You never really know what you have until it’s gone. I take for granted many people in my life not realizing how much they mean to me until it is too late. Friends and family have always been the most important things in my life. They are there for me always and I know that whenever I have problems I can count on them to help me out and get me out of my problems. But there are two people that I never really paid attention to, to realize just how much it hurt when they left.
My mother had been raised by my great grandparents and she refers to them as if they are her natural birth parents. They are my Mamang Mineko and my Papa Toribiong. They were two of the most amazing people I’ve ever met. When I was younger we used to take trips from Guam to Palau to visit them. We would stay at their house for a few weeks in the summertime and only got to see them about once a year if we were lucky. My Mamang was the strongest woman that I know. She raised fourteen children almost entirely on her own, including my mother and other family relatives she took in, while my Papa worked and did other things. I was pretty close to them, but not as close as everyone else in my family. That was mostly due to the fact that I couldn’t actually speak a language that either of them could understand. But I tried. They would pull me aside and try to teach me Palauan or try to tell stories to me but I would just run away. I was almost scared to talk to them for fear I would make them mad because I couldn’t understand them. Somewhere along the lines, we moved to the U.S. and that impacted how much we got to see them even more. It went from once a year to once every 3-5 years. And then something devastating happened.
My papa was the first to go. In 2003 he became diagnosed with lung cancer and passed away shortly after. That took a huge toll on our family. He was such a sweet old man and I loved attempting to talk to him because he could speak a little bit of English. I remember sitting on the side of the house with him chewing the sugar canes while he told me about how my aunts and uncles used to be when they were younger. He always had a smile on his face and always took me with him whenever he would walk to the store. Because we lived so far away, I did not get to go to his funeral. I’ve always been really bitter about that. My mom went and I so badly wanted to go with but it was right in the middle of the school year. I miss him terribly and I still beat myself up to this day about how I could have just paid a little bit more attention to him and actually try talking to him.
Mamang Mineko fell ill on Christmas Eve. On January 23, 2006, she left. That one was even worse. I took up Japanese my freshman year, hoping maybe I would’ve been able to have a conversation with her. Now I’ll never know. She died 4 years after the last time I visited with her. My family and I took off for her funeral and it was one of the hardest things, knowing that now both her and my great grandfather were gone forever. I felt horrible. I’d never spent time with them and now I would never see them again.
This just goes to show that sometimes you never really notice how important someone or something is to you until you lose them and finally realize just how much they meant to you. From those two experiences, I’ve learned not to take anyone for granted and to live every moment of my life with my family as best I can to ensure that I don’t end up losing someone and again having to experience what it would have been like if I would have just paid a little more attention to them.
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