside the ream of Marlboros. Then, he sat in front of those objects and stared at them as if to say “Let’s see who’s tougher, you (the smokes) or me…” And he sat there staring at his vice all night long! The very next day, my Dad gave up smoking and never touched a cigarette again… ever!
My Dad was also very protective of Jette. I sometimes pitied the boys who tried to court my sister when she grew to become a beautiful teenager. They had to be either very brave or very stupid to even try to court her! I mean, how could any boy attempt to get near her when she had this big pit-bull hanging around her all the time? What pit-bull? My Dad of course!
Jette meant the world to him; and now she had cancer!
But Dad loved Jette so much that he couldn’t let her go! Dad wasn’t going to give up without a fight! He’d beaten the odds before and this… this cancer was just one more hurdle he could overcome! He would not give up! He could not lose Jette! He would fight this ‘til the bitter end! Yes, he would fight this; at my sister’s expense.
One year and 8 operations later, Jette was worse than ever. She began to deteriorate. At first, she was confined to a wheelchair. Eventually, she would be bed-ridden. But Dad would not give up! Jette would undergo 5 more operations… 13 operations in all in a matter of just 3 years!
I once asked Jette why she allowed Dad to do this to her? Why didn’t she just say “enough”? Jette looked at me and smiled lovingly and said “Because Dad needs to hold on to something…” Imagine that! She loved my Dad so much that she was willing to take all the pain thrown at her just so my Dad would have something to hold on to. We might think it’s illogical, but that was Jette! She had so much love in her that logic lacked an explanation for it! She loved unconditionally! And if she was here right now, you would have loved her too!
One time, a group of her High School friends visited her and started making paper “origami” swans. They had heard of an old Japanese tradition stating that if they would be able to make 1,000 paper swans a wish would be granted for them. Jette was amused at their tale and asked them what they would wish for. They replied “…for you to get well, of course…” Jette smiled at them and said “Don’t pray that I get well. I’ve accepted my fate. Tell you what; write a prayer on the pieces of paper that you use to make swans and leave them here. I promise to take them with me when I meet God…” Jette’s friends were hesitant at first; but they soon obliged.
Soon, everyone we knew… and some we didn’t know… were giving Jette paper swans with prayers in them! There were so many people giving swans that after 3 years she had nearly 100,000 swans in three big boxes! The only one who didn’t give Jette a swan, however, was Dad.
Then, one day, Jett started to convulse violently! She couldn’t stop shaking! So, Dad prepped the car to take her back to the hospital. As I carried her to the car, she reached out for my Dad and whispered “Get the swans.” Dad acknowledged her request and took the 3 large boxes with the paper swans to the car. When we got to the hospital, I immediately took her to the emergency room while my Dad and brother, Yaki, parked the car and tried to convince the security guard to allow them to bring in the boxes. The guard eventually allowed them to bring just one box in.
When my Dad and brother finally entered Jette’s cubicle, she was dying; but you could almost see her struggle to stay alive. Perhaps she did this so that my Dad wouldn’t be sad. Dad then told the doctors to step aside. He approached Jette and hugged her tight and whispered to her ear “It’s okay, baby. Go. You can go now, Jette. It’s okay…” And as he hugged her, Jette gave out a deep breath and passed away…
As my Dad stood up and laid my sister’s lifeless body back to bed, I noticed he had something in his hand. It was a paper swan. Dad then turned away, placed the paper swan in the box and, finally, said “Goodbye.” He loved my sister so much that he would, now, let her go.
As for Jette? She’s in Heaven now! And with her… A HUNDRED THOUSAND SWANS!
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